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The following review was kindly provided by Brian Ferran about a recent exhibition I participated in called The Cut Cast Quartet. I would like to thank Brian for taking the time to attend and provide his review.

“A new art gallery space, called Gaelic Park Galleries in the centre of Carndonagh has been specifically created for a summer exhibition of sculptures with some paintings and photographs by four distinguished local professional artists.

This new gallery has all the characteristics of a sophisticated urban artist’s loft. It is open daily from Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 5pm and admission is free. The current exhibition continues until 24th August and a visit is highly recommended.

The artists, who have named themselves “the Cut Cast Quartet” are, George Doherty, Philip McFadden, Kevin McLaughlin and Jes McSparron. All are from Inishowen and Derry.

The exhibition space is elegantly filled with new pieces of mainly abstract contemporary sculpture which pays homage to, and refers to sculpture practice ranging from ancient Egyptian civilization to 20th Century Europe and America. Each artist, in creating self contained and original discrete images, has absorbed the lessons of art history.

Kevin McLaughlin’s black and white photographs of people in far away places, India and Peru, bring an exotic global feeling to the gallery atmosphere and in his assemblages, he pays tribute to his 20th Century heroes, the Spanish artist Antoni Tapies and the American painter Robert Rauschenberg. McLaughlin shares with Tapies a commitment to traditional surrealism and admires the profound respect both 20th Century artists had for industrial and natural materials and for the demands of scale.

Philip McFadden is also preoccupied with the possibilities of diverse materials. For many years he struggled with and intensely explored the possibilities of fibre glass, wood and cast bronze. The series of heads and masks in this exhibition are inspired, on the one hand by ancient Celtic and Egyptian cultures but more powerfully by the present day intimidating Balaclava, the sinister “Head with paper bag and welders goggles” and the frightening ambiguity of “Head with Feathers Headdress and Swimming Goggles.” These are mixed media sculptures but the preponderate material is papier maché, substituting for bronze in this period of austerity. The threatening ethos of the heads painted on canvas, also make multiple references to current community fears and to the covert surrealism of Max Ernst and others.

George Doherty’s series of sculptures explore the notion of replacement and of infinite, plastic permutations and introduce colour to the exhibition of otherwise earthy, muted tones. The form of the sculptures resemble the works of well respected bronze sculptures of the last century but are made in modern colourful plastics. As Doherty’s states ‘The plastic can switch what is a reality, like paint it can summon an effect.”

Wood is the material which allows Jes McSparron, a professional tree surgeon, to address his sculptural concerns. His skills are directed towards exploring the forms, subtle colours, tone and textures of a wide variety of tree species. A cross section of a large Fir, felled in Donegal town, shows from the rings an age of more than a 100 years. Its substantial weight suspended a few inches off the floor, threatens a small, smooth vulnerable duck egg placed on the floor beneath. His other wood sculptures of various sizes, some rough, some smooth are reminiscent of the early works of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

Twenty-five years ago, Philip McFadden, this exhibition’s curator, was an artist in residence in the USA at the PS1 Studio in New York. His fellowship was funded by the Arts Councils in Ireland, Ireland American Arts Exchange and the Irish American Cultural Institute. This exhibition has brought to Carndonagh, a taste of his Manhatten experience. Overall it is a highly professional exhibition, part of the Earagail Arts Festival and worthy of a special visit.”

- Brian Ferran, July 2013

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