SKIN DEEP is a forthcoming project that will tour The Model Sligo, The Highlanes Drogheda, Wexford Arts Centre (WAC), and Limerick City Gallery in 2020-21. It was initiated by curator Catherine Bowe, WAC and supported by The Arts Council of Ireland Touring Award.
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SKIN DEEP Mary Ruth Walsh
Text by Catherine Bowe
Wexford Arts Centre working collaboratively with The Model, Highlanes Gallery and Limerick City Gallery will tour the work of Mary Ruth Walsh. Through collage, film and sculpture/installation, the artist will extend her interest in architecture and explore skin as substance and metaphor. A catalogue examining the multi-layered concerns of Walsh's practice, will accompany the tour.
Skin Deep – Content
Mary-Ruth Walsh is a Wexford based artist working in drawing, painting, film-making, sculpture-installation, critical writing and occasionally performance. Taking inspiration from the language of architecture, she constructs imagined proposals/spaces exploring ideas relating to the built environment and contemporary culture. She endeavors to create a new dialogue drawing from utopian ideals of 20th and 21st century planning and design, and juxtaposes these with vernacular architecture. Often using found objects to make her work, she translates these into a type of architectural shorthand, like a new vocabulary. The theatrical aspect of how the work is displayed both juxtapositions and parallels contemporary building facades using seductive surfaces that lead the viewer in.
Skin Deep will push Walsh’s conceptual and aesthetic concerns further as she reflects upon an imaginary island as a Medical-Tourism destination for the pursuit of the perfect skin, using Arnold Böcklin’s The Isle of the Dead, 1883, as a reference. The work will explore the invisible effects of medical and pharmaceutical skin products and involve an experimental way for the public to engage with skin as the work will adopt the tropes of seductive advertising through film, collage and installation. Underpinned by the historical and philosophical views on skin as a porous, non-closed surface, Walsh will examine how it is viewed today as a bodily boundary, a wall or legible screen and bearer of ethnic information, colour and gender.
The relationship between architecture and skin is far from tenuous for Walsh as she examines the sheer and impenetrable façade of contemporary corporate buildings. The artist attests that these large structures cannot be read through established architectural codes as they appear seamless, often made from sheer veneer, self-cleaning and self-repair materials. Impassive and ageless, the buildings share similarities with faces that are unlined and inexpressive through medical intervention. Skin Deep aims to uncover the psychology of societal investment in skin as it becomes a contested surface and a carrier of social standing in our semiotics-infused times.
The artist will initially respond and create a site-specific work for The Model which will be reiterated for the Highlanes Gallery, Wexford Arts Centre, and Limerick City Gallery.