Isabel Nolan’s ‘Calling on Gravity’ – REVIEW

By Ciara Kummert

Isabel Nolan, Partial eclipse, mild steel, paint, fabric and dye. Credit: Kerlin Gallery

As a five-year-old girl curious about the world around me, I remember trying to catch my shadow outside the school gates in primary school. I couldn’t manage it and I didn’t know why, but I persisted out of sheer determination. There are so many things as children which we do not understand but stir something within us. As we grow up, we learn about the world around us and sometimes stop to pose questions.

Art has many functions, and one of them is to affect the viewer and to allow us to pose questions which we might not feel are relevant to us.

Upon walking through the Nassau street entrance to the Arts Building in Trinity College, there is a gallery to your left. It is unassuming, plain and unornamented. One might not think to go there. As an art history student, to my shame, I have not visited the Douglas Hyde Gallery more than five times.

When asked to write a review on an exhibition, I thought ‘why not?’. However, with my main interest being Italian and French seventeenth-century art, I wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘Calling on Gravity’ by Isabel Nolan. Often with contemporary art, so much of the work is left up to interpretation.

As you walk in there is a circular metal object to your left. It looks like a wheel but has colourful materials draping over it. Initially, I wasn’t too taken by it. Unusual, but colourful and certainly memorable. But that is the point of art, is it not?

Should it [art] always be something with an aesthetic value, or should it do something and make the viewer feel confused about the meaning of the work, in order to initiate conversation?

As you walk down the stairs you get a view of little wooden objects scattered around the floor. It looked as though a child had just been imaginatively playing with toys and had decided to pair up certain objects together.

Hanging from the ceiling were colourful chains, which broadened as they nearly reached the floor, where they held onto a circular wire piece, which supported fragments of what looked like colourful wooden sticks or bones. I saw the name of the exhibition – ‘Calling on Gravity’ – coming through in this piece. It cast a wonderful shadow, which was as fascinating as the piece itself.

What struck me about the exhibition was not so much gravity itself, nor the weight of objects used as art materials, but the effect that these objects could have on other surfaces. Weightless shadows create such magical effects. While objects last physically long, shadows move and can be seen but not felt.


The exhibition accurately shows the artist thought that ‘Just because the universe is probably real, doesn’t mean it is not weird and puzzling to be here’. Visiting this exhibition re-ignited a curiosity and wonder which one seldom feels as an adult when answers are handed to us.

The exhibition ‘Calling on Gravity’ continues in the Douglas Hyde Gallery until the 30 September 2017.


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