Virus Causes Drama in Down Arts Centre
Following on from his success at the prestigious F.E. McWilliam Gallery in last year’s ‘Homegrown’ group show, this year Mark Revels presents us with one of the most exciting and ambitious sculpture exhibitions ever displayed at the Down Arts Centre. Entitled ‘Protect/Infect’, the artist explores the idea of a metaphorical virus that is spreading through society.
‘Figure and Tree’, a large-scale installation occupies the centre of the gallery. It features a ceramic nest chained to a dead tree, a polyurethane foam cast of the artist gagged and suspended on the wall in a crucified pose, and an energetic swarm of butterflies gravitating towards the figure.
Each butterfly is cut from excerpts of religious books, government documents and internet texts, all of which describe inhumane acts and views that are racist, homophobic, sexist and extremist. Mid-air, these flying creatures meander across the gallery and form an aura around the figure. But are they resting gently on the body or puncturing into the surface? Are they graceful winged beings or threatening demonic creatures? Are they attempting to bring the figure back to life or have they contributed to its death?
The exhibition also features a collection of beautiful ceramic and bronze spheres suggesting ‘societal viruses’ and a series of large-scale light boxes that appear like enlarged slides from under a microscope. As the viewer, we become absorbed by the strong use of colour in these illuminated works, with our eyes dancing around the forms as they swim in the yellow box, squeeze together in the purple and expand outwards in the cyan. It brings to mind the process of osmosis. But again we question whether these beautiful forms are healthy or poisonous, and which elements are the virus and which are the antibodies?
The relationship between ‘art and science’ is currently at the forefront of contemporary thinking, with exhibitions appearing across the planet that explore the richness of this cross-pollination. The strong aesthetics of this exhibition demonstrates that Revels is very much in tune with the bigger picture as it unfolds across the art world. No doubt in time we will see more artists from Northern Ireland tap into this interdisciplinary art/science approach that Revels has begun to pave so successfully in the local art scene.
Born in 1978 and a graduate of the Wimbledon School of Art in London, Revels worked as a set designer for the BBC and Channel 4 before returning to Northern Ireland to work with local production companies. Despite exhibiting in many group exhibitions, including high-profile venues such as the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts at the Ulster Museum, this is Revel’s first solo exhibition as he completes the transition from the worlds of theatre to fine art. He has definitely made a dramatic impact in Downpatrick and we need to see more injections of this nature into the sculpture scene of Northern Ireland. Fresh. Vibrant. Intoxicating.
‘Protect/Infect’ continues at the Down Arts Centre until Saturday 31 August 2013. Open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. 2-6 Irish Street, Downpatrick, N. Ireland. For further information visit http://www.markrevels.com