Artist Siobhan McDonald has been titled as the UN Climate Action Programme’s first artist of the week with her intriguing exhibition ‘Crystalline’. As part of the UN’s new #Art4Climate series, McDonald’s work strives to get the message across about the evolution of nature and the cosmos.
The mixed media exhibition, which was hosted at the Irish Cultural Centre and curated by Helen Carey, included oil painting on un-primed and weathered boards, ink drawings and photogenic drawings.
Her artworks were on public display for the first time and captured the atmospheric conditions of the four major epochs up to the current Anthropocene - a layered sun that combines basalt, calfskin, bone and silver wire, and plant pressings taken from the 1825 Franklin Arctic expedition.
The exhibition has prompted much conversation and review both from within the UK and among the French media. French weekly Télérama, described McDonald’s work as “beautiful and intelligent,” while Apollo art magazine’s Tom Jeffreys said: “McDonald commemorates the vast diversity of the environment we inhabit and explores our equally diverse responses to it.
“She does so deftly and with an aesthetic that is at once coherent, understated and quietly powerful.”
Created to mark the launch of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Solar Orbiter mission in 2018, the exhibition installs dozens of squares of sponge with upturned corners coated with carbon and bone and stretching along the centre of the exhibition. McDonald has also included music that accompanies a short film, echoing the sound of dying glaciers in the Arctic Circle.
McDonald explains that her work is driven by her interest with corrosion, compression and the expansion of materials.
“My work is about the spirit of discovery of what is still unknown to science, going beyond the edge of the universe and exploring the layers that go back to our origins.
“As a young child, I was always looking under rocks, and I remember the first time I held a meteorite – it was startling to hold something that came from somewhere else in our solar system.”
While her work mainly consists of paintings, McDonald’s work also includes installation, sculpture and sound.
Moving forward, McDonald has shifted her focus to creating bigger paintings, inspired by a number of images taken of the tragic 19th century Northwest Passage expeditions. She explains she was transfixed by the compositions and “shadows of a time gone by, which seemed to be erased in places”. With this new work, she hopes to further develop her research and enquiry into the properties of materials and the relationship between humans and the natural world.
Throughout 2017, McDonald hopes Crystalline will be showcased in Ireland, the UK and by the European Space Agency (ESA).