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Anne Ffrench and Julia Pallone: Accumulation review – half-glimpsed truths come to life

Exhibitions scratch emotional and sensual itch we might not have realised we had

Anne Ffrench and Julia Pallone: Accumulation

Lucy Sheridan: Somewhat Damaged

The Courthouse Gallery, Ennistymon, Co Clare
★★★☆☆

A tasty shapeshifting is going on in Anne Ffrench’s small sculptures, which feel as if they have inveigled their way into the Courthouse Gallery. In Sorrowful Song (all works 2024), a windblown pair of trees at the edge of a desolate shore turn out to be a pair of bird’s claws in a small piece of honeycomb. A beautifully sculpted Maltese falcon sits on a perch – but wait: it has been made from accumulations of beeswax, collected over two decades, and that perch is an old clothesrail.

It is as if all those half-glimpsed truths (even if they are just tricks of the eye) that emerge in the faint lights of dusk or dawn have come to life; and odd items put together begin to make a certain kind of sense. The Good Room sees a section of those layers of wallpaper you find by opening cupboard doors in old houses. On top is perched a more rustically made bird, this time with a beak cleverly shaped with a couple of strips of insulating tape.

In lesser hands this kind of assemblage can be slight, often even irritating, but here it is something special. Sensitivity to the possibilities of the secret lives of objects comes together with wit, and a healthy friendship with the uncanny, to create an installation that gently reminds us that surface perception isn’t everything, and things may accumulate their own energies over time.

In Julia Pallone’s previous exhibition with Ffrench, at Uillinn in 2019 (the artists frequently show as a pair), she focused on the secret lives of houses through sculpture. Hanging house shapes trailed roots, while Sentinels, a series of elaborate collars, sported those animals that more usually top gateposts across rural Ireland, playing with ideas of protection, faith and beliefs rooted in more ancient times. Here she explores connected ideas in a series of collaged works, where huge trees, fronds and seed shapes breeze through the outlines of buildings, and amorphous shapes seep through walls and roofs and under foundations.

Rather than undermining the idea of the safety of home, she instead shows us how our homes are porous to the world around us. While you may think that closing the door behind you is shutting out the world, think again. The world is with us in a timeless and insistent set of connections, so we may as well make friends with it. In an adjacent space, The First Artichoke We Planted Has Not Been Eaten (2022-23) is a brilliant bronze. Pallone is fully at home with sculpture, and adept with using beauty. Here it reinforces the message that no matter what, nature will have its way.

Upstairs, in the gallery’s project room, Lucy Sheridan’s separate installation finds nice echoes of the works below. Ceramic, sliver vinyl, papier mache, polystyrene and seeds are arranged a deliciously enigmatic way, and it seems as if meaning is hovering, haunting at the edges of the space. As with Ffrench’s work, it flirts with the risk of not coming off, but, again, instead we have a reaching beyond and behind language, to scratch an emotional and sensual itch we might not have realised we had.

Accumulation and Somewhat Damaged are at the Courthouse Gallery, Ennistymon, Co Clare, until Saturday, April 27th

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