To experience world-class, contemporary art in a gallery set in seven acres of gardens, is part of the Lismore Castle Arts attraction. And what an attraction, to wander among apple trees, where fruit rots on the grass and visitors seem unsure to pick it or take it home to make jam.
The new director, Eamonn Maxwell, has that enthusiasm necessary to promote such a prestigious space and the staff there are friendly and informative.
The summer exhibition has the title, United Technologies, and I’m not at all sure I make that connection. At one level the work of five artists needs a lot of backstory to put the work in context but there is the sense that people can and do make up their own minds about the exhibits and there is an excellent reading room so visitors can look up references and further details.
Main attraction is Ton Of Tea, by controversial Chinese artist/designer Ai Weiwei, who came up with the design concept for the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium. Ton Of Tea is exactly that, a compressed cube of tea on a pallet, worth about €100,000. He also had shiny polished porcelain Oil Spills that make an environmental point throughout the exhibition.
Jason Rhoades is represented by an aluminium rod structure, based on an iconic cabin mill, Sutter’s Mill from the 1849 Californian gold rush. I loved the ripsaw built into the structure. In a separate room this artist has an installation of 24 neon signs featuring slang words for female parts, strikes me as convention, with a line that sums it up – be careful the artist might shit on you. But it’s all in the best possible taste as artists desire to be populist.
Rita McBride has a fascinating set of steel templates with a Mae West theme I failed to grasp.
The young Wisconsin artist Corey McCorkle has Seven Woods featuring seven staves about person high coated in gold. The intention was you could use these ornate poles to assist you to walk in the garden but nobody dares to do so and the gold paint is still wet. They reminded me of staffs and ritual rods from folk culture but I didn’t do any more than finger one of them. McCorkle also had an idea, Dandelion Wine, making such from the extensive crop of dandelions on sight. The wine is still fermenting somewhere in the kitchen, like an idea that failed, but will be ready to drink about Christmas. Still it’s a fun concept in site specific art, a title, some bottles in a green house and a piece of explanatory text but no wine yet.
Exhibition runs until end Sept.