It is a matter of record that I wasn’t a fan of SOMA – the contemporary art box gallery when it was on the Mall in the old Sheridan Garage location. It never seemed open and the work was very hit and miss. Sometimes the work was too raw for exposure, too pretentious and once or twice it had artists using a public space for their own ends, without any commitment to publicising that space.
Now SOMA has reincarnated itself to Lombard Street as a hub of four fine exhibition rooms, a garden with possibilities and attached to two other buildings, one a recording and music rehearsal studio and the other the previous Anna Manahan house – as an artist’s studio space. This is a really interesting initiative from a committed Waterford City Council, a wide ranging Arts Officer, Conor Nolan, and a new band of volunteers who have dreams and creativity. Nolan has expanded the arts remit of the City Council and encouraged all sorts of fringe and beginning groups, like Push Pull Productions, a list of young pop or contemporary bands, as has Síle Penkert at Garter Lane. The hope that SOMA and Greyfriars brings to emerging artists is good and the work of Sinead O’Higgins with the Index Gallery at City Library are positive signs of progress and risk taking.
I like the set-up at SOMA and the four rooms have great possibilities for mixed and multi-media. I know the current exhibition No One Belongs Here More Than You by Rachel Corcoran is not the first in this space but its title sends out that positive message not just to artists but to a passing public, a passing audience. The day I dropped by a smiling attendant (a volunteer) invited me in. In the garden the Arts officer was on the phone to a radio programme, talking up the arts in Waterford.
Corcoran’s work is mainly spidery writing on paper in frames on a white wall. You have to peer closely to read the messages – I make friends, but only for a minute…It’s dark over here on the flip side of reason…Nobody ever loved me.
In one room there is a cutting of hair on a pillow, nothing else.
Sometimes the work appeared self-pitying and very, very sad and no doubt there is a personal tragedy trying to hint at life. The artist’s comment on her work speaks of – the human need for private interiors and secrets to dissolve the boundaries between public and private. But to the reader – nobody belongs here more than you until 17 April.