The brave decision of the Royal Hibernian Academy to ‘go online’ rather than to miss out on its annual show altogether has set viewers some major problems. For one thing, thumbing through page after page on computer produces aching eyes and a deadening effect of monotony.
We can only hope not to face the ordeal again next year – the RHA exhibition is now a big event in the Irish art calendar and its absence would leave an unfillable gap.
In spite of the fragmentary affect produced by computer viewing, the overall impact is heartening. Admittedly, the sculpture section tends to sag a little –– although it is still better than it was last year. Carolyn Mulholland looks the strongest personality here – at her best she is a major sculpture who, just now, appears to have hit on a golden patch. Eileen MacDonagh’s Corner Stone comes in three separate versions and is almost ‘minimal’ with a strong austere presence. And Imogen Stuart’s small, quasi-primitive bronzes have an effect quite out of proportion to their size.
The paintings cover a big range, but once again the more established figures look best. Eithne Jordan, in particular, has never painted better and she ranges about in her subject matter, but always with an inbuilt painterliness. Martin Gale, too, paints with a renewed freshness and brio. Yet the finest individual picture, so I thought, was David Crone’s Roadside, which shows how effortlessly he handles scale, among other things. The most significant portraits were those by Mick O’Dea of the late, lamented Veronica Bolay and by James Hanley of John Turpin.
From among the younger generation, Ann Quinn has only a single entry but that is quite outstanding. Janet Murran and Sarah Mohey are interesting figures.
Other names I noted were those of Tom Climent, Liz Rackard, Oliver Murphy, Pat Harris and Brian Palm.