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Irish Times Review By Brian Fallon Mon, Aug 19, 1996.

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Philip McFadden
Mon, Aug 19, 1996, 01:00
BRIAN FALLON

NOBODY COULD CALL McFadden’s sculpture formal, elegant or tasteful in fact, it is the reverse of all three. It has no taste at all and is deliberately populist and aimed at the common man it is virtually formless, and about as elegant as a yard full of oily, hulking, mud daubed JCBs. And yet he has uncommon talent, and an even more uncommon energy.

He is also relatively indifferent to quality materials, since his big relief sculptures generally have an almost temporary appearance, rather like theatrical fit ups though if municipal authorities and others had the imagination to give him the outdoor commissions to which he is so obviously suited, no doubt it would be a different story.

He works in “group” effects, almost a parody of much public 19th century sculpture (Rude’s famous Marsellaise would be a case in point). These bulky pieces have rather the look, too, of old fairground tableaux, and here again the resemblance is probably deliberate.

The Drogheda exhibition is called Square The Circle and is about the current state of Ireland, no less. Images of religion, violence, ancestral totems and ancestral hates and animosities are all paraded in a welter of images, bodies and objects, including a lambeg drum. The Church, as you might expect, comes in for a drubbing.

As socio political analysis, or satire, it is simplistic and cliched, even jejune Irish history, like Irish society, is a much more complex affair than that, as are the history and society of any other European nation, major or minor. However, the message is not what it is all about the energy, the manic humour, the sending itself up vulgarity, the dramatic flair all have a powerful impact.

The Droichead Arts Centre has only limited exhibition space, so the exhibits are rather crowded, though in a sense this increases rather than lessens their combined effect. A pity that the Imaginaire irlandais did not think of sending McFadden to Paris how much more immediate an impact he might have had there than ABC, or even XYZ.

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