Bones Don't Rest Easy

A pop-up gallery in Derry~Londonderry hosts sculptural work by the Cut Cast Quartet

Christmas decorations? Yes. Hallowe’en costumes? Definitely. A pop-up sculpture shop? Unlikely. You might think so, but that’s exactly what’s happened with the empty shop premises at 46 William Street, Derry~Londonderry.

Formerly occupied by the Bogside Artists, and then left to stand empty, until December 20 the shop is home to the Cut Cast Quartet’s sculpture exhibition, Bones Don’t Rest Easy. The quartet consists of four artists from the North West of the island of Ireland: Philip McFadden; George Doherty, Jes McSparron and Kevin McLaughlin.

The CCQ is a loose grouping rather than a collective. They work separately, not in collaboration. As such, Bones Don’t Rest Easy is a mixed bag – not of quality, but of themes, impressions, materials, shapes, colours, textures and ideas. And it’s a delight, adding more layers and flavours to the City of Culture 2013 experience.

Philip McFadden has produced a series of blue bronze busts. They’re smooth and cool. Like the terracotta warriors of China, each has its own distinctive expression – glum, resolved, resigned, stern, enigmatic, quizzical. Objects in gold have been placed over the eyes. In one case, there are bullets. In another, sim cards.

Others have coins – British, Israeli, American. And an object or artefact sits on the flattened head of each skull: an apple drilled by a bullet, a teapot, bars like ingots, all gold and gleaming. The heads are like the ornaments of a pharoah’s tomb, in a way. You think of myth, legend, belief, the transactions between one world and the next.

McFadden's pieces are playful and provocative, risky even. The two stacks of ingots, for example, are reminiscient of Jenga blocks, toys ready to tumble like the Twin Towers. The clash of ideas is there, but the works clean and cold.

 

Jes McSparron’s work is a series of objects crafted out of different woods. If McFadden’s work recalls myth and legend, these too have the essence of otherworld stories. There are chairs, a generator box, a beautifully created musical instrument, items from a woodland home.

The wood is pale and deep, the lines curve smooth and strong. This is the work of a meticulous artist immersed in his material – with deep respect for his material, too. The wood seems to have allowed itself to be steered towards its new form, cooperative with the artist.

'Metamorphic', by Kevin McLaughlin, is a stunning piece of sculpture. A deep, dark, gleaming wood; twin leaves seem ready to open, beautiful, elegant, long, tapering upwards. His other work provides a contrast. Found metal objects – rusting fence pieces, springs, frames – shaped and changed, the discarded reformed.

The work of George Doherty, meanwhile, stands different from the other exhibits. It is all in plastic, and is bold, colourful, bright and vibrant. There is a sense of exploration here. Some pieces seem formal and precise, while others have flowing, almost seductive curves. The colours are used with energy and a sense of fun – clear, vivid blocks and scuttling squiggles covering the beautifully lucid surfaces.

There’s an interesting dialogue here between the temporary and the permanent. Doherty has taken a material we tend to think of as throwaway and made something to last. And the titles used continue that debate. Each is called 'Replacement', and then accompanied by a number, as if the names of objects cease to matter: everything will occupy a space until it is replaced by another thing. Which, of course, applies to this gallery space itself.

In addition to the sculptures on display, there are some photographs and paintings that demand attention. McFadden shows three pieces that look masks and hidden features, fashioned from mesh packaging, which has been cut and shaped and placed against a background of oil on canvas.

The shapes mutate on examination, from mask to sentinel to ancient warrior’s helmet. As with his sculpted heads, McFadden shows in these photographs his ability to present contemporary ideas and imagery alongside the archaic, and create something new out of the tension between the two.

'Trojan Horse' – a fantastic photograph by Kevin McLaughlin, taken at the Burning Man festival – does something similar. It shows a giant equine model around which crowds of people are talking and walking and cycling. Taken in such a way that you can’t quite tell the true nature of what you’re looking at, it slams together ancient and modern.

Bones Don't Rest Easy is a fascinating and uplifting exhibition, yet another example of the talent packed into this corner of the land, and further evidence of the need for more and permanent exhibition space in the city. Artists of this calibre deserve it.

Bones Don't Rest Easy runs in the To Let Gallery, Derry~Londonderry until December 20.