...[Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start♪]... From doorway to doorway, entrance to exit of an upstairs suite of rooms bathed in deep museum-blue, Niamh McCann’s ‘Furtive Tears’ revolves internally in its postmodern distillation of modernist taste, design, architecture, music, history, and consistent nods and winks to its setting, Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery. That’s a bit of a mouthful. But the scrap heap of history is big enough to make you gag. See. Twentieth-century Modernism could never last. Humans have evolved or regressed to the point that they like a bit of this mixed with a bit of that. According to the philosophical pomp parade of postmodernity, and anything goes reflected in the post–Lyotard disco ball every rainy Saturday night in the 1980s, we are eclectic, if nothing else. Artists are eclectic too, like Vampires are. And when you invite them into your house they are going to bite the furniture. In one sense, or every sense, the Hugh Lane is more house than gallery, with its fireplaces and chandeliers twinkling in the cornices of our eyes. McCann doesn't compete with the house, the home or the history of the Hugh Lane, she embraces them, all: table, chairs, delph, cutlery, flowers—the ‘place setting’ of history braced between the artist's forefinger and thumb waiting to be jerked forward into the present with a Smash! and a Splash! McCann is our speechless narrator, too. As narrator you’d think there’d be a hovering distance between McCann and her subject. And although the afterimages of her weird juxtapositions haunt, McCann’s narration is close, cuddly-close, from the zoomed-in bronze casting of a big honker belonging to the gargantuan bust of Michael Collins downstairs, to the Bauhausing of Rodin's Age of Bronze. There’s gestures being made here also, not just political gestures, but salutes to time, places and personalities, like McCann’s restoration of Sir Hugh Lane's instruction to have fresh flowers adorn the galleries daily. Thus: ‘Furtive Tears’ is not an exhibition of art objects that jar with themselves and the white cube; ‘Furtive Tears’ is an exhibition of settings that overturn the arias of history with elegance, respect and a smidgin of the perverse. The artist's gold-leaf dead-bird vases (with fresh lilies) placed on midget-columns hum against the rooms’ blue insides (and outside where Autumn teases Dublin with the alien Summer just gone). McCann elates in her soprano formalism but her subject’s tone is more base, rattling with the cancellation of life (or life borne of the craw of death). Status too is cancelled as one of McCann’s political protagonists tries to hold his suited pose, his political posture, on the most absurd of platforms, the craters of the moon. Funny. Like Ursula Burke’s embroidered friezes of fighting politicians performing unraveling gestures across the river at the RHA, McCann elevates the pathetic to the arena of the Tragic, with her high-heeled-Panda-Bear-costume-wearing (“Boris”) circling nature and the city and the self; and higher again with her rock-a-bye taxidermy fawn suffocating its ill-formed and premature desires with latex, bitumen and blue neon. I forget the historical events and dates that Jim Larkin provoked, and I have neither interest nor intention of pretending to know them here in writing. All in all he had something to do with the Labour Movement and workers’ rights. What I vividly remember however from my secondary school history books, was the image of a rigour mortis figure clawing at the air as if its wings were caught in a clothes hanger. McCann testifies to this same memory in her new sonorous film that sets the mise en scène. Like the late Mike Kelley’s teddy bears turned inward in celestial clumps towards an inner image the teddies can only gaze upon, McCann’s sculptures have secrets that are coded by the artist's own private signified, blocked from the public’s glandular gaze. We are thrown amidst a blossoming of furtive gestures, sweet and perverse, gifted and received….. [When you know the notes to sing You can sing most anything Doe, a deer, a female deer Ray, a drop of golden sun Me, a name I call myself Far, a long, long way to run Sew, a needle pulling thread La, a note to follow Sew Tea, a drink with jam and bread That will bring us back to Do So Do  Re La Fa Mi Mi Do Fa Re So So Do La La Fa Ti La So Fa Mi Re Ti Do oh oh Ti Do So Do♪]...


Through 6 January 2019.

so far…