Trudi van der Elsen beside her artwork ‘Continuum Drift’ at the Luan Gallery.

Art is breaking down borders in Luan Gallery

David Flynn

An exciting new exhibition entitled 'Breaking Borders' which features the work of seven artists who work across a range of disciplines including painting, video, photography, sculpture, and performance has opened at the Luan Gallery, Athlone.

The exhibition is brought to the Luan Gallery by the gallery’s curator, Valeria Ceregini, and there was much praise for Valeria from Westmeath Arts Officer, Miriam Mulrennan, who opened the exhibition, and from the gallery manager, Carmel Duffy on Saturday last. Valeria had previously curated the show in the GOMA Gallery of Modern Art, Waterford.

“We felt that it was important to bring this exhibition to the Luan Gallery with the theme being very prevalent in 2022, with us coming out of the tail end (so we hope) of Covid and also with what is happening in Europe and worldwide with the displacement of so many people,” said Carmel Duffy. “We were delighted that Valeria was able to convince the (seven) artists to come to Athlone.”

The seven participating artists are Nicola Anthony, Trudi van der Elsen, Bernadette Hopkins, Benedict Hutchinson, Myra Jago, Vukašin Nedeljkovic and Beata Piekarska Daly.

Miriam Mulrennan, Arts Officer for Westmeath was the first manager of the Luan Gallery when it opened in 2012, and she was praised at the exhibition opening by the current manager as someone who “brings so much to the arts in Westmeath”.

Speaking about the 'Breaking Borders' theme, the Arts Officer said we might think of it as something internal around borders and constriction, and the last two years, or something geographical like what is happening in Ukraine.

“There are (also) the living memories of the awfulness of the troubles on this island, which is not over, and the work is great and we acknowledge that this space is dear to all our hearts and needs to be filled for what it can hold, with artists, exploring the theme of Breaking Borders,” said Ms Mulrennan. “We have the archive of asylum seekers and direct provision and the appalling history we have in Ireland and we have to put our hands up and be honest, it’s not going away, and I’m not sure how many White Papers will help. Maybe we are seeing a different approach to new countries coming into Ireland or maybe we are learning something small in terms of who we are by dealing with our new Ukrainian communities, and yet there is a tension around that. That archive has been created and is so important,” she commented.

She spoke of the individual artist's work including one which she said is “between nature and something slightly more artificial,” and another with pieces on the wall that speaks of commemoration. Some of the art exhibits are audio/visual and the Arts Officer urged those present at the exhibition launch to spend some time with the artworks.

Ms Mulrennan described, in complimentary terms, one particular artwork in the gallery being the “ashes of paintings”.

“Another beautiful display, which you couldn’t write, is a complicated family history and one that the artist has told beautifully through his own interpretations,” she said.

While discussing the theme of ‘Breaking Borders’, the Arts Officer observed that “the river” kept reoccurring as a theme.

“It’s a natural line and here on the Shannon it’s a recurrent theme,” she said. “We find a lot of work around the Shannon, and about what side of the Shannon you are on. I’m from Roscommon, so I’m from this side of the Shannon, and that side is Westmeath, and every second sentence we trip across (there is) another border somewhere in our DNA, whether it’s felt or unspoken so thematically this is an interesting space to work in.”

She said that the artist’s work in the River Gallery of the Luan is exactly where it should be.

“Don’t forget that everyone that comes across the bridge sees that work,” said the Arts Officer.

She talked of a “video about otherness,” where the artist is and what they see and how they see it, and how they tell the story of what they see.

“It’s otherworldly and is connected to capturing imagery outside of the gallery, and working with that,” said Ms. Mulrennan.

She then spoke of a twenty-minute film in the exhibition which she said was “terribly poignant,” and found that it spoke of many things to her personally, although she also said she wasn’t as close to what was happening in the border area.

“It’s about a grandmother around the struggle, and it really spoke to me and touched me,” said the Arts Officer.

The Luan Gallery manager, Carmel Duffy said that the curator, Valeria did a super job, and praised the artists for the exhibition.

“It’s a very subtle approach to a very deep and soulful subject that affects and impacts all of us,” she said. “You have all brought your perception of what borders means to you through your artwork and to our audience to observe. It’s an incredible exhibition and you should be so proud of yourselves for generating this message across all these disciplines. Thank you for your talent and creativity and sharing this with us.”