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Siobhan McDonald: A Change in the Signal/Crystalline

07 Oct 2017 - 25 Nov 2017

‘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.’
Highlanes Gallery is delighted to present a new exhibition by the artist Siobhan McDonald, first shown in Paris, in the Centre Culturel Irlandais, earlier this year.
Artist Siobhan McDonald reflects on the creative processes and formative energies in nature contained within atmospheres, molecules, sounds and seeds. Positioning her work within geological history, Crystalline explores our understanding of time and our relationship with a continually changing environment. The themes that animate Crystalline—the deep history of materials and their changing states and the fragility of bodies and landforms exposed to the elements continue through the exhibition.
McDonald’s research and preparatory work included an expedition to the Arctic Circle in 2015, collaborative work with the European Space Agency and an ongoing studio residency in the College of Science at University College Dublin.
For Highlanes Gallery, this new iteration of Crystalline brings together a customized selection of works related to the substance of ancient and historic natural forms, a set of Arctic plant pressings from the 1825 Franklin Expedition. This is a key work in this exhibition, drawing a thread to the past that is tangible and that predates the climate challenge of our times. This is complemented on film by the ghostly spectre of an expeditionary ship in the very waters where the Franklin ship sailed over 150 years ago, with the retrieved sound of the glacier, with a score specially composed by Irene Buckley.
Oil paintings are based on photographic plates found in the remains of several Arctic expeditions during the 18th century.  Skin combines woven basalt with the distinct materials of calfskin, bone and silver wire, in a shape that denotes the motion of our sun.  A space and time outside was formed when the artist discovered a set of 190-year-old seeds that came from the Franklin Exhibition in 1825. Cyathea australis investigates the early tools of photography reducing this medium to its bare essentials in a series of photogenic drawings that interrogate an era before the Anthropocene. Deceptively simple in form, Cyathea australis (2017) consists of four photogenic drawings that narrate the changing state of the Earth’s atmosphere. To create them, McDonald applied fossil leaves to silver nitrate infused paper, rescued from a photographer’s studio in the abandoned Soviet Arctic town of Pyramiden, and exposed the paper to sunlight. In each of the drawings, the light and the atmospheric carbon dioxide content were modified to recreate the conditions of the Triassic, Cretaceous, and Devonian periods, as well as the Anthropocene epoch.
Crystalline has prompted a number of reviews in English-language and French media, including the Apollo art magazine and the French weekly Télérama, which said the show was ‘beautiful and intelligent: two adjectives rare(ly strung) together.’ Apollo’s Tom Jeffreys added “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.’
Crystalline: Siobhan McDonald is curated by Helen Carey, Director of Firestation Artists’ Studios.

Collaborative Partners: European Space Agency; The Millennium Seed Bank; UCD Parity Studios, University College Dublin, The National Botanic Gardens Dublin, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris.

Highlanes Gallery is grateful for the ongoing financial support from Louth County Council, the Arts Council, Patrons, Benefactors and Friends.

Siobhan McDonald A Change in the Signal – Crystalline

Exhibition Dates:  7 October to 25 November 2017


Exhibition Opening: Saturday 7 October 2017 from 3.30-5pm


In-Conversation Saturday 7 October 2017 at 3.30pm where the artist Siobhan McDonald is in conversation with the exhibition’s curator, Helen Carey.


Children’s Mid Term Workshops Wednesday 1, Thursday 2 and Friday 3 November, each day from 11.30am-1.00pm


Guided Tours: Lasting 40 minutes are available Monday to Saturday, with pre-booking advisable by telephone to 041-9803311 or and at rate of €1 per person.

  • Date: 07 Oct 2017 - 25 Nov 2017
  • Location:Siobhan McDonald
  • Curators:Helen Carey