Minimalist and other generally restrained or austere artworks are frequently described as 'dry'. All the more remarkable then that works by Corban Walker, one of Ireland’s most notable practitioners of austere, precise minimalism seem even dryer than usual in the context of a collaborative show with Katherine Sankey, now running at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, writes Aengus Woods.

Here his recognizable vocabulary of stacked glass, cut aluminium and CAD drawings are interwoven with that of Sankey: wooden branches, exposed tree roots, copper piping and electrical wire. Everything has a parched feel; the roots seem bleached white, plumbing fixtures fold in on themselves, works vanish up cold fireplaces.

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Watch: SANKEY | WALKER - Katherine Sankey and Corban Walker on their exhibition

The collaboration works well. Beyond the obvious dichotomies of organic and inorganic, natural and artificial, what is mostly clearly revealed of both artists is an abiding interest in precariousness and balance. Objects are in tension, always close to cracking or breaking. This turns the viewer into a kind of bull in a china shop and that is perhaps a good thing.

The only work in the show that challenges this arid atmosphere is a wonderfully understated piece by both artists that combines drawing and video. Here a drawing by Walker of crowded geometrics resembling a horizontal Manhattan is punctuated by an unassuming film projection of what looks like water running on glass. This gentle intervention manages to respect the integrity of the physical drawing while simultaneously animating its inky layers.

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Film and water have long had a fertile relationship. Few cinematic experiences are more atmospheric than watching rain sheeting down in an old film noir, or indeed a new sci-fi. Claire Langan, best known for her film work, but currently presenting a show of photographic works, At The Gates of Silent Memory, at Luan Gallery in Athlone, Co Westmeath, is adept at playing with these kinds of sensibilities and associations. In three of the works on show, Orphee 1, 2 and 3, figures are submerged or floating, such imagery strangely suggestive of both the American dustbowl of the past and also a post-apocalyptic future.

The rest of the photographs range across landscapes, settings and locations from Ireland to the Caribbean. Some feel like examples of street photography while others look highly orchestrated. Throughout all the works, mood is deftly controlled but ultimately the photography seems less successful than her film work. With Depression-era evocations of Dorothea Lange on the one hand and widescreen landscapes so overwrought they look like calendar photos on the other, the show feels stultifying and laboured.

Monument No.2 (detail), Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh, 2020, oil on canvas, 182 x 182cm.
(Courtesy of the artist, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin & 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, New York)

Offering a different take of sorts on landscape and the strange traces left on it by humans is Deep Mapping: Unseen Landscapes, a superb set of paintings by Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh on show at the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan, Co.Meath. Traces of buildings, sheds and ambiguous structures haunt a landscape stripped to the bare essentials.

But for me, the most enjoyable part of this show is simply the handling of the paint. Images are blurred and distorted by the manner in which the paint is literally dragged horizontally across the canvas. Thick channels are created that mimic the physical structure of buildings, and the layered colors created wonderful and unexpected effects of light and tone. In all this, Ní Mhaonaigh shows a small debt to the tradition of Irish landscape painting – some of her manoeuvres recall the bog pool paintings of Seán McSweeney. But really the biggest influences here are international. Strategies drawn from contemporary masters like Gerhard Richter, Neo Rauch and Etel Adnan are all at play and combine to produce works of immense presence, power and suggestiveness. It’s a show that needs to be seen in the flesh to really get a sense of how good these paintings are. Do yourself a favour.

SANKEY | WALKER is at The Dock, Leitrim until 15th April 2023 - find out more here.

At The Gates of Silent Memory, is at Luan Gallery, Athlone until 20th April 2023 - find out more here.

Deep Mapping: Unseen Landscapes is at Solstice Arts Centre until 31st March 2023 - find out more here.