Make good, make better 

Arthouse, Stradbally, Co. Laois

April 2013 

Hot cup of fluff
Ceramic, thistle seeds.

Green on green

Out of plume
White goose feathers, card.

Essay by Carissa Farrell for the exhibition 'Make good, make better'
Commissioned by Laois Arts Office

It could be said that sometime after pre-history and sometime before the modern period, that is, the period when the instinct for abstraction was abandoned, nature ruled the western world in a way that it doesn't now. The association between beauty in nature and beauty in art has altered. So too the human instinct to nurture our environment no longer comes from a rudimentary need to survive but rather from an intellectual response to crisis. The relationship between man and nature has become disconnected and mediated by a multitude of technological and sociological factors.

With humour and a delicate aesthetic finesse, Make good, make better by Saidhbhín Gibson unpicks some of the nuances of this ever-changing relationship. Gibson stretches the subject taught and plucks from many angles.  The human instinct for anthropomorphism - that man-centric desire to see himself in everything, is innocently ridiculed in Allure, Tips, and Aww come on, No you come on.  Throwing off the weight of art history and the green movement, these delightful works give a fresh light-hearted view of how it is okay to interfere with nature sometimes. In Aww come on, No you come on, Gibson tells us in the title that a frizzy talking oak twig argues with a smooth perfectly formed paper speech bubble. In Allure, again she indicates in the title, a pair of pebbles flirt modestly with downward looking eyes. In Tips, a series of disembodied French polished twigs stand in hopeful anticipation of something to arrive. These three works invent a new affinity between man and nature with dead-pan aplomb.

The burdensome guilt of man's devastating interference with nature is avoided. Instead Gibson moderates thumping criticism with aesthetic grace. In Hot Cup of Fluff a porcelain tea cup is filled with thistle fluff and is possibly Worcestor (or imitation) - a company that led the drive towards intense industrialisation of ceramic production in Britain in the late 18th century. Thistle fluff is used by Goldfinches to line their nests - so much so that they even delay nesting until the thistle has gone to seed. From the same period in history lace making in Ireland was borne from the hunger and devastation of the famine and is poignantly reflected in Make good, make better - Ace in which a shimmering maple leaf forms a template for needlepoint lace. In both pieces nature is coupled with industries that traditionally reflected profound inequalities between producers and consumers. These works belie their visual charm and elegance by hinting at the misappropriation of nature and interference into its hitherto symbiotic relationship with man by the progress of capitalism.

Phil I and II celebrate the simplicity of how nature can make art beautiful. Executed with a loose, gentle and delicate hand they capture something of the emotion inherent in that symbiotic relationship. In her statement Gibson describes the exhibition title as reflexive, suggesting that man should make good with nature and nature will make us better. Just as the tree that falls in the forest cannot be heard without ears to hear it, nature's true beauty and worth flourishes through synergy with all who use it.

Micro-scale, femininity and humour consolidate this assortment of ideas around nature and the world at large in Make good, make better. Gibson proves herself an artist who combines a solidity of vision with an eccentric tendency for irreverence. She is an artist with something to say, but no desire to shout. There is a sense that there is a lot more to come from Gibson in the future, and I for one, look forward to it.

Carissa Farrell. March 2013.


Phil II
Mixed media on paper.