Solo show by Mags O’ Dea, curated by Lynda Phelan

15 Sept – 16 Oct 2015 | 

Possibility does indeed feature in the elegant assemblage of auditory and sculptural forms now on display at De Appendix. At the same time, possibility is also a feature of De Appendix itself. As a non-traditional exhibition space, De Appendix co-exists alongside the comings and goings of a local doctor’s surgery. The doctor in question is Dr. Ciara McMahon. As a practising artist herself, she provides her patients with a unique experience while they wait to be seen. The entrance hall and waiting room of McMahon’s Amaranta Family Practice are continually being transformed by a rotation of contemporary art exhibits. For the local community, the liminal spaces of this particular suburban surgery now serve a function beyond that of their implied ‘waiting game’. These transitional non-spaces are now positioned as non-art spaces that contain art. deAppendix @ 30 Ardagh Grove, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, along with the selfsame addressed Amaranta Family Practice, not only share identical google coordinates but also the same scope of possibility when interpreting our human connection to that which binds us. The work currently showing at deAppendix explores the fragility of our human existence as that which binds us to life.


The artists selected by McMahon tend to fall in line with the possibility of art as cathartic for her non-art audience. The term ‘catharsis’ is derived from the Greek ‘katharsis’, an ancient medical term used to describe a process of purification or purgation. Aristotle used the term as metaphor in De Poetica (c. 335 BCE) to describe the pleasurable effect a symbolic tragedy can have on a spectator. Art can also have a cathartic effect on its viewer when identification via vicarious means is possible, and the viewer’s insight deepened. In light of this, deAppendix is delighted to present the first solo show of Dublin based sculptor, Mags O’ Dea. As a former orthopaedic nurse, and a more recent graduate of NCAD (Glass 2014), O’ Dea has since returned for an MFA in Sculpture, which is due to be completed in 2016. Her exhibition entitled ‘Possibility’ consists of a small number of works chosen from her most recent body. The work selected for this exhibition clearly extends the artist’s hand beyond that of machine and material fragility to form new relationships by way of material juxtapositions. deAppendix as setting, lends well to the exhibiting of Possibility, as the potential for emotional purgation is strong in the sculptural forms of Mags O’ Dea.

In the selfsame named work Possibility (2015), O’ Dea reconstructs the constituent parts of a wheelchair with the added addition of a drain into a stand-alone kinetic sculpture (49cm x78cm). O’ Dea is interested in “the catalytic effect of art as an agent of change” as well as its cathartic potential. Possibility (2015), draws us in to its non-spin and awaits for the catalytic hand to assist in its turning. The viewer as catalyst sets something in motion; Possibility (2015) stands alone, spinning, and at the same time, goes nowhere. This work draws our attention to the notion of time as non-linear; but there is something amiss with regards the circular action, perhaps it has to do with the incorporation of the drain? This work does not run smooth; it is disembodied from its objective function, and because of this, the body belonging to the catalytic hand acts as a replacement for the absent body bound by such a thing as a wheelchair. It is in this exchange between body and absent body that the cathartic nature of this work takes hold.


O’ Dea left her position as a medical professional for medical reasons, and having experienced life on the other side, she now possesses the highly educated mind of an orthopaedic nurse turned management along with the relative visual language associated with the medical world of mobility aids and equipment, as well as the complex set of emotions felt by the patient herself. The inclusion of a drain in Possibility (2015) is a re-constellation of those emotions felt, that of fear, vulnerability, helplessness, invisibility and waste. Possibility (2015) has been placed on the threshold of the Amaranta Family Practice. Located in the entrance hall, this stainless steel sculpture awaits its turn, where as, ordinarily, a patient would just pass on through such a space into the waiting room next door.

Possibility – The Exhibition / Possibility – The Artwork (2015) both push the liminality of deAppendix to be a little less ‘pass-through’ and a little more reflective. The terms liminal and liminality are derived from the Latin “limen” which literally means ‘threshold’ – the kind you cross over upon entry into a building. The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition) extends this definition more towards its potential for abstraction; Liminal: “of or pertaining to the threshold or initial stage of a process.” The term was first published in the field of psychology in 1884, however, it really took hold as an idea in anthropology thanks to Van Gennep (1873-1957) and his seminal work: Les rites de passage (1909). Gennep described rites of passage by way of a three-part social structure: separation, liminal period, and re-assimilation. The British cultural anthropologist, Victor Turner (1920-1983), who is best known for his work on symbols, rituals, and rites of passage, based his theory of liminality on Les rites de passage (Gennep 1909) while expanding upon it further afield. Turner refers to the “the subject of passage ritual, in the liminal period, [as] structurally, if not physically, invisible” (1967: 95). A liminal individual, that is, an individual who has been stripped of his/her social status is now seen as socially ambiguous. Turner further regards liminality “…as a realm of pure possibility whence novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise” (1967: 97).


And that they most certainly do in the work of Mags O’ Dea. Responding to the many liminal individuals (invisible) embedded in the liminal hallways (transitional) of our overcrowded hospitals, O’ Dea has created a series of mini-hospital-bed-assemblages using materials like plaster of Paris, kling bandage, wheelchair parts, household paint, latex and lino. Three of which are shown here as part of Possibility in the entrance hall of De Appendix, on the window sill, looking out onto the street: Right I’m Off! (23cm x 20cm x 16.5cm), Rightly Stuck (20cm x 12cm x 20cm) and Falling Ova! (19cm x 30cm x 30cm) (2015). Through her diminutive hospital beds, O’ Dea represents the invisible by way of their absence, and she always positions the beds low so as to make us look down upon the structure rather than the individual that the structure had originally been designed for; the individual is liminal, stripped of respect, status and place, and “structurally, if not physically invisible” (Turner 1967: 95).

Finally, the name given to the contemporary art strand of McMahon’s place of practice: deAppendix, correlates two-fold with O’ Dea’s material choices influenced by her background in medicine: appendix as (1) a human anatomical feature with no known biological function, and (2) a thing attached to the end of something else. There is, plenty more to see of Possibility @ deAppendix or maybe even hear: an audio work recorded on location at a busy Dublin A & E Department, photography in the waiting room of the Amaranta Family Practice, which were taken on location at the artist’s MFA studio at Emmet House, Thomas Street, Dublin 8, a building previously occupied by the HSE and visually identifiable as such, along with two more larger sculptural forms that do indeed occupy the mind.


(Turner, V. (1967). The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. New York, London: Cornell University Press)

Text by Lynda Phelan https://phelanlynda.wordpress.com https://deappendix.wordpress.com/


This entry was posted by ciaramcmahon.
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