Mary-Ruth Walsh: Skin Deep
Wexford Arts Centre is excited to present Skin Deep, a national touring exhibition by artist Mary-Ruth Walsh. The exhibition launched at the Highlanes Gallery in 2020 and travelled to Limerick City Gallery of Art in May / June of this year. 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.
Katherine Waugh is a writer, filmmaker and curator whose trans-disciplinary practice draws on her philosophical background. Her films include the award winning The Art of Time co-directed with Fergus Daly – a film essay on the complex temporalities in contemporary art, film and architecture which has screened internationally at M+ Contemporary Art Museum Hong Kong, Kunsthal Aarhus, the ICA London, in galleries and festivals in New York and Paris, and in IMMA.
She was awarded an MFA with Distinction in Curating from Goldsmiths University London in 2014. In 2018, she was commissioned by Stony Road Press to write an essay for Brian O’Doherty’s Structural Plays – a limited edition art book exhibited in IMMA.
Katherine has curated a number of art events and exhibitions in London, Paris and Ireland including The Showroom, South London Gallery, Camden Arts Centre, Institut Francais London and CCI Paris. She has also written extensively on art, with an emphasis in her writing practice on internationally commissioned art book essays, including essays on artist Lars Laumann (a Norwegian Art Prize Commission) and Susan Stenger (AV Festival). Her essay Delicate yet Deadly was commissioned by Pallas Projects for their publication Artist Run Europe.
Currently Katherine is completing I See a Darkness, an Arts Council film project award.
A full colour catalogue, produced by Folded Leaf, with texts by Katherine Waugh and Dr. Yvonne Scott will be available during the run of the exhibition.
Skin Deep launched at the Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda in November 2020, and travelled to Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick in May/June of this year. The exhibition will be on view in Wexford Arts Centre, Wexford from 18 October – 4 December 2021 and gallery hours are Tuesday – Friday from 10am-5pm and Saturday from 11am-4pm.
Skin Deep is supported by an Arts Council Touring and Dissemination of Work Award and Artlinks.