A New Collaboration

I was delighted to be asked to contribute a text to a new exhibition at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios by acclaimed visual artist Otobong Nkanga.


Otobong Nkanga performing ‘Glimmer Fragments’

The Breath From Fertile Grounds will be Nkanga’s first solo exhibition in Ireland, and is very much rooted in Ireland and in Irish landscapes, drawing on her own research visits and observations. Otobong and I had a fascinating discussion in which she deconstructed the various structural and architectural motifs that drew her artistic attention. I was drawn to the image of a wrought iron gate, a simple twist in metal (which is so common a sight here that we perhaps do not notice it ourselves). The commissioned poem was composed in both Irish and English, and enacts a sense of border and boundary – personal, linguistic, geographic. It has been incorporated into the show on cotton cloth, to be exhibited alongside new texts by Otobong herself. The studio describes the work as follows:

A collage of elements spreads across the gallery, along with a wall drawing and the sculptural “intersect” that binds the two central pillars around a stone. The bog clashes with the metal and brick work of industry and disused urban waste to highlight resistance and mutualisation. Networked structures propose a constellation of thought in times of transformation and crisis. Twisting and contorting as forms of forced or natural adaptation are made manifest. Decaying fragments and revisited familiar city tropes combine with sprouting moss and lichen in a will for survival.

Previews are tomorrow (7th December) at 6pm, and the exhibition will run until February 2018. Otobong is such a gifted artist; I hope that this is the first of many experiences Irish audiences will have to admire her vision.