‘Fragile Absolutes Part 3’ Alan Phelan Limerick City Gallery Pery Square, Limerick 12 October – 25 November 2012

Limerick City Gallery of Art presents “Fragile Absolutes Part 3” by Alan Phelan
Previewing Thursday, 11th October, the exhibition will run in Limerick City Art Gallery until 25th November, 2012. The exhibition will include the premier of two new films Include Me Out of the partisans manifesto and Speaking of Drives, Dialogue 3 as well as several other new works.

Phelan has created a trilogy of exhibitions that contain elements of his broad-ranging reactions to Slavoj Žižek’s turn of the millennium book “The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why Is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For?” Phelan’s artworks within each exhibition have unfolded as alternative chapters to Žižek’s thoughts. The compelling narratives that run through the exhibitions present humanity’s desperation and insecurity through the twists and turns of a society seeking to redress the loss of some assumed equilibrium. In each, Phelan clearly indicates through a myriad of narratives that intersect with popular culture, revolutionary history, and the contradictions of contemporary revisionism.

Society’s nervousness about what is reality pervades the exhibitions, and in Part Three Phelan makes his most personal manifesto. He shows a bleak belief in history, perhaps best displayed in the text drawing “Provisional People”, a tracing of words from the 1916 Irish Proclamation of Independence. As such the exhibition opens with a discomforting mix of players and icons. The hoodied figure of a criminal hiding their identity on exiting court is rendered only as a garment, solidified in paper and glue. The work is sternly partnered with a bust of Roger Casement re-worked as a house plant. Both exalt and disrespect in equal measure.

This is not just a political statement, it is also the personal history of the degraded life that each individual sought out. Hope is not something that Phelan provides lightly. With Include Me Out of the partisans manifesto, we find a suburban couple battling through the apparent obliteration of their shared experience. As their DVD collection is painstakingly broken up and recycled, the male character works through inner torment interspersed with his dreams of what could have been. The film adopts several cinematic tropes to address the cyclical nature of ideas and how process implicates content.

The expectation brought by the psychic animals in The Seven Oracles, a new marble installation, objectifies moments of humanity seeking out a confirmation of what the future will bring, albeit through predicting the results of football matches. Times may pass, but the games continue and so does the insecure human need to know. In Speaking of Drives, Dialogue 3 an improbable encounter of Arthur Griffith, an ex-nun mechanic and a footballer’s wife in a nuclear fall-out shelter and underground car park, results in a conversation about the very nature of desire. The discussion centres around the ‘o-object’ from conflicting psychological perspectives – old, new and intuitive – resolving little and soon parting ways.

Phelan renders this ‘o-object’ differently in the form of a scent, available as a cologne and also diffused through the gallery as a room fragrance developed with Demeter Fragrance Library – a company specializing in smells as memory triggers. Orange Rim Cleaner is the sweet chemical odour of a wheel degreaser used by modified car enthusiasts at a Show and Shine event organised by Phelan in 2006. The work grapples with the o-object, as an ultimate dematerialized artwork, the unobtainable object of desire, yet now re-packaged in a 30 ml bottle.

The dominant theme of car culture in Phelan’s recent work is represented with the first showing in Ireland of the original blue print design for the car sculpture Goran’s Stealth Yugo. Made in Serbia in 2006, the piece was an important starting point for this project which now draws to a tentative close.

Born in Dublin in 1968, Alan Phelan studied at Dublin City University and Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He has exhibited widely internationally including Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Chapter, Cardiff, SKUC, Ljubljana; Feinkost, Berlin; SKC, Belgrade. OK11 Helsinki, IMMA, Dublin, mother’s tankstation, Dublin; MCAC, Portadown; Limerick City Gallery of Art, and Solstice, Navan and The Black Mariah, Cork. He was editor/curator for Printed Project, issue 5, launched at the 51st Venice Biennale, and has curated exhibitions at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Project Art Centre, Dublin, and Rochester, New York. Work on this exhibition was short listed for the AIB Art Prize, 2007.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Seán Kissane, Curator, IMMA; Dušan Bjelic, Professor of Criminology at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, USA; Medb Ruane, writer and journalist, and Tony White, novelist and journalist.

LCGA would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of Demeter Fragrance Library, IMMA, and lenders to the exhibition.

Limited Edition Art Object:


Image: ‘Orange Rim Cleaner’ 2012 courtesy of the artist



Have you found your unattainable object of desire?
The elusive O object, a thing that remains in our heart and mind, a desire, a smell, has manifested itself in a new limited edition cologne designed by American fragrance house Demeter with Irish Visual Artist Alan Phelan.





Phelan seeks to represent the idea of triggering memory through fragrance. An amazing partnership with Demeter was forged as the opportunity to merge the perfumer’s art into the visual and spatial art of Alan Phelan became irresistible; Demeter being uniquely suited for this project because no other fragrance house works the relationship between scent and memory so intimately.

The project is connected to a multiple venue exhibition called “Fragile Absolutes” which worked through a range of different themes and productions methods. Originally designed for Phelan’s recent solo exhibition in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), where its unique scent filled the air of one gallery, the limited edition version of the cologne is being issued for the 2012 show at Limerick City Gallery of Art, with 100 signed bottles, available only at the show itself, or www.DemeterFragrance.com for $30 or €25.

Fragile Absolutes Part 3 opens Thursday, 11th October and runs until Friday, 25th November 2012. For further information about this limited edition art object, the exhibition or interviews with the artist, you may contact the gallery:

Helen Carey / Barry Foley 
at Limerick City Gallery of Art, Pery Square, Limerick.

Tel: 00353 61 310633 
helen.carey@limerickcity.ie / barry.foley@limerickcity.ie or the artist direct at phelanf@indigo.ie see also Alan Phelan’s website http://www.alanphelan.com


For further information: