Starting Over

Why don't we take off alone
Take a trip somewhere far, far away
We'll be together all alone again
Like we used to in the early days

(John Lennon, (Just Like) Starting Over, 1980)

Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (TBG+S) are pleased to present Starting Over, an exhibition curated by Mark O’Kelly featuring the work of artists Alan Brooks, Gerard Byrne, Tacita Dean and Scott Myles.Invited by TBG+S to curate an exhibition for its 30th anniversary celebrations, Mark O’Kelly took the sentiments expressed in the seemingly prophetic lyrics of John Lennon’s song (Just like) Starting Over, as his starting point.

The melodic repetition and poignant lyrics of the song reflect on the preciousness and brevity of life. The fact that time passes so quickly in life propels this proposition of transcendence; to try to overcome the realities of the immediate present through communion with our younger selves and others. This idealistic fantasy of Lennon; to face the future, with a renewed sense of optimism, becomes a darker reflection on life when listened to in the full context of his intuition and our hindsight.

Mark O’Kelly’s selection of work for the exhibition reflects upon his own relationships and correspondence with artists who hold great significance for him. In this way this exhibition represents a very subjective, personal journey on one hand whilst also taking an historical view of artists practices retrospectively. The selection of works of significance in the evolution of these artists' practices over the last two decades meditates on the meaning of intuition and hindsight. In taking a historical approach to these contemporary artists work, the transience of the present moment and the semiological implications of returning and revisiting the past are revealed. The exercise of ‘starting over’ is expressed in works, which in turn, remake, erase and reverse performative graphological gestures.




Figure of 8

When I am alone, it is not I who am there, and it is not from
you that I stay away, or from others, or from the world. I am not
the subject to whom this impression of solitude would come ― this
awareness of my limits; it is not that I tire of being myself. When I
am alone, I am not there.
― Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature.

This exhibition by Mark O'Kelly describes an engagement with theories of linguistic and figural representation that continue his practice of repurposing cultivated imagery. Most literally, these paintings explore the concept of the linguistic form of the unconscious and the acts of transformation, substitution and negation inherent in such a concept.

Thematically bound by the figure of eight, and by its motivated absence, each work in this series contributes to an original authorial system of ordinal representation. That is, each work can be considered its own sign within a structured, invented model and each work bears weight in a shared symbolic structure. The implications of such a model ―and of broader theories of signification and condensation―becomes metonymically represented in these forms.

Within this system, as in the unconscious, there is inevitably fracture and slippage. In this sense, the literary and poetic figures of Maurice Blanchot and Elizabeth Smart most visibly punctuate the work. Similarly in the infinite regress of the figure of eight there is an implication of an always-there presence bearing along its concomitant dialectical absence. In the textual quotations and literary fragmentation we return to the position of the auteur, signification and audience. Within these acts of displacement, in the arc of unconscious movement, the site of proper discourse remains the unconscious, remains a dream state.

Within the boundaries of these thematic and formal concerns, these paintings progress O'Kelly's sustained engagement with theories of representation, reproduction and quotation. Situated within his wider body of work, these paintings demonstrate a structural movement towards an engagement with questions of cognitive representation and the psychological poetry of the image.

Mark O'Kelly (b 1968) lives and works in Dublin and Limerick, Ireland. He studied at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, 1985-1990 and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, 1990-1992. He is a Lecturer in Fine Art at Limerick College of Art and Design.