“IF artists aren’t given opportunities to show their work, they don’t stand a chance. The truth is that the art world is often dominated by very confident personalities. I’m very conscious of that and in this exhibition there are some brilliant yet unassuming female artists who deserve a platform.”
So says Dermot Browne, who is the curator of an exciting new all-female exhibition at the Dance Cork Firkin Crane, running throughout January and up until February 23.
The exhibition is called New Yin Art, Yin being the ancient Chinese term for the feminine, the life force of receptivity. ‘Young Yin’ in Chinese Geomancy refers to something that is coming into being, and NEW YIN ART is a celebration of a range of diverse works that have both recently “come into being”. It also investigates being and change as fundamental elements of the creative process.
The exhibition itself came into being following a networking event in Dublin organised by Visual Artists Ireland in late November, 2022.
“It’s a lot like speed dating,” Browne explains, “but it’s with artists and curators. You get ten minutes to chat and connect with someone. It was great but, walking away, I wondered if anything ever comes from these events, so I decided I would go and make something concrete happen in the short-term.”
Browne was inspired by the artists he met.
“I connected with lots of interesting and innovative female artists so that gave me the idea to do an all-female exhibition. Some of the people I’d only ever seen online, but I wanted to take the work offline and connect artists together. I hadn’t met Frances Donnelly Jung for instance. She knew Ciara Gormley online and met her for the first time in person at the launch.
“It was very special as people were meeting artists they’d been following on Instagram or whatever. Everybody was connecting the names with the faces and the work.”
The show brings together local and international, emerging and established female artists. The curator was surprised by how well the idea of having an all-female exhibition was received.
“It’s not a big thing for me. I’m not necessarily interested in separating male and female artists, and I’ve never done anything like this before, but it was an opportunity to put these women forward. To be honest, I didn’t even know some of them were women. Take the Taiwanese artist Yuan-Wen Wang, when I originally knocked on her door in Barcelona a couple of years back, I thought she was a guy!”
Browne emphasises the striking use of colour across the exhibition.
“As an artist myself, I’m really quite jealous of the freedom with which some of these women work. The way they use colour is wonderful.
Cork-based artist Éadaoin Glynn, for instance, is doing very brave work with colour. Pauline Flynn’s work is as good as anything out there. There’s a lot of great work here.”
Cork visitors familiar with Glynn’s work will spot three pieces from her in the exhibition space and another large-scale piece hanging behind the reception in the foyer. The exhibition covers the back walls of the studio on the ground floor. All but one piece is available to purchase.
Artists featured include ACW alumni Leila Anglade alongside An-Wen Wang, Éadaoin Glynn, Sachiko Kobayashi, Olga Evenden, Maggie Magee, Pauline Flynn, Frances Donnelly Jung, Bennie Reilly and Marija Kolmanic.
Marija Kolmanic, a Croatian artist living in Dublin, was thrilled to be invited to exhibit two pieces in the exhibition. She met Dermot at the ‘speed curating’ event and was surprised by how quickly the exhibition came around.
“I am really so grateful and delighted. Usually, you are asked to fill in a lot of forms to get your work shown so the invitation from Dermot meant a lot to me.
“I have lived in Dublin for eight years where I work as a professional artist. I do a lot of work with online galleries. This is my second time having work shown in a physical exhibition.”
She is delighted with the results and is proud to have her work alongside that of other emerging and more experienced artists.
“Everybody is so unique in how they work but there is a connection between the artists too. They are all abstract female artists. The work is not realistic; it is more intuitive in form and there is a great deal of colour.”
Kolmanic’s piece ‘Windy Life’ is certainly full of colour and movement. She explains her process: “It is actually the palette that I used when painting something else, both of my pieces are palettes. My mother hung some of my palettes on her wall, alongside my paintings and she made me realise how present and powerful they are. It’s like the colours are working on their own without much of my input.
"It is as if they are speaking to each other. It’s interesting because something I put no effort into became what I wanted to exhibit.”
The Riband Series Artist and poet Pauline Flynn, who is based in Wicklow, has had a very established career but stopped painting in 2008. She never closed her studio however and has since picked up the brush and easel again.
She is extremely happy with the five pieces she’s exhibiting in Cork. Her earlier work, while abstract, was painted on Japanese handmade paper (Washi) mounted on board. It was layered, textured and gestural but always with strong colour. This new work is on canvas, using flat colour, some pattern and explores geometric abstraction. The work forms a part of her Riband Series which began when she was invited by art curator Maurice Quillinan to be part of a group exhibition where the artists were asked to respond to an object in Limerick Museum. Pauline responded to the ribbons on a few Military Medals that were on display. When she returned from a group show in China at the end of 2019, she settled into the studio to commence her current work. (She was also selected for the 9th Beijing International Art Biennale in 2022.)
“Five shapes define my work now and they keep on giving. I could continue working with these shapes forever, The pieces have also turned out to be quite modular in that they could all fit together. I have set myself a limit with these shapes and I’m working within that. I have set my constraints and I’m trying to stay there.
“My paintings have a starting point in the physical world and in these works, while staying within deliberately set limitations and geometric shapes, both curved and hard edged, plus flat colour and surface.
“I embrace any chance occurrences during the process of the development of the painting.”
A Unique Space
The exhibition is likely to get plenty of footfall as people attend different events in the building. Curator Dermot Browne is delighted with this space at Dance Cork Firkin Crane and is grateful to Executive Artistic Director Laurie Uprichard and the team for making it all happen.
“It is such a unique space. I mean, it’s a dance centre, and I think it works very well. It’s more casual because it’s a multi-purpose space. It has a community feel to it because, unlike traditional gallery spaces, people are coming in and out of the room for a variety of reasons.”