FRIEZE November 2017 Critic’s Guide: Dublin
Sonia Shiel NCAD Gallery - The Avocado Project Ensemble. 23 – 26 November 2017

Back for its third annual outing, the Dublin Gallery Weekend (DGW) continues to grow. This year, in addition to 34 participating spaces, there is a series of artist conversations at the Allied Irish Banks premises on Grafton Street. The theme is ‘place, journeys and realities.’ Given the current reputation of banks in Ireland, this is either a brave or an empty gesture, though the artists – Alan James Burns, Alan Butler and Dragana Jurišić – are all individually making very interesting work. Alongside guided tours, special events and screenings, there’s a music night inspired by Detroit-based Drexciya at The Hugh Lane, plus a party on Saturday night at the Temple Bar Gallery. The Hugh Lane event is already sold out, which makes one wish a few more of Dublin’s institutions might have thrown their hats into the ring for late night events, because if there’s one thing that makes the arts in Dublin sing, it’s a damn good party. Sonia Shiel’s ‘Rectangle Squared’ at Cork’s Crawford Gallery (8 September – 20 October 2017) successfully blended her skill as a painter and her fascination with performance. It was also an intriguing foray into ideas of constructed realities, be they within an artwork and gallery, or those we invent to make life more exciting, manageable, bearable (take your pick). Alluding also to today’s mania with fake news and wilful blindness, there was a great deal to interest and a lot to love, so it’s great to see the NCAD gallery celebrate DGW with a short showcase of Shiel’s work. Shiel spent a month, earlier this year, as the first recipient of the National College of Art and Design’s Incubation Residency and, as a great deal of the Crawford show was hatched there, this is a sort of a homecoming. The gallery will be showing part of the set for Shiel’s play Rectangle Squared (2017) on Friday 24 November from 5-9pm.While it always seems longer when you’re in the thick of it, a year whips quickly by. Judging from the works in this, the 7th iteration of Pallas Projects’ ‘Periodical Review’, the 2016 / 2017 period been a good one. This year the Pallas team teamed up with Kate Strain and Rachael Gilbourne, who work together as RGKSKSRG, to take us down art’s memory lane, though they expand their selection beyond the strict confines of 12 months. The galleries at Pallas aren’t of a size to allow for a full survey show, so expect to be tantalized with fragments and glimpses, but as these include work from Jesse Jones’ Venice Biennale installation Tremble Tremble (2017), alongside more from Alan Butler, Jason Ellis, Barbara Knezevic, Ailbhe Ní Bhriain and Sonia Shiel, it promises to be an intriguing trip. Knezevic’s ‘exquisite tempo sector’ at the Temple Bar Gallery at the start of the year was a winner, while ‘Old Anatomy’ by Jason Ellis, at Oliver Sears in 2016, saw what could have been a clinical series of anatomical stone carving come alive with delicious, and often uncannily disturbing heart.


THE IRISH TIMES September 15th 2017.
Gothic follies and ghostly films – this week’s art highlights
There’s some seriously strong work on show, along with a few very surreal ideas
Gemma Tipton

Rectangle, squared – Sonia Shiel
Crawford Art Gallery, Emmet Place, Cork Until October 8th
Did you ever wonder how much of your life is performed for an audience – whether imaginary, social media-fuelled, or right there in front of you? Sonia Shiel’s intriguing paintings make a virtue of the uncertainty, as she creates little stage sets for the figures in her scenes. This makes for nice, layered paintings, where you can look, and then look deeper still. Maybe we all inhabit our own stories? Better that, perhaps, than someone else’s. Question is: will it be a tragedy or a farce today? Check out Ragnar Kjartansson’s evocative film Guilt Trip at Crawford this week too, showing as part of the Sounds from a Safe Harbour Festival, which runs until September 18th.


Rectangle, a written thing
New work by Sonia Shiel. Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Chancery Lane, Dublin Until May 27
Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, May 11, 2017.

Sonia Shiel’s bravura works have used and explored artifice and theatricality as ways of circling around the real. More recently, they have involved theatre more overtly, with live performance added to painting installations and video. Each work is conceived and created from the point of view of a protagonist who is trying to negotiate her way through a world that inextricably combines natural laws with arbitrary rules and inventions. The written thing in question here is a script, which “tells the story of an artist who, in being mistaken for a tree, learns what it is to be expressive.” In “four ensembles”, Shiel explores and visualises the stop-start nature, or “the stasis and composition of painting.”


Carnage Visors March 2016
by Paul McAree FLOOD Projects.

Featuring artists Neil Carroll, Amanda Coogan, Martin Healy, Juntae T.J. Hwang, Nevan Lahart, Amanda Rice, Sonia Shiel, Marcel Vidal, Richard T. Walker.
– a metaphor for Rose-tinted glasses – is a group show exploring the idea of making work today and the autonomy of an artwork versus being socially or politically aware. Is it possible to make artwork today in the current global climate? Does art have any validity? Can artists possibly propose questions – about art or the world – which have any currency in the world within which find ourselves today? Can art bolster a position between 24 hour news channels, migrant crises, multiple wars, Instagram hits and youtube channels? Carnage Visors seeks to propose that art can, and artists do, situate themselves as never before as a counterbalance to so much fleeting and temporary moments in the world, giving us a slower and more considered series of propositions within which to consider art and the world.

Artforum CRITICS' PICKS, by Gemma Tipton, May 2015

8 Chancery Ln
April 30 - May 30
Sonia Shiel’s oil paintings tantalize with hints of unresolved narrative. Even her titles, which are presented in the gallery handout in the form of a poem, are allusive yet ultimately obscure: honey drips / all quiet / till one day / never rousing (all works 2015). This conceit is rescued from fey coyness by the strength of Shiel’s canvases and the dark elements that haunt her work.

Like many of the works in this exhibition, birds flee has a theatricality. A recumbent male figure, dressed like a fairy-tale prince in rich indigo with gold palm tree epaulettes, gazes at an octagonal frame or tray from which a peacock and other smaller birds escape. The perspective is deliberately distorted, and the image seems to reiterate the birds—it feels as though it is about to burst from the edges of the canvas. There’s the sense of a proscenium (more pronounced in aquatics glow, all quiet, and burrows open), which echoes the deliberate stagey strangeness of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 5, 1997. In recent years, Shiel has experimented with video and installation, albeit with a more handmade aesthetic than that of Barney, but her paintings remain strongest, and here, alongside three small sculptures, her assured handling of oils really sings.

Shiel teases the metaphor of the stage to conjure the idea of a story, but at the same time she demonstrates the inadequacy of narrative, whether in theater or art, to reveal our whole psychological picture. At a solo show for Volta New York last year, she presented works with a more muted palette of browns and ochers. In this show, her colors—bright reds, yellows, greens, and blues—burst forth in the most comprehensive and impressive exposition of her painting to date.

— Gemma Tipton

Art Monthly, September 2014 / No. 379, p.34. / Fieldworks: Animal habitats in contemporary art, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork City.

Fieldworks by Stephen Maloney, August 18, 2014

Irish Examiner
August 9, 2014
Artmonthly September 2014
Enclave Review Autumn 2014, p. 10.
Frances Halsall, Fieldworks: Animal Habitats in Contemporary Art, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork