November 2 - December 4, 2014
Grey Noise, Dubai

Silence and Distance

The last wild wolf in Ireland is recorded at having been slain at the foot of Mount Leinster, on the borders of Counties Wexford and Carlow in 1786 following a 17th century decree for the extermination of all wolves in Ireland. It is thought that approx. 20,000 wolves were slaughtered during this period, primarily to protect farm animals, which the wolves were prone to hunt. In a country that thrives on mythology, it is unsurprising that the spectre of the last wolf endures over 200 years later.

The Lupus constellation, which comprises around 30 stars, can only be seen in the Southern sky. Its name derives from the Latin for wolf, though the constellation was first discovered by a Greek astronomer in the 2nd Century. Lupus also gives its name to a degenerative medical condition, due to rashes that appear on the sufferer’s face that resemble the shape of a wolf’s head. Whilst there may be no more wild wolves in Ireland, the animal is still prevalent in other ways.

Michael John Whelan’s work has frequently dealt with the influence of landscape; be it the landscape of Ireland where he grew up or Germany, his adopted home. That sense of place is, perhaps, more prevalent than it has ever been in this exhibition, as he has documented many aspects of Mount Leinster and its environs in a way that is accessible to the viewer. There is no separation between the viewer and the place, save the distance apart. Indeed, the stone cairn and pressed flowers, which the artist found in the mountains where the last wolves died, are a physical manifestation that resonate with history and geographical ambience.

From The Mountain is the first film where Whelan has used constructed sound – voice and electronic score – where normally he relies solely on ambient noise, to give the film a new depth and a greater intensity. The haunting texts in the film reference 18th century documents from Ireland about the end of the wolves and the financial rewards available to those who killed the animals. But these words are not a prescriptive narration – they are signposts from history to remind us of the actions of our forefathers. In a reference to how man was preyed on by wolves, until we developed the weapons which allowed us to control them, there are passages in the film recorded at a decommissioned missile base in Germany. The legacy of what is now past, endures.
Whelan is endeavouring to find new approaches to his practice, whilst retaining its inherent quality and integrity. The voice, the score and the objects from Mount Leinster allow us the potential to construct our own narrative about the legacy of the wolf. What that might be is for us, the viewers, to discover.

Text by Eamonn Maxwell

This exhibition is kindly supported by Culture Ireland.

About the Artist

b. 1977, Dublin, Ireland / Lives and works in Berlin, Germany

Michael John Whelan received a BA in Fine Art from IADT-DL, Dublin in 2002 and an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design (University of the Arts London) in 2004. He was the recipient of the Clifford Chance/University of the Arts Sculpture Award in 2005. He has work is in a number of public and private collections including the University of the Arts Collection and the MLP Collection.

Whelan’s works have been exhibited and screened internationally in institutions, galleries, project spaces and art fairs such as (selection): Art Dubai (UAE) with Grey Noise, Athr Gallery (SAU), Margaret Lawrence Gallery (AUS), LISTE 18 (SUI) with Grey Noise, Lismore Castle Arts: St. Carthage Hall (IRL), Boetzelaer | Nispen Gallery (NLD), Kiasma (FIN), Museum Bochum (DEU), KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen (DEU), Kunstverein Bochum (DEU), Noorderlicht Gallery (NLD), Kunstverein Bremerhaven (DEU), Kunstverein Dortmund (DEU), Temple Bar Gallery & Studios (IRL).

He has had two books published: The sun shone on the nothing new, 44 Pages, published by Grey Noise/Lismore Castle Arts (2013) and Red Sky Morning, 144 Pages, published by Argobooks, Berlin (2009).

About the Curator

Eamonn Maxwell is from Co. Antrim, Ireland. Since graduating from Camberwell College of Arts, London, Maxwell has been involved in many exhibitions across Europe, with leading artists including Wilhelm Sasnal, Dorothy Cross, Gerard Byrne, Richard Wright and Roman Signer. While he was Curator at University of the Arts London he founded the Emerging Artists Programme. He has worked with many international artists and advised leading collectors of contemporary art. Maxwell is the Director of Lismore Castle Arts and was Curator of the Ireland Pavilion at 54th Venice Art Biennale.

About Culture Ireland

Culture Ireland promotes Irish arts worldwide. They create and support opportunities for Irish artists and companies to present and promote their work at strategic international festivals and venues. Culture Ireland develops platforms to present outstanding Irish work to international audiences, through showcases at key global art events, including the Edinburgh Festivals, the Venice Biennales and special initiatives such as the Imagine Ireland initiative in the United States (2011) and Culture Connects, the cultural program to celebrate Ireland’s Presidency of the EU (2013).

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