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as it now must
draw unto itself
all the grace and weight
of what has been lost.
A Greek Statue by Wislawa Szymborska (extract)
Oliver Sears Gallery is pleased to present the first exhibition in our new home on Fitzwilliam St Upper, Dublin 2.
Simulacra is a series of low relief carvings by Irish artist, Jason Ellis, one of the pre-eminent stone carvers working in Ireland today. The exhibition comprises twelve works which are drawn from a series of renowned stone reliefs from art history: the Parthenon, the Antiquities rooms in the Louvre and Donatello have all provided the core subject matter. Some works are close copies of sections of these iconic sculptures, others are drawn from the artist's imagination.
Ellis has worked for twenty years as a conservator, restoring and maintaining many of the best known public sculptures in Ireland. He has deployed many of the skills and artifices of that discipline to give these contemporary works the appearance of antiquity.
Individually and collectively this body of work succeeds in re-evaluating these towering artistic benchmarks from the past. Here we can understand them afresh for our times on a domestic scale. In ‘Athenian’, a detail of the horses' legs from the Parthenon are reconfigured and becomes a symbol of flight, universal for any age.
In ‘Feast of Herod’, Donatello's masterpiece on the baptismal font in the Battistero di San Giovanni in Sienna, a guest at the feast is covering his eyes from the horror of Herod being presented with the head of John the Baptist on a platter. In Ellis' version he closes in on the figure of the guest. Out of context, the figure's expression represents revulsion, grief or shock and the physical impulse to shield one's eyes from the world. Similarly, ‘Ministering Angel I’ from Donatello's 'The Angels attending the dead Christ' takes the mantle of a broader human instinct. Ellis' versions, one in Carrara marble, the other in Kilkenny limestone depict the tenderness of a human touch, without the context of this key biblical drama. The imagery in stone draws the viewer to physically touch the cold, smooth surface. This is art almost becoming the object of depiction rather than mere representation. Stone carvers are a rare breed and Simulacra reflects an artist who is clear about what he needs to say and knows exactly how to say it.