Bennie Reilly

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Small Pieces of Precarious Life

Bennie Reilly

1 Sept – 8 Oct 2017

“He had never comprehended the endless variations of design: Why this lattice ornament? Why these fluted scales, these lumpy nodes? Ignorance was, in the end, and in so many ways, a privilege: to find a shell, to feel it, to understand only on some unspeakable level why it bothered to be so lovely. What a joy he found in that utter mystery” – from The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr

Bennie Reilly presents an exhibition of oil painting and sculptural bricolage. The work employs a broadly museological framework, but rather than the rigid system of categorisation found in contemporary institutions, it is influenced by the exotic, esoteric form of a ‘cabinet of curiosity’, where mystic and scientific properties are at parity. For Reilly, the acts of walking, observing and discovering objects are the habitual preludes to the creation of her sculptural forms, one that depends on inquisitiveness as an inherent facet of creation. Through the cacophony of shapes and tones, the artist guides the detritus into orbits and the noise of the collection begins to harmonise, even if it is at times atonal. The constituent articles—worn, faded, cracked, expired as they are—have an alluring mystery and Reilly describes her attraction to these as a kind-of romance. Their original beauty was reliant on the holistic intention of their creator. When this spell is broken, they are discarded. A collector recognises value where it lies and plucks it from obscurity. But here we also have the alchemical hand of the artist, which first bides and eventually binds; hoarding the multifarious till a rapport is discovered.

The aforementioned sense of precariousness extends across all aspects of Reilly’s practice. Her painting interprets the artefacts and specimens upon which she bases much of her sculpture, such as fossils, minerals and exotic plants. Their existence are the results of chance, by the nature of their physical formation and the fortuity of each being discovered, preserved and displayed. Her subjectivity too is a form of precariousness, pitted as it is against the weight of scientific history.

The title is borrowed from that of Jean Dubuffet's first series of sculptures in the 1950s, Petites statues de la vie precaire (Small statues of precarious life). When displayed in a gallery, Dubuffet's sculptures—made with basic materials such as clay, papier-mache and aluminium foil—could be recognised for that which inspired them: primitive figurines and anthropological artefacts, but removed from this setting their atavistic qualities might be entirely overlooked. Treading a line between whimsy and exemplification, they questioned the presumption of monumentality in the gallery environment. Reilly’s bricolages echo Dubuffet’s, both in their physical precariousness and their conceptual origins. -Davey Moor

Small Pieces of Precarious Life is Reilly’s first solo exhibition since 2013’s Rara Avis at the Royal Hibernian Academy. She has exhibited extensively across Ireland and in Europe. Her research has taken her to museums throughout Europe and the US and to remote residencies in Iceland, Norway and in Ireland.

www.benniereilly.com

1 September - 8 October | Exhibition Reception on Culture Night: Friday 22 September

Funded by

The Arts Council

arts-council


Dunamaise Arts Centre

Church Street Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland.

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