Exhibition Review: COUCHED.

Couched Exhibition. Images: Geneva Pattison.

By Geneva Pattison

Most of us have a favourite spot on the couch or a favourite chair, undoubtedly, but have you ever thought about why it appeals to you so much? We may leave a sense of ourselves behind every time we use it, an imprint. It’s the place where your parents helped you with your homework, where your grandparents told stories from or maybe where you cried when you encountered heartbreak. Artist Christopher Mahon is exploring the living memory of objects.

Mahon is a choreographer and sculptor, currently on a two-year residency at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In his experimental exhibition COUCHED in the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar, Mahon explores the history and changeability of an everyday item, the family couch. His sculptural exploration focuses on textures, how they interact and how solid items can be transmuted into soft moldable mediums.

The couch itself has been designed by Mahon’s father, based on a second-hand armchair that was in his possession and the sculptures are re-casts of artworks made by Mahon’s mother. As stated by the artist in the exhibition’s foreword, “Both the couch and the sculptures originated as copies or stand-ins, lending them a performative quality.”

A unique design has been silkscreened on the surface material of the couch. The pattern for the cotton silkscreen motif is inspired by art pieces from the 1970’s made by his mother during her time at Dún Laoghaire College of Art. In the accompanying exhibition information, Mahon says that “Couched looks at the way in which objects in my parents’ house have transformed and changed as they have been lived with and moved around” This is a demonstration of movement through time and across generations.

Constant Movement

Upon entering the room straight away you’re viscerally taking part in a transformation. The high-ceilinged room in the Project Arts Centre is dimly lit with a spotlight drawing your attention to a large, pink-tinged, L-shaped couch in the centre of the space. On the couch are a selection of mask-like sculptures of different colours and styles gazing outwardly, evoking a sense of the uncanny. As if witnessing a very personal family moment or reminiscent of one’s own private family moments. It’s both warm and inviting but also brings forth a feeling of disquieted uncertainty.

The familiar setting and the tactile solidity of the sculptures reinforce a feeling of knowing. However, upon considering the malleable couch merging into the printed emblem of a bodily form lounging at one end ever present juxtapositions are highlighted. The display manifests unsolicited movement from the viewer. It’s an organic action, visually and mentally.

For many people, the living room is the heart of the family home. This may never change but the momentos, technology and decor most likely will. It’s the way people engage with these changes over time that puts a seemingly static environment into motion.  

To find out what’s currently on show in the Project Arts Centre visit their website www.projectartscentre.ie or call them on (01) 881 9613.