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Announcement
July 24, 2017

Isabel Nolan: Calling on Gravity / Brendan Earley: back of beyond

The Douglas Hyde Gallery

Isabel Nolan, Partial Eclipse, 2017. Mild steel, paint, fabric and dye, diameter 145 x 72.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Kerlin Gallery, Dublin. Brendan Earley, back of beyond, 2017. Colour photograph, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and mother's tankstation, Dublin. 

The Douglas Hyde Gallery is delighted to announce the opening of two solo exhibitions by Irish artists Isabel Nolan and Brendan Earley.

Isabel Nolan Calling on Gravity
Gallery 1

Isabel Nolan began a recent lecture with the title, “Just because the universe is probably real it doesn’t mean it is not weird or puzzling to be here.” (1) The second part was announced as, “I am powerfully confused.” These utterances indicate the expansive, yet profoundly impractical, ambition of her enquiry and her work. Setting the scene for this solo exhibition, Nolan described her problematic attraction to certain seductive and powerful cultural forms. From 18th century museums to sculpted Greco-Roman warriors and Gothic Cathedrals, Nolan here attends to their grandeur and authority in a way that is at once fascinated, resentful and inappropriate. The resulting works are both intimate with and alienated from the spaces and objects that inspire them.

Comprising suspended and floor-based sculptures, portrait paintings, drawings, photographs and a rug, these new works unsettle simple certainties such as up and down, high and low. Nolan inhabits and collapses those hierarchies that order experience and expectation. Fallen chandelier-like forms, which cast fabric instead of light; carved pieces of ‘dust’, drawings and photographs of sculpted and living feet, beautiful floors and dirty pavements, are inhabited by an unlikely cast of figures: Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), disgraced theologian and cosmological theorist; philosopher and activist Simone Weil (1909–43), artist Paul Thek (1933–88) and the malevolent figure of fictional mobster Tony Soprano (1959-2007). Only the latter believes that the world is as it seems to be, “You are born to this shit, you are what you are’. The others, in their singular ways, negotiated with existence. Their diverse ideas sought to reframe reality and upset aspects of the status quo, as arguably, they attempted to find a way for humans to love the universe.

Circles feature throughout the show, from the centrally placed, suspended steel sculpture, Tomb (for an angel’s wing), to the ersatz "chandeliers," or many of the hand-sized, sculpted shapes of What kind of dust is it?, to the pinched finger and thumb of the wholly absorbed thorn-puller, the Spinario. These works invite us to look down into them. Feet also recur throughout, also drawing our gaze low. The delicate toes of the aforementioned thorn–puller to the great rounded toes of King Francis the 1st as depicted on his tomb, to the feet of museum visitors. As Nolan writes, “Feet insist that we are of the earth; they can only very briefly escape the surface of the world. In works of art toes generally point up, soles are exposed, only when someone is dying, dead or fast asleep.”

The metaphoric intertwining of death and feet with lowness; the desire to overcome both mortality and animality with grandeur, and an enduring preoccupation with defying gravity connects these disparate works. Nolan is continually drawn to moments of coherence that contain intimations of their collapse or demise. Her work unhinges the pain, intangibility, irreverence, and joy, of human existence. Calling on Gravity continues her material exploration of metaphor, and how we bring the world into meaning.

Brendan Earley: back of beyond
Gallery 2 & The Freeman Library

The title of Brendan Earley’s solo exhibition refers to one place and to many. It marks the retreat into the wilderness; from childhood memories to eighteenth century rural landscapes of Wicklow by James Arthur O’Connor; from 1970s folk groups to long walks along the river Dargle, as well as the films of John Boorman made in Ardmore Studios. Working across sculpture, print and drawings, Earley’s work conjures another place and another time.

As Earley states “…it starts with the walk out here to the hinterland where my studio is and then I begin. I find the world increasingly not making sense so here in the studio I manufacture sense.” (2) A new series of drawings based loosely on the seminal psychedelic folk rock group Dr. Strangely Strange harks back to a bucolic time often associated with the Romantic landscape tradition. Similar sentiments are echoed in a large silkscreen print of another Irish folk group with its roots in Wicklow, The Woods Band, married with material most often found in tents as well as tie-dye silk prints, de rigueur at the time. This blending of past passion, present moments, and possible futures, becomes a form in which we can become enraptured. As Brian Dillon has written “Earley’s sculpture’s and drawings constitute an intervention into apparently familiar territory that is at once oblique and immersive.” (3)

The hinterland. A place of refuge or a place to make a new place….this is the back of beyond.

As part of the exhibition, works have been installed in the Geography Department’s Freeman Library located on the ground floor of the Museum Building on campus. Visitors are invited to explore the Library during its opening hours. With special thanks to Trinity College’s Geography Department and especially Gillian Marron, Librarian.

This exhibition has been supported by Wicklow County Council.

Parallel talks, events and film screenings
To coincide with these solo exhibitions there is programme of talks, readings, events and film screenings developed in collaboration with the artists, including a conversation between Isabel Nolan and writer Martin Herbert on 6 September 2017. For further information see the gallery website.

Artist bios
Isabel Nolan lives and works in Dublin. Recent solo exhibitions include: Run for the shadows, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, The weakened eye of day, Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, and Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art, Toronto, (all 2016), Bent knees are a give, Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, A Thing Is Mostly Space, Launch Pad, New York (both 2015); The weakened eye of day, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2014); Unmade, Goethe Institute, Dublin (2012–13); A hole into the future, Musée d’art moderne de Saint Etienne, Saint Etienne (2012) travelling from The Model Sligo, 2011. Nolan has participated in numerous major group exhibitions including Grazer Kunstverein (2017); Lofoten International Arts Festival (LIAF), Svolvær, Norway and Artspace, Sydney (both 2015); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013); Gracelands at EVA International, Limerick (2012). Forthcoming solo shows include Grazer Kunstverein, Graz (2017) and the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas (2018). Nolan represented Ireland at the 51st Venice Biennale in a group exhibition, Ireland at Venice in 2005. She is represented by Kerlin Gallery, Dublin and Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna.

Brendan Earley lives and works in Wicklow. Recent solo exhibitions include; mother’s tankstation, Dublin (2017); mother’s tankstation, Dublin (2014), In The Midnight City, Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing (2013); and A Place Between, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2012). His work has been included in group exhibitions in galleries such as Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork (2016); Gatherings, Fergus McCaffrey Gallery, New York (2015); TULCA Festival of Visual Art, Galway (2014); and All Humans Do, White Box, New York (2012). His work is in numerous private and public collections. He is represented by mother’s tankstation.

About The Douglas Hyde Gallery
The Douglas Hyde Gallery is a non-profit institution supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin and housed in the university’s Arts Building. Ideally located at the meeting point between the city and the campus, since opening in 1978 the Gallery has delivered an exhibition programme that is highly considered in the international art world, often bringing artists’ work to Irish audiences for the first time. The Douglas Hyde Gallery presents up to twelve temporary exhibitions of contemporary art annually across its two gallery spaces, as well as a programme of off-site projects by emerging artists, and diverse educational and musical events. These activities are further complemented by the publication of artist books and catalogues.

For further information on programming or press images please contact the gallery at dhgallery [​at​] tcd.ie


(1) Isabel Nolan, “Artist Talk,” given at Emily Carr University in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, 26 July 2016.

(2) “Brendan Earley interviewed by Patrick T. Murphy,” Brendan Earley A Place Between, Royal Hibernian Academy Gallagher Gallery, Dublin, 2012, unpaginated.

(3) Brian Dillon, “The Quarry Resembled the Moon,” Brendan Earley A Place Between, Royal Hibernian Academy Gallagher Gallery, Dublin, 2012, unpaginated.


The Douglas Hyde Gallery is jointly supported by the Arts Council/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon and Trinity College Dublin.

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