More Rules than Road
Dimensions variable, gaffer tape, wooden bear, oil on canvas, papier mache, card, vinyl, pendulum, wood, bananna chandelier, painted floor and projections/ Dimensions variable, Oil on board (180 x 145 plus appendage, variable dimensions and stilts), oil on canvas (30 x 40 cm) x2, oil on canvas (20 x 30) card, wood, tracks, hinges, pulleys, card, led's and desk/ Speaker, scrabble, plastic, wires and table, LEDs, various fake electronics, video and oil on canvas x 8, various dimensions, wood, twigs and card.

'Sonia Shiel' published by the RHA, Dublin. 2010
ISBN 1-903875-53-6
Available from the Royal Hibernian Academy Bookshop
and the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery.

Handmade, an excerpt; by Patrick T. Murphy, 2008.

The work of Sonia Shiel is not easily categorized spanning as it does painting, video and installation. This diversity of approach is a valid strategy in today’s world were the access to electronic technologies is as readily available to the individual artist as a tube of paint. What pulls them together within Shiel’s work is her emphasis on process, on play. Everything is moving, careening with curiosity, skill and humour to uncover the banal and the epic.This body of new work sees Shiel make use of everyday materials to build literal fabrications of ‘lofty’ notions. Her shambolic constructions simultaneously rouse and abandon ideas of ceremony, pomp and ego. They merge video, sculpture and paintings to expose subjects associated with the world’s make-up and by revealing their own, assume the subject of creativity itself. Her paintings though figurative are just about so, always tethering on the cusp of dissolution into abstraction, or alternately, always stopping short of distinctive image. Her surfaces are fluid, cascading into form, thinning into stain, their dynamic swirls insisting on the performative act of their creation. To look at a Sonia Shiel painting is to partner the artist in its making. Her coloration is off beat, a mix of lush and industrial. Though candy coloured they can be, they are never sweet. There is a dispute in these works, a struggle between the biddable and the obstinate. The painted ground threatens to devour the image, the image seems oblivious to its fragility, absorbed as it is by the touch and nuance of some very tasty brush work. The vulnerable aspiration of art making, the processes employed to edge closer to something to say, something worth saying, are directly alluded to in Shiel’s work. Whereas the maelstrom of paint captures in stop-action the artist’s elusive goals, her video work directly cites the need for experiment to secure discovery. In “ Two beads and a bicycle pump’, we are introduced to the goofiness of the studio. One is reminded of Bruce Nauman’s and Robert Wegman’s early experiments with the then newly available video technology in the early seventies. It was work that gave insight into the artistic process and the necessity of playfulness to its ability to reveal. This was further emphasized in Fischli and Weiss’s, The way things go, 1987, a master work celebrating the profundity of play - this video coming amid the ponderous and oft time pretentious political work of that decade. Shiel also mixes the high and the low in her videos combining low production values with high intelligence. This is an artist who eschews the paraphernalia of technological accessories opting for the domestic video camera and her skill of putting the simple in front of it to great effect. In Titanic, the archetypal crusieliner is drawn on the hand, the waltz Song D'Autome provides the soundtrack. The animation is the movement of the hand, the crunch of the fist the punchline for the tragedy. In Shoot Out, the humour of shooting the stars instead of the shooting star is devilishly clever, the effect created using an array of flashlights. Shiel is not content with her work being exclusively confined to the two dimensional, either still or moving. She wishes to extend her range into real space. Much of the strategy she deploys to attain such ground is more assemblage than sculpture. She utilises existing objects and implicates existing architectural features to amplify her paintings and videos. Sonia Shiel enagages with the fairytale and the epic. But unlike say Karen Kilimnick who espouses a naive pre-pubescent view of romantic narratives, Shiel is more Angela Carter, for her the darker side of our psyche seeps out through the fabric of the tale. There is everything light about Shiel’s work and simultaneously everything dark, there is creative play and destructive desolution, there is the flighting image and its residual meaning, there is a fullness.

Installation shots:
Royal Hibernian Academy, Gallery I and II, Dublin and The Cable Factory, Helsinki, Ormston House, Limerick, Black Mariah/Triskel, Cork and Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Dublin.