Willie Doherty, Dead Pool II (2011)

It is surprising how dated Willie Doherty’s Troubles-inspired photo/text works of the late 1980s and early 1990s have become. These days, they feel more like archive material than contemporary art, and perhaps that is no bad thing.

This retrospective also features recent video works by the Derry-born artist, which despite their local origins also allow for a much wider reading.

Buried (2009, 8 minutes) is set in a dark wood where glowing embers, melted plastic and seething worms imply recent, unexplained human activity. Ancient Ground (2011, 8 minutes) was shot in the peat bogs of County Donegal with a slow, female voice-over that begins “I walk these roads every day, the ancient ground, looking for a sign, some disturbance, something shifted, revealed, given up, leaking.” It’s a film about what lurks beneath, both literally and emotionally.

Showing as part of Dublin Contemporary 2011, the twice Turner-Prize nominated artist (1994 and 2003) is a good fit for the event’s Terrible Beauty theme. Several of his image-text compositions do retain their visceral impact and these two video works are superb. Five more – Three Potential Endings (2008), Segura (2010), Non-Specific Threat (2004), Sometimes I Imagine it’s my Turn (1998) and Blackspot (1997) – will be shown between now and 15 January.

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, until 15 January 2011.

VIDEO: On 20 September 2011, Irish Times online editor Hugh Linehan, author and National Women’s Council Director Susan McKay and I discussed Willie Doherty’s show, along with the documentary Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, the play The Yellow Wallpaper at Smock Alley, Dublin and the novel On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry on The View click here to watch the show or each of the items discussed individually.

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