‘Materials Matter‘ is an exhibition of work by Eilis O’Connell. Having studied at the Crawford School of Art and Massachusetts School of Art, Eilis has exhibited her work across Europe and the US and has become one of Ireland’s leading contemporary sculptors. In her latest exhibition, at Solomon Fine Art, Eilis showcases new work made just before and during the pandemic.
The exhibition utilises 12 different materials, including stone, bronze, wood, steel, canvas and resin, and consists of 22 sculptures (17 unique sculptures and 5 sculptures which are available in an edition of 3).
The variety of materials, both ancient and modern, highlight the technical diversity of Eilis’ artistic practice. The works are all produced by hand and include Portuguese pink marble, Verde Guatemala (a veined green marble from India with a cloudy and uniform patterning), Bianca Statuario (a pure white marble with grey veins which is considered the premium marble that is quarried from the Carrara region of Italy), Brazilian Sodalite (an intense blue mineral often used as a decorative gemstone), Blue Angola (a granite quarried in Angola), and Jesmonite (a resin that can produce a finish which resembles wood, metal and stone).
The title of the exhibition perfectly encapsulates the multilayered meaning behind Eilis’ work. She focuses on the physicality of the different materials and plays with how their material properties, limitations and structure can be reinterpreted.
Eilis explores the physical characteristics of each material by highlighting their unique qualities and beauty. While some of the works can be viewed in the round, encouraging the viewer to engage with the sculptures from different perspectives, the majority of the works are mounted on the gallery walls and offer the viewer one specific vantage point laid out by the artist. In doing so, she draws the viewer in directly to pay close attention to the quality of each material. It is at this point that the viewer may notice that some of the materials are not what the seem – bronze is coated to resemble textured stone and Jesmonite is treated to resemble natural materials.
Eilis plays with the limits of firmness and resistance in each material and how they occupy physical space. The dense and weighty materials are composed into free-forming shapes which rise above the ground, bending their form to incorporate the negative space, as if they were light and malleable. Conversely, the more pliable materials are composed of flat surfaces and geometric shapes as if they were firm and unyielding. This sort of dichotomy is seen throughout Eilis’ work, which often challenges ideas of surface, mass and shape.