Mary-Ruth Walsh: Skin Deep
Limerick City Gallery of Art is excited to present Skin Deep, a national touring exhibition by artist Mary-Ruth Walsh. Through collage, film and sculpture/installation, Walsh extends her interest in architecture and explores skin as substance and metaphor. Skin Deep was commissioned by Wexford Arts Centre.
This is a new direction for Walsh’s obsession with architecture. Through the medium of film, collage and sculpture, Walsh explores skin’s parallels to architecture. Using Arnold Bocklin’s ‘The Isle of the Dead’ (1883) as a reference, SKIN DEEP brings us to an imaginary island, a medical-tourism destination for the pursuit of the perfect skin. Walsh aims to uncover the psychology of society’s investment in skin as it continues to be a contested surface and a carrier of social standing. The work examines the impenetrable façades of contemporary corporate buildings and impassive faces that are unlined and inexpressive through medical intervention, questioning why flawless skin and flawless architectural veneers are considered important in society today.
Skin was viewed, historically and philosophically, as a porous, non-closed surface, Walsh examines how it is viewed as a bodily boundary, a wall or legible screen and bearer of ethnic information, colour and gender. She draws conceptual parallels between buildings that cannot be read through established architectural codes and skin as a bodily boundary. This is explored through tropes of seductive medical and pharmaceutical advertising. Walsh notes the parallels between buildings that are seamless, made from sheer veneers, self-cleaning and self-repair materials; they are impassive and ageless, similar to the skin from her medical island.
In earlier works, Walsh took inspiration from the language of architecture and constructed imagined spaces exploring ideas relating to the built environment and contemporary culture. She created a new dialogue drawing from utopian ideals of 20th and 21st century planning and design, and juxtaposed these with vernacular architecture. The theatrical aspect of how the work is displayed parallels contemporary building facades using seductive surfaces that lead the viewer in.
Based in County Wexford, Walsh originally trained as a nurse and midwife. She graduated from Goldsmiths College London (MA) and the National College of Art and Design (BA), Dublin. Walsh has participated in national and international exhibitions and the Artist’s Residency Programme in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; RHA’s experimental drawing studio, Dublin; Aabenraa Artweek, Denmark and Basekamp in Philadelphia. Walsh’s work is in the collection of Trinity College Dublin and private collections.
Walsh’s solo and group exhibitions include IMMA (Dublin); Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (Dublin); RHA (Dublin); CUBEOpen (Manchester); Oonagh Young Gallery (Dublin); Highlanes Gallery (Drogheda); Parlour (New York and Italy); Arts Centres (Wexford and Galway); Cross Gallery (Dublin); Goethe Institute (Dublin) and SCOPE (Miami). Awards include Create Ireland research bursary, Arts Council of Ireland’s Project, Travel Awards, Visual Arts Bursary Award and most recently Arts Council of Ireland Touring Award.
Her public work extends beyond the gallery space and is both permanent and temporary.
Skin Deep launched at the Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda in November 2020, and will travel to Wexford Arts Centre, Wexford from October – December 2021.
Skin Deep is supported by an Arts Council Touring and Dissemination of Work Award and Artlinks