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RDS Visual Art Awards 2023: Bold, entertaining exhibition shows strength of young Irish talent

Visual art: Taïm Haimet walks away with the Taylor prize for her trio of sculptural and installation artworks

RDS Visual Art Awards

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
★★★★☆

Each year the RDS brings together a panel of judges to review applications from graduating BA and MFA art students across Ireland, North and South. At the end of a lengthy adjudication and selection process, a small group are given the opportunity to show their work at the RDS Visual Art Awards exhibition. In addition to the nationwide publicity, a substantial fund is distributed through judges’ prizes for a handful of the young exhibitors, including the prestigious Taylor Art Prize, which was first awarded in 1878. Coming with a €10,000 prize, it is the linchpin of the exhibition; winners include William Orpen, Séan Keating and Dorothy Cross.

This year’s show, in Imma’s West Wing, features 15 emerging artists. The awards are always an exciting event for art lovers, and this year does not disappoint. The Galway-based graduate Taïm Haimet walks away with the Taylor prize for her trio of sculptural and installation artworks, which speak with both force and subtlety to the migrant experience. Her most striking piece involves a multitiered metal frame, capped by a life-size plaster mould of a woman’s head, the face in quiet repose. Dozens of plaster hands flow down the structure, each one uniquely positioned, their delicate design bringing to mind the gestures of Renaissance-era religious iconography. Sharply lit by a single spotlight, the sculpture is instilled with a beseeching lyricism.

RDS Visual Art Awards
RDS Visual Art Awards

Another prize winner is Asha Murray from Limerick School of Art and Design. Murray’s ingenious woollen artworks are bombastic explorations in colour and comic-style narrative. Her playful Washing Machines Live Longer When Tufted is made from timber frames and a television, covered with her signature fabric design, evoking a deliberate contrast between the pop-art aesthetic and domestic functionalism.

A personal favourite is Ren Coffey’s Ambient Dissonance series, where hybrid artworks involving exposed speakers, two electric guitars, a modified drum pedal, fans, tape, cables and various microphones bathe the room with melodious loops of sound. The experience is like a deconstructed Robert Fripp concert, and the minimalism of the ambient noise is a pleasing counterpoint to the complex DIY aesthetic of Coffey’s physical arrangements.

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RDS Visual Art Awards 2023
RDS Visual Art Awards 2023
RDS Visual Art Awards 2023

Emily Waszak’s Threshold V installation is also very arresting: composed of brass, stones, wood, ceramic bowls and fabric, the assemblage seems to exude a profound stillness that affects everyone who steps into the space.

There are too many artists to discuss each in turn, but they all impress. Guest curator Elaine Hoey deserves her share of the praise too, as the orchestration and positioning of the work contributes immeasurably to the show’s success. Hoey has a special connection to the exhibition, not only being selected to exhibit two years in a row (in 2016 and 2017) but also receiving an award each time. She and the team at Imma and the RDS must be commended for staging such a bold and entertaining exhibition that foregrounds the strength of young Irish talent. Highly recommended.

The RDS Visual Art Awards exhibition continues at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, until Sunday, March 3rd, 2024

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