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Privileged Forms The Sculpture of Eilis O' Connell by Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith

...O' Connell is not the first artist to borrow titles from the brimming word-hoard of Seamus Heaney's verse. Nor is she likely to be the last. In her particular case , however , the implied kinship is genuine and unaffected. It has moreover been noted in earlier commentary on her work. In a review of a substantial exhibition of O' Connell's more domestically scaled sculpture in 1993. Sue Hubbard noted that the opening lines of Seamus Heaney's Viking Dublin; trial pieces ( a poem which,   like Kinship , appears in his celebrated collection North ) might well be a description of a sculpture of O' Connell

It could be a jaw- bone

or a rib cut or a portion cut

from something sturdier

anyhow , a small outline

was incised , a cage

or trellis to conjure in

For the exhibition in question , which was tellingly entitled The Undomesticated Space, O' Connell presented a teeming menagerie which spilled out on the polished wooden floor , and was barely contained by the low ceiling of the otherwise ample exhibition space in London.

Almost one hundred pieces were shown in all, including a swarm of freestanding sculptures of assorted shapes and dimensions, constructed in various materials, and a dense covering of wall sculptures and drawings. The exhibitions title testified to the artist's polite refusal to bow to the dictates of a spurious decorum that might easily have blunted rather than enhanced its overall impact. Yet this decision to eschew the occasionally precious tastefulness of minimalist display and instead saturate the space with works did not result, as it might well have done, in febrile overgrowth or disharmonious clutter.

Rather the bountiful display was suggestive of that relaxed and complex order which

we often assume ( or, perhaps , desperately hope ) underlies the seeming randomness   and chaos of the natural world.



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