TEXTS, ARTICLES & PRESS RELEASES


Gaolbreak: Angela Fulcher, by Prof. Jessica Hemmings
Atrium, Cork City Hall
27 January - 24 February 2017

The material of escape has often been modest: hair clips for picking locks; files smuggled in food packages; clothing worn in disguise. This may in part be explained because the practical function of the textile is often overlooked in the laundry list of items to confiscate during incarceration. Belts are removed to reduce the risk of suicide or harm to fellow inmates.[1] In cases of solitary confinement even papers, calendars and books have been banished.[2] Under regimes enforcing censorship, it has been the textile that has managed to travel under the radar and into the world.[3] And while the material of fibre is used occasionally used to thwart escape,[4] bedding, sheets and blankets tend to register as benign. Because they are seen to offer little threat, the textile often remains close at hand – close enough to be repurposed.[5]

Cork-based artist Angela Fulcher’s response to the 1923 gaol break at Cork City Women’s Gaol is inspired by forty-two inmates bid for freedom in aftermath of the civil war. The escape made use of the soft stuff of textiles: bedding fashioned into ladders to aid their descent. Fulcher’s recent work regularly includes found fabrics such as curtains, blinds and carpets associated with the home, clothing and accessories, as well as tents, window display materials and vinyl that “span spaces”[6]. Her response to the 1923 gaol break spans not only space but also time. Anachronistic purple, maroon, light and cerise pink sheeting and duvet covers that date from the 1970s through to the contemporary are here deployed as a reminder of the event. Much like the prisoners daring means of escape, this material too was found close to hand: harvested by the artist from charity shops and popular economy department stores such as Guineys and Penneys.

“The boldness of the colour in the space reflects a sense of the audacious and spirited nature of the escape,” explains Fulcher.[7] The prominent presence of colour and pattern represents other changes as well: a return of the decorative to visual language that carries meaning beyond the superficial. The textile – and practices more generally that focus on materials – have experienced the decorative used in a pejorative sense for decades. But interest in the meaning of beauty is on the rise.[8] The political, as diverse examples from hip-hop fashion to Chilean arpilleras can teach us, also resides in the decorative. Today this may be explained as an expanded interest in the everyday and recognition of value in aspects of culture previously ignored. But modest things have always been nearby; their variety of purposes includes the potential to be overlooked.

[1] The low wasted style of hip-hop culture is associated with “time inside”, suggesting a familiarity with wearing clothing without a belt eventually translating into global fashion. See, for example, Shaun Cole (2012) “Considerations on a Gentleman’s Posterior”, Fashion Theory, 16:2, 211-234.
[2] South African anti-apartheid activist, Ruth First recalls stitching a calendar of unravelled threads during solitary confinement in Pretoria in 1963 to keep track of her days and preserve her sanity while held under South Africa’s 90-day detention law. See R. First, 117 Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation Under the South African 90-Day Detention Law (Virago Modern Classics, 2006).
[3] During Pinochet’s ruthless dictatorship of Chile, arpilleras stitched by women’s groups documented the “disappeared”. These pieced and quilted textiles, often with short passages of stitched text, were smuggled out of the country for exhibition before conventional media reported these stories. See M. Agos and C. Franzen, Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras: Chilean Women and the Pinochet Dictatorship (Red Sea Press, 1987).
[4] In the Japanese novel by Kobo Abe Woman in the Dunes (1962) (made into a film of the same name directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and released in 1964) a couple thrown together by cunning and chance exist in a pit in the sand dunes. Their daily task of clearing sand preserves their immediate existence, but deepens their prison. The local community command a rope ladder by which the protagonist first enters his prison, ensuring power remains only with those who choose to deploy the ladder from above.
[5] Katie McGown’s unpublished PhD at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, Dropped Threads: Articulating a History of Textile Instability through 20th Century Sculpture describes the textile’s covert role in the French film A Man Escaped (1956) directed by Robert Bresson: “This first object, a piece of string thrown up through the bars of Fontaine’s window into his still-cuffed hands by another sympathetic inmate, is tied to the corners of a handkerchief creating a makeshift basket. By raising and lowering it to the courtyard below, he can send letters to his family, and smuggle in a safety pin capable of springing his handcuffs. This initial liberation enables the prisoner to gradually breach successive boundaries, and simultaneously gain a better understanding of the prison’s architecture. He determines that he needs to create rope and hooks in order to drop down towering walls, and monkey climb between two high barriers. Unravelling the wire mesh of his bed frame, and ripping his blankets into long strips, he twists the materials together to make a strong and flexible length. His earlier letters to his family have brought a suitcase full of clothing, and these are cut up as well. In prison where even pencils are forbidden, the tools of escape have to be as innocuous as possible. If the guards had found his length of rope, there would have been trouble, but the raw materials of his escape could be stuffed into a mattress, becoming soft and amorphous again, flying under the radar. Through this small accretion of inconsequential fibres, an arsenal of tools were created.” (pp. 125)
[6] Skype interview with the artist January 10, 2017.
[7] Email correspondence with the artist December 29, 2016.
[8] See Jorunn Veiteberg’s “The Problem of Beauty” in Craft in Transition translated by Douglas Ferguson (Bergen National Academy of the Arts, 2005).

Prof. Jessica Hemmings, Professor of Crafts & Vice-Prefekt of Research at the Academy of Design & Crafts (HDK), University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Catalogue text for the exhibition Gaolbreak, published by Pluck Projects January 2017. www.jessicahemmings.com

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Fabric/Sculpture by Sarah Kelliher
Gaolbreak, Atrium, Cork City Hall
27 January - 24 February 2017

Angela Fulcher sculpts with textiles. Sometimes she uses specialised technical fabrics such as tent canvas, public transport upholstery velvet or sail cloth. Most often though, she uses everyday materials; bed sheets, bath towels, cheap woven belts, old footballs, fun fur, or soft furnishing fabrics familiar from the semi-d’s of the 70s and 80s; swirling carpet, scalloped window blinds, brown leatherette. These are deeply un-valorised materials, more readily associated with kitsch, the un-romantically outmoded, or cheap and cheerful tawdry glamor. However, Fulcher treats her fabrics with conceptual and formal exactitude, eschewing easy irony in order to draw our attention to the strangeness and intricacy of everyday surfaces. In doing so, her work touches on complex and fraught networks of power, taste, class, labour and gender.

Textile is a difficult medium for sculpture; neither loadbearing nor self-supporting, fabrics must be cut and pieced together, either stuffed or stretched around an armature to attain three dimensionality. Its properties are multivalent however; light, diffuse, permeable, flexible, cloth can be both fluid and tensile, allowing for a complex range of formal manipulations. It can be creased, folded, knotted, and ruched, or pulled taut in singing diagonals, as in Traverse Frieze (Supple Lilac and Midnight Blue) (2014). It can be draped so that it falls in fluted columns to gather in softly heaped pools as in After Strawberry Switchblade (2016). In Sun Stopping, (2016)bright radial bands of sail cloth streak through a summer orchard, making (to paraphrase John Cage), bright airports for passing, dappled shadows. A vivid scatter of irregular shaped pebbles, Blinkers (2015) plays on the textural contrast between the scratchy garishness of transport upholstery seats, and the smooth perfection car headlights made opaque with high gloss spray paint. What makes her sculptures and installations so particularly compelling, is the way in which Fulcher performs critical operations on familiar surfaces, exploiting both the decorative properties of everyday fabrics as well as their structural capacity. Her works pit form and pattern against each other, or, more precisely, choreograph rich, surprising tensions between structure and pattern.

Take Untitled (Crystal Cabinet No. 4, 2012) a crisp, three metre triangle of carpet appears to float just above the ground, the fusty brown pattern disrupted by another inset triangle of a different, yet equally familiar design. As streamlined as a stealth bomber, a magic carpet hovering inches off the floor, the precision of the geometric shape recalls Robert Morris’s Slab (1962) a simply painted plywood rectangle similarly raised just above the ground – the forms of echt-minimalist sculpture colliding with the suburban domestic interior. Equally Untitled, a commission for the 2014 Soundeye poetry festival; makes an elegantly stepped screen from scalloped and fringed window blinds arrayed three deep in a slim aluminium frame. These are shot through with a vertical band of perfect circles, which energise the inert nubbly cotton with a complex pattern of light and shadow. There is a surgical precision to Fulcher's process, which derives from collage; the techniques of incision and alignment come to mind rather than cutting and stitching. The result is a satisfying tension between pure, irreducible geometric shapes and frowsy surface.

Fulcher’s work often involves collecting, sorting and reconstituting, as in Untitled (2009) an oversized football pieced together from the footballs washed up on banks of the Lee, or Out There 4 Man (Paloma Grey and Bluebell) (2010) the geodesic form of the football reappearing as an elegant shard-like construction, partially covered with canvas taken from tents discarded at a 2009 music festival. The clean, vaguely futuristic structure is brilliantly undercut by the turquoise dream catcher hanging from one of its struts, in a stroke, colliding the utopian dream of alternative public gatherings with its bastardised, commercialised iteration. Belt (2015) comprises 170 woven belts collected from second hand shops, sorted so that each is paired end to end with its closest match, and carefully arrayed so that the whole arrangement is fringed with buckles. The subtle surface modulations of colour and texture offered by the neatly aligned belts is further complicated by three underlying cardboard cylinders, which are placed at an angle and protrude slightly from beneath the mat of belts , offering a complexly shifting surface variations; a pliant, latticed matrix which simultaneously evokes geologic or biologic patterns.

There is in each of Fulcher’s works - whether large scale public installations, or smaller gallery pieces - a carefully reasoned strategy of formalist spatial intervention. As partition, shelter, veil, sheet, shade or drape, she manipulates fabric to create its own architecture or to open a surprising dialogue within existing structures. Traverse Frieze (Supple Lilac & Midnight Blue) (2014) responded to the interior architecture of the Crawford Gallery of Art. Traditionally a long stretch of plaster ornamentation, this frieze drew attention to the richly sculptural properties of ruched blue fabric and plastic film, as pliant as bubble gum. Vermiculated Render Quoins to Ground Floor (2016) transposed the decorative detail animating the venerable façade of Bandon’s Allin Institute into vast filigree banners of upholstery fabric and leatherette. Gaolbreak is the latest and most ambitious in this series of large-scale, temporary fabric installations. Occupying the height and breadth of Cork’s City Hall’s atrium with swathes of sheeting and jazzy duvet covers, this formal strategy reflects on a half remembered account of incarceration and daring escape, articulated in bright, inexpensive bedding fabric. This work continues her critical exploration of calcified notions of taste, class and gender while adroitly sidestepping the clichés that pertain to fabric art and craft, the decorative or the neglected labour associated with women. Fulcher’s spare and rigorous formal language allows us to apprehend the familiar while appreciating its unexpected strangeness and beauty.

Sarah Kelleher PhD Candidate, History of Art, University College Cork, Irish Research Council Scholar, Pluck Projects curator.

Catalogue text for the exhibition Gaolbreak, published by Pluck Projects January 2017.

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Angela Fulcher - Vanity Fair, by Cristin Leach Hughes
Triskel Arts Centre.
24 October – 1 December 2013

This shimmery fabric and dainty scaffolding construction is the latest in a series of temporary site-specific artworks commissioned by Triskel for its Christchurch venue. It parades the length of a side aisle in the former church, gaining much of its impact from the contrast between the faux glamour of cheap, shiny material and the solid majesty of the building. Lengths of quilted gold and other fabrics have been wrapped around and pegged to a structure braced against floor and ceiling. Gaudy belts encircle the poles at intervals. Cork-based Fulcher plays with the brief visual attraction of overtly showy textiles, recalling theatre draping, glitzy nights out and old-master composition backdrops as her structure makes reference to makeshift childhood tents. The piece is a kind of collage in three dimensions, in which the quality of the materials is as significant as the manner in which they are arranged. It's visually satisfying only up close, with glimpses of incongruous beauty among the folds.

The Sunday Times (Ireland), Culture magazine, November 25th, 2013.

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Vanity Fair, by Rachel Warriner
Triskel Arts Centre.
24 October – 1 December 2013

Vanity Fair, a new work by Cork based artist Angela Fulcher is a large-scale fabric sculpture conceived specifically for the Triskel Christchurch. Examining the formal properties of materials and their interactions with each other, this piece draws on themes already established in Fulcher’s work to present something new and remarkable for the Christchurch space. Having previously produced sculptural work exploring the design of temporary structures at festivals, the title of this work visits John Bunyon’s imagining of Vanity Fair, the perpetual fair of rich merhandise described in Pilgrim’s Progress.

As expected, Fulcher is sensitive to the conceptual and social resonances of the materials she uses. Shiny, showy fabrics that are designed with glamour and display in mind, but that skirt the kitsch and the gaudy, are introduced into the muted splendour of the Christchurch space. Similarly to the rest of Fulcher’s practice, this contrast is not designed to create a hierarchy of taste and design. Instead she treats her materials with thoughtfulness and attention, revealing their intrinsic value. According to the artist, the Bayeux Tapestry served as a source for the piece, but Vanity Fair does not recount a narrative, the subject of the work is the fabric’s materiality. Surfaces are a key interest: not conceived of as decorative or ornamental, the ‘wrong side’ of the fabric is as important as the ‘good side’. This is a piece designed to be walked around and seen from all angles.

Fulcher creates focus on the surface of material through interventions and manipulations. In this case, joins between different fabrics and the fabric’s contingency to the poles centre attention on the properties of both. She considers her works to be collage, and this description is useful in thinking about the interplay of different elements in Vanity Fair. Part of the piece is in the bringing together of forms, examining the different properties of fabrics, considering their qualities and relation to their support. When brought together the piece is coherent despite its heterogeneous nature. The contingent character of fabric is illuminated, its inherent ability to transform, its softness and structure brought into sharp relief.

Similarly, there is a contrast between the magnificence of the Christchurch setting and the sort of glamour that Vanity Fair’s materials imply. Fulcher’s work shows us two things that seek the same end but that are discordant when brought together. In contrasting models of opulence, she brings the conventions of both into view. This examination of materials brings the formal expectations of luxury to our attention: a continuity of colour or texture, a perceived richness of material, a certain repeated pattern or motif. With Fulcher’s careful mediation, vanity and the wish for glamour are treated as serious subjects, not a frivolous indulgence but instead ideas intrinsic to culture played out formally in these shiny, glitzy textiles.

Rachel Warriner is a PhD candidate in History of Art at UCC, writing a thesis on the work of Nancy Spero and Mary Kelly. Her project is supported by the IRCHSS Government of Ireland Doctoral Funding and she is a College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences PhD Scholar.

Press release for the exhibition Vanity Fair, 2013.

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Conjuring for Beginners: Angela Fulcher, by Curt Riegelnegg
Project Arts Centre, Dublin.
3 July – 11 August 2012

It is well known that smoothness is always an attribute of perfection because its opposite reveals a technical and typically human operation of assembling: Christ’s robe was seamless, just as the airships of science fiction are made of unbroken metal.(i)

So said Roland Barthes while ruminating on the Citroën DS19, an automobile model that was designed to anticipate not so much the future, but people’s conviction in the supposed perfect surface of the future, a poster-ready world of unblemished sleekness. Coincidentally or not, airbrushed graphics of these “airships of science fiction” appear on the album covers and merchandise of the band Hawkwind, from whom the title of Angela Fulcher’s piece Hurry On Sundown is borrowed.

Hawkwind, King Crimson and other bands from the space-rock or prog-rock genre, hold an idiosyncratic electro-hippie niche, a further subdivision of a subculture. Their rolling melodies possess an otherworldly affectation, less interested in Vietnam than orbital velocity, escapist but nonetheless attractive to an avid fanbase. In their appeal, we can perceive a more than tangential connection with Barthes perception of the DS19’s fictive futurist intonations.

And yet the ragged, ceiling-hung quilt of tents Fulcher has devised in Hurry on Sundown, as well as the found-object re-composition of Untitled (Crystal Cabinet #5), is in all obvious ways opposed to such polished and untouchable visions of tomorrow as the one Barthes invokes. The peaceful, hygienic future to which we are all headed together, gives way to the fractured messy present, with ambiguous political implications. In its sheer coverage, Fulcher’s draped fabric looks like the recovered refuse of trippy forays into the glittering unknown, and it represents numbers in attendance, not in forward-looking solidarity.

There is no clear voice of action, or progress, or anything so squarely sober to cut through the haze. In a spirit of instinctive rebellion, Hurry On Sundown rides the wrong side of the room like a patched-up and repurposed anti-gravitational shantytown, fulfilling some wonky parody of a dream that faded into dehydration and bemusement when the sun came back up.

Fulcher herself has cited Buckminster Fuller, his influence apparent in the salvaged and enlarged football of Untitled (Ball). The work formally mimics Fuller’s famous geodesic domes, theoretical housing units of which the few remaining models have mostly fallen into neglect and decrepitude. Having remarked that “humanity as a whole is going through a great transition which is superbly designed,” Fuller too thought in terms of a fictional future, but one that he was ardently if imprecisely endeavouring to muscle into the real present.(ii)

Fuller’s efforts, designed and advertised as functional and improvable, carry on now more as an ethical mount for practical optimism. Posthumously, he is most effective as a motivational speaker. But Fulcher knows how to direct this capacity for a reinvigorated utopian zeal. In a time where cynicism has curdled into dubiously justifiable reserve, Fuller’s contributions defend the fringe hope for solutions to arrive through humanity, not in spite of it.

Yet Fulcher is not on a polemic mission, and is too deft to try making the case for change too bluntly. Rather, in the slightly oblong polyhedron of her Frankenstein football, the grimy ingenuities of sporadic vagabond resourcefulness meet Fuller’s resurrected utopianism halfway. The two tangents connect, intertwine, before diverging again, and the brief run of rough turf on which they momentarily travel together is something that is only tacitly treadable.

Fulcher does not try to focus the lens here for a detailed register, but glides it along the distance in which rambling dreams of space travel and the painstaking calculation of orbital trajectories intersect. Ideally, there is some illumination to be found in these brief stretches of tenuous agreement, where disparate things join and stay joined. Granted, we may no longer be speaking a language of ideals, but as Barthes said again of the mythologised DS: “This is why it excites interest less by its substance than by the junction of its components.” Ultimately, we do wish to see how it all fits together. If our hopes did not have some kind of legible structure, how would we justify hoping?

i. Barthes, Roland, Mythologies, London: Paladin, 1972-1973, p.101.
ii. Fuller, Buckminster, “Everything I Know”, Buckminster Fuller Institute. http://bfi.org/about-bucky/resources/everything-i-know

Curt Riegelnegg is a writer and critic living in Dublin.

Catalogue text for the exhibition Conjuring for Beginners, Published by Project Arts Centre 2012.

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Angela Fulcher: Crystal Cabinet, by Rachel Warriner
The Black Mariah, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork.
19 January – 23 February 2012.

In The Black Mariah it looks like someone has been carefully butchering a house. Bits of flooring, banisters and soft furnishings are spread throughout the gallery; they constitute discrete elements providing carefully dissected evidence of a place that is out of date and grubby around the edges. These pieces, each one extracted in some way from a domestic setting, are butted up against the rigours of geometry: not just domestic artefacts, these are loaded symbols transformed by their precise interactions with form.

The material for this exhibition comes from objects created for decoration: sparkly hanging things, patterned clothing, carpets, wallpaper, curtains. However, Angela Fulcher treats something potentially trivial with intelligence and delicacy, intervening with a touch light enough to avoid a kind of kitchen sink drama of scattered interiors and instead only implying a human narrative of the domestic as lived space, and one primarily focused upon the strangeness of its artefacts. Untitled (Crystal Cabinet #2), a photographic collage, is the only direct imaging of people in the exhibition. Small black and white photographs of what appears to be a dinner party sit underneath flocked wallpaper, cut to give a glimpse of finely dressed figures who seem strangely dissociated from each other. It is a good example of the way in which form is used to resist hackneyed narratives, the sharp geometric cuts into the wallpaper which reveal the image below allow both elements to exist materially and conceptually, creating thematic coherence, but avoiding straightforward conflation.

What is interesting in Fulcher’s treatment of her materials is that it is the material itself that really comes to the fore; this exhibition is compelling because of the unexpected sharpness and precision with which she approaches familiar objects. One of the standout pieces is the three-metre triangle of carpet that sits in the centre of the gallery. Simple in its conception, this worn piece of patterned carpet is inset with a smaller triangular section of similar pattern that highlights the geometric against the ornamentation of the original. This intervention is seemingly straightforward, but it does much to such a loaded artefact. Fulcher chooses a section of carpet that is patterned according to the ubiquitous fashions of the recent past; it is strikingly familiar but equally nonspecific. That the pattern is cut into in an exercise of precise shape-making means that the busy visuals of the carpet are sharply brought to a halt, the contemporary popular interest in clean straight lines obliquely superseding the more florid decoration of the past. The wear and fraying that subtly mark the material makes it seem lived with, perhaps for too long. This treatment of materials is repeated in Untitled (Crystal Cabinet #3). This synthetic satin curtain material is carefully scored with sharp lines, a regular and repeated pattern that is echoed in the strange wallpaper construction that sits on the floor in front of it. Looking more organic than synthetic, the folded wallpaper resembles an origami hedgehog in pale pink. Again, the curtain is marked by age; rust coloured stains discolour the cloth, barely perceptible from a distance, but complicating the surface of the piece from close up. Where it would be easy for Fulcher to emphasise the kitschness of the materials she chooses, encouraging disdain for chintz and tastelessness in her viewers, instead she considers these things seriously, showing them as everyday items well used, appreciated, but also loaded with meanings not often regarded.

The photographic collage Untitled (Crystal Cabinet #6) shows images of the front walls and gates of northside estate houses, the little details that individualise the photographs: pillars, cars, gates and satellite dishes again portray mass design and lived in and personal. Cut across the images is a thin white line, scoring a gap into the representation of familiar environments. It is a line thin enough that it does not obscure that which it represents, but instead reminds the viewer of the representational, the white of the gap echoing the white of the gallery wall. Again, loaded and familiar imagery competes with formal concerns, the straightness of the line highlighting a grid like pattern in the work, the vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines of the photographs become visual echoes of the patterns that Fulcher scores onto materials elsewhere.

​In this way Crystal Cabinet is a coherent and condensed exhibition. The precision of line and pattern in the interventions that Fulcher makes to all of her materials (whether found, like the carpet and curtains, or made by the artists, as in the photographs), a visual language is established that repeats across the detritus used to construct the exhibition. Fulcher’s skill is to make familiar items strange enough that we can perceive them without being overwhelmed by their initial associations, but not so strange that these resonances are removed completely. In this way we are given a means to approach these ubiquitous objects so that we can appreciate their peculiarity, but we are also invited to analyse, connect and reimagine them within new aesthetic and symbolic frames.

Rachel Warriner is a PhD candidate in History of Art at UCC, writing a thesis on the work of Nancy Spero and Mary Kelly. Her project is supported by the IRCHSS Government of Ireland Doctoral Funding and she is a College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences PhD Scholar.

Published in Enclave Review 6, Summer 2012.
enclavereview.wordpress.com

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Angela Fulcher - Crystal Cabinet, by Mary Conlon
The Black Mariah, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork.
19 January – 23 February 2012

Peeking through the venetian blinds of 1960s Ireland, what might you see: a protest calling for political change? Or the colourful plumage of an exotic bird? Probably neither. For Crystal Cabinet, Fulcher has returned from the nomadic festival circuit to a new home – a time capsule from the decade often associated with social and sexual liberation. In the context of the artist’s practice, the title nods to an investigative juncture between the binary philosophies of new age spiritualism and, let us call it, conventional living. The cabinet is a private museum to display wares, useless in their preciousness, as an indication of the individual’s material wealth and status. A mode of presentation that says: “look, but don’t touch!” The talismanic power of the crystal, on the other hand, must be touched, held for natural protection and healing for whatever ails you - a psychic surgery that cuts through the cynical commodification of a countercultural worldview.

The preserved interiors of the house inspire the materials for Fulcher’s re-evaluations and precise reconfigurations of carpets, curtains, wallpaper. Incisions and folds create the sculptures, simultaneously fighting and nurturing the commodity status of these bright and muddy-coloured objects – the handy-work of a non-traditional housekeeper. Second-hand dresses sourced from thrift and charity stores drape the walls in pseudo-emblematic forms; a circular skirt, cleanly slashed and bearing oriental characters, signifying who knows what, becomes a present-day Phaistos disc awaiting meaningful analysis. The durable decorations that were meant to last a lifetime feature side by side with the magpie pickings of cast-off trends and fads.

The narrative link between these sculptural works is a five-foot composite photograph splicing together the pebble-dashed gateposts of an ordinary housing estate. A visual motif of the artist’s process runs through the image, inspired by a childhood game of imagination: with the tip of her finger, the artist would slice through the concrete world of status quo urbanism to expose and reconnect to the true nature of things. What began as homage to undocumented work became a time-specific exploration, in re-imagining would-be forgotten objects, the artist unlocks the crystal cabinet of trapped ideas and things.

Mary Conlon is currently undertaking a PhD in curatorial studies at Limerick School of Art and Design. She is Director/Curator of Ormston House and a member of the board of directors of eva International.

Press release for the exhibition Crystal Cabinet, 2012.

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“A Design For Life” by Chris Clarke
Angela Fulcher at the Guesthouse, Cork.
February 4 – 10, 2010

“So, I now assume, that when people say that something is "natural," "natural" is the way they found it when they checked into the picture, and this picture has been changing incredibly rapidly (…) And so that is one reason why then the young people of our day began to see things very, very differently from their parents; and to realize that the long traditions and customs were really no longer appropriate. It wasn't a matter of the unfriendliness of a young generation with an older generation; it was simply that the new generation was being born into a new "natural," which was absolutely "unnatural" to grown ups.”(Buckminster Fuller, “Everything I Know”)

Is this how it was meant to turn out? In Angela Fulcher’s installation Out There 4 Man (Paloma Grey and Bluebell), a tent-like structure, exposed in parts to reveal its underlying framework, is sharply illuminated by a flickering strobe light. Adjacent to this, a series of images are projected against the wall: the detritus of outdoor music festivals, rudimentary geodesic domes, rows upon rows of tarps, tents and sleeping bags. While one image slides subtly into another, the staccato pulsations of light follow an unyielding, mechanical rhythm. Even after stepping out of the space, a persistent after-image remains in one’s field of vision, of diamonds, lattices, and tetrahedrons.

If Buckminster Fuller’s invention of the geodesic dome was supposed to be the culmination of his utopian ideals and a solution to impending environmental disaster, the reality appears a little more disheartening. The ‘nature’ that one now finds is often compromised and commodified, like the theme parks which use Fuller’s structure as an easy signifier of retro-futurism. In this light, the re-configuration of the geodesic dome as an incomplete and open shelter for music festival travellers suggests abandonment and deterioration. The construction has served its function, as both a temporary habitat and as a marker for an adolescent rite of passage. Against the repetition of the strobe light and the projections, the site cannot help but recall the exuberance and excitement of youth. However, it presents something rather different: an aftermath, absence (of occupants, activity, even music) and the slow, drawn-out comedown.

The immediate impression of Angela Fulcher’s use of light and projected images is one of disorientation, of unfamiliarity with both one’s surroundings and senses. While the flicker of the strobe offers associations of outdoor raves and techno music (and the attendant effects of the drugs which are almost compulsory at such events), the silent atmosphere and the likely isolation of the viewer within such a restricted exhibition space counters any suggestion of euphoria or celebration. Rather, the overwhelming sensation is of the spaces between ecstasy and lucidity. Without overemphasising the pharmaceutical nature of such experiences, the light could be seen as the inevitable awareness of a new day, sunshine peering through the blinds, with the dissolve from one projected image to another acting as a sort of visual analogy to such states of transition. We’ve all been there.

An illustration of this in-between quality can be found in the details. A Native American dream-catcher is attached to the rungs of the dome, left behind, almost as an afterthought. Nevertheless, one can see such an object through its re-contextualisation from a specific symbolic artefact to its current status as a symbol of spirituality. The distinction is important in that, separated from its initial use-value, the item is appropriated as a signifier, as a way of connoting spiritual depth and new-age mysticism in the individual bearer. Of course, such traits are freely available now, as mass-produced commodities (and, as such, are also freely expendable). Here, too, the ritualistic has been made into a mere accessory, an ornament. And yet, as in Buckminster Fuller’s shifting meanings of nature, one finds a clear trajectory at work, a redefining of the notions of identity and self-determination, that cannot be seen as simply another example of post-colonial appropriation. For instance, the dream-catcher had already undergone a contentious conversion into a symbol of Native American unity in the 1960s - a measure that divided as much as unified those it claimed to represent - and this deliberate political inference may be as responsible for its current incarnation as that of a mystical, romanticised past. One can go even further here and read the contents of the dream-catcher itself, as an indicator of one’s ‘dreams’ as aspirations for the future against the Freudian interpretation of the dream as a crude form of childish wish-fulfilment. Again, the dichotomy of idealism versus narcissism breaks down to reveal a more complex and intertwined set of relations and readings.

The title reaffirms a number of these themes. Recalling coded messages, text-speak, hippie doggerel, conferred and vaguely spiritualistic names, it imagines the advent of a new society through the appropriation of the old and the ‘natural’. The audience of these music festivals isn’t the same as that which would have attended Woodstock. Rather, they re-fashion the codes and signifiers of the past into a new and novel agglomeration, combining the rhetoric and accoutrements of an idealised vision of nature with (an equally idealised) faith in notions of mobility and communication. Consequently, the residue of the social gathering – the sleeping bags, empty bottles, and discarded belongings – is excluded from such utopian worldviews. In the projected photographs of matted, muddy tents laid out across a wrecked campsite, one can see the by-products of this nomadic existence and its emphasis on the temporal and the transitional. Juxtaposed with images of geodesic domes under construction, the documentation of the festivals offers a sharp rejoinder to the potential, propositional nature of Buckminster Fuller’s structure. While his model may have offered a sustainable solution to environmental despoliation through containment, one could never predict that the development of technology would veer off in an altogether different direction. To this generation, the notion of being grounded, cut-off and cramped-in feels like a very ‘unnatural’ situation.

In some ways, Fulcher’s installation refrains from tying together these strands, of naivety and indulgence, high-minded spirituality and gross commercialism. However, this seems wholly appropriate, as contradiction is implicit in all utopian ideologies. The disconnection between possibility and practicality ultimately shapes such models for future living, and while, as a work of social commentary, the installation displays the unpleasant, unseemly side of human nature, it also retains something of that initial optimism. While, inevitably, the context for social change has altered, so too have the terms of its possibility. With a concurrent shift in one’s perception of the work, it is not too far a move to see the framework of the dome, the half-built structure, not as the remnants of a discredited movement but, rather, as the beginning stages of a new one.

Chris Clarke is Senior Curator at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork.

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CATALOGUES, PROGRAMMES & PUBLICATIONS

Gaolbreak, exhibition catalogue with texts by Prof. Jessica Hemmings and Sarah Kelliher, published by Pluck Projects, 2017.
www.angela-fulcher.com

2016 an Image of Ireland, Contemporary Artists from Ireland, Imago Mundi, Luciano Benetton Collection, published by Antiga Edizionoi, 2016.
www.imagomundiart.com/collections/ireland
www.imagomundiart.com/artworks/angela-fulcher

ENGAGE, Bandon Arts Festival 2016 programme.
www.angela-fulcher.com

Mindfield, 2016 festival programme, The Electric Picnic.
www.angela-fulcher.com

Compression, exhibition catalogue with a text by Ed Krčma, published by Enclave Books, 2015.
www.angela-fulcher.com

Seachange, Tulca Festival of Visual Arts 2015 programme with a text by Mary Cremin.
www.angela-fulcher.com

Stitch in Time: The Fabric of Contemporary Life, exhibition catalogue with texts by Sarah Foster, Fiona Kearney and Chris Clarke, published by Lewis Glucksman Gallery, 2015.

Conjuring for Beginners, exhibition catalogue with texts by Tessa Giblin and Curt Riegelnegg, published by Project Arts Centre 2012.

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OTHER MEDIA

Sexism in the arts is so subtle, but there’s change happening , by Claire Fox for Evening Echo, July 13th, 2017. Short interview with photograph.
www.eveningecho.ie

Culture File: Gaolbreak at Cork City Hall, radio interview with Rachel Andrews for Lorcan Murray's Classic Drive, RTE lyric fm, January 31st, 2017.
www.rte.ie

People: Visual artist Angela Fulcher in the Allin Institute for Engage Arts Festival, Bandon. Photograph, Irish Examiner, County Cork, Oct 4th, 2016.

Electric Picnic: three days of music, mud and mayhem. The views from the revellers and performers at Electric Picnic 2016 in words and pictures, The Irish Times, Sept 5th 2016.
www.irishtimes.com

Artists on retreat. From poets to dancers, 16 young talents awarded Next Generation bursaries by the Arts Council of Ireland spent an inspiring week together at a retreat in Co. Monaghan, by Arlene Harris, Irish Independent Weekend magazine, May 14th 2016. Feature article with photograph.
www.independent.ie

Future of the arts lies in their skilled hands; The 18 talented winners of next generation bursary awards., Irish Independent 2016 Centenary Programme Guide, March 5th 2016. Feature article with photograph.

Award-winning young Irish artists amongst Next Generation bursary recipients at special event hosted by President Michael D. Higgins.
www.artscouncil.ie

Next Generation. The Next Generation bursaries have been awarded to innovative young artists working across visual arts, music, literature, film, dance, theatre and circus.
www.artscouncil.ie

What's happening at Galway Arts Centre in 2016 by Maeve Mulrennan, December 29th, Galway Advertiser, with photograph.
www.advertiser.ie

Unbounded at Galway Arts Centre radio interview with Eoghan Holland for NewsFeed on FlirtFM Galway, December 13th, 2015.

Artists Unbounded at Galway Arts Centre by Kernan Andrews, December 3rd, 2015, Galway Advertiser, with photograph.
www.advertiser.ie

Stitch in Time: The Fabric of Contemporary Life by Pamela Hardesty, TEXTILE, Cloth & Culture, Volume 13, 2015. Exhibition review.
www.tandfonline.com

The Knitting Map: Art, Community, Controversy and Stitch In Time: The Fabric of Modern Life, Glucksman Gallery, 3 April–5 July 2015 by Sarah Kelliher, Paper Visual Art Journal, December 2nd 2015. Exhibition review with photograph.
papervisualart.com

The Knitting Map: Art, Controversy and Community 2005-2015, Stitch in Time: The Fabric of Contemporary Life by Rachel Warriner, Enclave Review, Issue 13, Autumn 2015. Exhibition review.
enclavereview.wordpress.com

Stitch in Time at Glucksman by Cristin Leach Hughes, The Sunday Times (Ireland), Culture magazine, June 9th 2015. Exhibition review. Can also be seen at cristinleach.com.
cristinleach.com

The Little Interview Lewis Glucksman Gallery, April 17th, 2015.
www.glucksman.org

All systems go as Uillinn, the new West Cork Arts Centre opens to the public. West Cork Times, January 23rd 2015.
westcorktimes.com

Curtains up: dramatic display of visual art at Temple Bar, The Irish Times, July 4th 2012. Photograph of Hurry On Sundown at Project Arts Centre.

Silk Stream, The week in photos: Streaming, at The Daily Edge. Photograph of Hurry On Sundown at Project Arts Centre.
www.dailyedge.ie

A touch of magic? by Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, July 20th, 2012. Review of Conjuring for Beginners at Project Arts Centre, Dublin.
www.irishtimes.com

Hammer and Feather – Experiments in Space by Michaële Cutaya, Shower of Kunst, July 22nd 2011. Exhibition review, Niland Gallery, Galway.
www.showerofkunst.com

Surplus Value by David Brancelone in Enclave Review, Issue 1, Summer 2010. Review of the exhibition Surplus Value at Occupy Space, Limerick.
enclavereview.wordpress.com

Tied to their work, Surplus Value by Aidan Dunne in The Ticket, The Irish Times, May 7th 2010. Review of the exhibition Surplus Value at Occupy Space, Limerick.
www.irishtimes.com

Artists made to feel at home in Askeaton, in The Limerick Leader, July 24th 2010. Feature article with photograph.

ArtTrail at Southern Fruit Warehouse/ National Sculpture Factory temporary projects in Cork's docklands by Chris Clarke, Circa, Issue 126, Winter 2008.

2008 Cork Art Trail photograph of Card Players, Totally Cork, September-October 2008.

Creativity in abundance as graduate artists go that extra mile by Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, June 25th 2008.

Excursion into world of performance art in The Limerick Leader, January 26th, 2008. Review of Excursions Performance Festival, Limerick, with a photograph of Making Money 2008.

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EXHIBITION WEBSITES & PRESS RELEASES

Gaolbreak, Cork City Hall Atrium, 2016.
pluckprojects.wordpress.com

Postcard Show, Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, 2016.
www.siriusartscentre.ie

Engage Arts Festival, Bandon, 2016.
www.engageartsfestival.com

Leviathan Political Cabaret Stage, Mindfield, Electric Picnic, 2016.
www.ireland.ie
www.electricpicnic.ie

This is Public & Sexy, Studio 468, Dublin, 2016.
www.commonground.ie

Unbounded, Galway Arts Centre, Galway, 2015.
www.galwayartscentre.ie

Tulca Festival of Visual Arts, Galway, 2015.
www.e-flux.com
www.youtube.com

Stitch in Time, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, 2015.
www.glucksman.org
www.e-flux.com
vimeo.com

Compression, Ormston House, Limerick, 2015.
ormstonhouse.com

Fourth Space, Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre, 2015.
www.westcorkartscentre.com
vimeo.com

The Land of Zero, Crawford Gallery, Cork, 2014.
thelandofzero.com
www.crawfordartgallery.ie

Soundeye, The Avant at The Guesthouse, Cork, 2014.
theavant.wordpress.com

Iron R2, National Sculpture Factory, Cork, 2014.
nationalsculpturefactory.com

Vanity Fair, Triskel Christchurch, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, 2013.
triskelartscentre.ie

Conjuring For Beginners, Project Arts Centre, Dublin, 2012.
projectartscentre.ie
www.e-flux.com
vimeo.com
www.pinterest.com

Approaches to Contemporary Sculpture, Seminar at Lismore Castle Arts, 2012.
www.lismorecastlearts.ie

Hammer and Feather - Experiments in Space, The Niland Gallery, Galway, 2011.
engageartstudios.com

Mercedes Fire mobile summer school, Ireland, 2011.
www.thegoodhatchery.com

Dublin Contemporary Circle Programme, 2011.
www.dublincontemporary.ie

Welcome to the Neighbourhood, Askeaton Contemporary Arts, Limerick, 2010.
www.askeatonarts.com

Game-play, Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow, 2010.
www.mermaidartscentre.ie

Surplus Value, Occupy Space, Limerick.
occupy-space.blogspot

Out There 4 Man (Paloma Grey and Bluebell), The Guesthouse, Cork, 2010.
www.guesthouse.ie

Cork Artists Collective, Library House Studios member, Cork, ongoing.
www.thecollective.ie