‘Gapfill: More Beauty, More Happiness’
‘Landfill of Ghosts’
Review by Jennette Donnelly
We now live in a society where Beauty and Happiness are defined by material possessions and photoshopped images whether we want to believe this, or not. Images of celebrities bombard us daily on advertisements, social media sites and even, the news. ‘Beautiful people’ websites, created to show before and after images of reality, the true and the gritty, succeed only to further the conundrum of which image came first and which followed, creating a ‘Chicken and Egg’ enigma. This pseudo reality has brought on a society filled with permanently confused people. We are continually striving for the unobtainable and punishing ourselves throughout the journey. Alan Magee has confronted the viewer with just that.
A glowing reminder greeted me upon arriving at ‘Gapfill: More Beauty, More Happiness’ by Alan Magee. Housed in the former Methodist church and school in Drogheda, it’s the latest project from Drogheda based artist led team Nexus Arts in conjunction with Highlanes Gallery. A brightly coloured, custom made bouncing castle hung upturned in the centre of the first interior space. Used previously as a shop, this former place of worship has been stripped bare and altered to become the model of a universally recognised industrial unit. This piece stirs up childhood memories. A time of pure happiness and naivety when possibilities are limitless and joy can be found in the mundane. The piece itself is created to specifically fit within the space conforming to its limits and allowing it to exist within these boundaries. I wanted to find a way to bounce, to play, to achieve the elation once felt. None of the promises so proudly housed were offered, my quest remaining insurmountable.
The bitterness of defeat turned sour when I turned to be confronted by a large scale installation spelling out ‘S-O-R-R-Y’. Longing to return to that momentary relapse into childhood bliss, I was confronted by my own restraints. Like the castle, a fairytale home made famous by a corporation, I was stuck, unmoving and unfulfilled. My mind became clouded with my personal blocks of guilt and regret rendering me unable to move on, to find peace, to find happiness. The bare wood of this installation did not attempt to sell me any glossy stories or trick me to believe it had a secret yet untold. Steeling Myself, I allowed my eye to be enamoured by what peeked through the gaps between the lettering and steadied my course, strategically side-stepping the iceberg in my path.
What awaited me was decay. A fleeting life-span created by expanding foam and found objects bound together in knowing defeat sinking and flaking beneath their own force. The knowledge of decay seeping from every strand of each construction with oozing, splurging, bulges as they attempted to retain what they once were. No polish, glamour or retouching, just reality. A resting place for everyday objects. Objects holding memories in their very construct, banished for the newest model to keep in with the Jones’s. Laid to rest in this landfill of ghosts.
Alan Magee has taken a space lacking in hope but full of potential, and breathed life into it. While some exhibitions can leave the viewer empty, devoid of any connection; here, we are encouraged to remember the sweet innocence of childhood, engage with the future, to question society and face our own person. Magee has inspired a genuine response in his audience and, in doing so, has created a very successful exhibition indeed.