The delicate white buds at the end of these lush green leaves appear to be almost on fire in Eoin McHugh's extraordinary painting, 'Pulse, Thirst, Rain Inside. For yes, it is a painting rather than an enhanced photograph. And it is McHugh's interest in the psychology of imagery that produces these hyper-real/hyper-surreal painted worlds. McHugh attempts to deny us, the viewer, one definitive interpretation of his works and, in doing so, forces us to question how we process images. This intriguing painting features in Motivational Deficit, a group show of eight contemporary Irish artists who confront their present truth to show us the Ireland of today with all its pervasive nature of austerity and recession.
Currently on display in Cork's Crawford Art Gallery (crawfordartgallery.ie), Motivational Deficit refers to the perceived public disaffection with political and social engagement. All of the works in the exhibition have been created in the last five years and some of the participants are more obvious in their reaction to government policies. Anthony Haughey's 'Settlement', for example, presents haunting images of ghost estates shot at sunrise and sunset, the grace of the light somehow making these landscape blights almost beautiful.
The other artists involved are Michelle Browne, Brian Duggan, Aaron Lawless, Orla McHardy, David Sherry and Sonia Shiel. And, when we appear to be on the cusp of another hyped economic bubble, maybe we need more reminders like this to tell us to slow down, to not fall for all the empty promises. Let us not take any more sweets from strangers.