Tuesday 24 October 2017

What lies beneath: Island

Island by Graham Chorlton - oil on canvas, courtesy of Cross Gallery

Island by Graham Chorlton
Island by Graham Chorlton

Niall MacMonagle

Where are you right now? In or near a building? Look around. What do you make of it? Is this the kitchen of your dreams? What do you like best about the lovely café you're relaxing in? Does the glittering, airy Terminal Two lift the spirits?

Leicester-born artist Graham Chorlton has been fascinated by buildings, especially signature, public buildings, the ones that seem to say 'Look at me!' One such building is the American Pavilion, Expo 1958 at the World's Fair which ushered in a new post-war optimism. Over fifty million attended the five-hundred acre site and Chorlton's latest work features many of the beautiful, modern structures built especially for that exhibition.

He sometimes has to work from postcards and photographs because the building no longer exists but he also has an eye for everyday, workaday buildings on the edge of town and our interaction with them.

Steel, glass and concrete mean fewer green fields. Ironically, the planet's biggest building is a structure in Aalsmeer, the Netherlands, where flower auctions are held. Covering 518,000 square metres, flowers that once grew in the earth are brought there and sold on land that has been concreted over.

But buildings need not be forbidding or cold. Atriums can contain plants and trees, roundabouts on busy routes can be planted.

This image, Island, though echoing Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin's late-nineteen century painting Isle of Death, is an Island of Life, an oasis of the exotically beautiful surrounded by man-made structures.

There are functional signs on either side; at the base of these stately palms at water level, stones and grasses feature and the passer-by is reminded of far-away beautiful places. The leaves rise up umbrella-like only to spill down in soft bright light against those gorgeous blues.

Chorlton is interested in what he calls "the appearance of the physical world around us, particularly the idea of place and the public realm". His images of a plaza containing trees or closed umbrellas, spurting fountains or, as here, a little bit of jungle, shows us how urban jungle life has a beauty of its own.

Pavilion, new work by Graham Chorlton, is on show at Cross Gallery, 59 Francis St, Dublin 8 until 2 May.

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