N.C.A.D. Diploma in Art & Design

Arte Povera - I.M.M.A. Workshop




This one day workshop in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (I.M.M.A) was a great way to start off the Diploma year as it brought out our creativity, our openess to explore and our playfulness.  The tutors instructed us to bring along some basic recyclable materials for the studio class, however, we did not know what our assignment would be until the day of the actual class.  For many people who are not familiar with contemporary art it can be difficult to let go and allow yourself the freedom to play and explore with materials (similar to how we would have as a child) and to find a deeper meaning within these quirky ideas.  Contemporary art is a constant investigation and study in search of new ideas, processes and movements forward.




The Everyday


‘Art should make use of common methods and materials so there is little difference between the talker and the talked about’


‘the reality of impressions and the impressions of reality’


‘personal, eccentric, peculiar, quirky, idiosyncratic and queer’


‘the ordinary and the rare, their interconnectedness and interchangeablility’


‘the ordinary event leads to the beauty and understanding of the world’


- from 50 Helpful hints of Art and the Everyday Allen Ruppersberg 1985




Assignment: Everyday materials @ IMMA


Using I.M.M.A. as a starting point, through 3D sculpture and assemblage (paying attention to formal concerns of shape, form, space, colour etc.) use everyday materials to explore and respond to the Museum.  Choose one of the following areas for research:


SPACE:  The Building, Grounds, Gallery Spaces, Structure, Atmosphere, History etc.


SITE:  Use the grounds, studio, process area, as a site in which to make work, or, research and respond to the idea of a Museum.


EXHIBITIONS:  Consider a piece of work, or, an underlying theme / idea from one of the exhibitions currently on view in I.M.M.A. and make a piece of sculpture in response to it.

 Research/Subject Matter 

 Research/Subject Matter 



1. Current Exhibition


We first explored the current exhibitions that were on display in I.M.M.A. at that time.


Caroline McCarthy

Caroline McCarthy

The Luncheon, 2002



Most of the class were impressed and commented on the above piece by Caroline McCarthy.  It was fascinating to see how McCarthy had created this sculpture using found materials such as wet toilet paper (of various colors), water, black bin-bags, real stalks, fake flies and disposable tableware.  The above is a photograph of this sculpture.  (The Luncheon, 2002. 196 x 114 cm, IMMA Collection, Donated by A.I.B., 2002)


See below for two more pieces of work that really caught my eye on the day:

Michael Craig Martin

Michael Craig Martin

On The Table, 1971

Caroline McCarthy

Caroline McCarthy

Group Coordination at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2014




2. The Grounds


It was a beautiful day and I had never been to the gardens in I.M.M.A. before and so this is probably why I was drawn to here.  I found the gardens to be extremely peaceful and impeccably well maintained.

I.M.M.A. Gardens
I.M.M.A. Gardens




From the above picture we learn how the garden was periodically neglected, with no specific information of the original design, but that restoration was decided for the ‘ideal’ classical layout in 1664 (of which was considered to be close to its original layout).  The second phase initiated in the 1980’s and development on the 3D features began (walls, paths, structural planting of hedges, toplary and pleached trees, fountain, entrance steps and terrace).  The final phase developed the historical planting, including training structure for espalier trees along the walls, the planting of small trees and bulbs in the ‘wilderness’ quarters as well as statuary urns and garden furniture.  Intention of restoration is to create features which represent 17th and 18th century Formal Garden design based on extensive research of the site and interpretation of features of the time.


Within this serene garden setting I was drawn over to the artwork of Hélio Oiticica (Penetrável Macaléia).  Here sat a large, yellow metal frame with sand contained inside of it.  Hélio Oiticica is known for his rectangular grid shapes and we see this theme again in this work where he has used a grid affect in this cage like structure.  Both the sand and the yellow structure appear to abruptly stand out from the rest of the garden as Oiticicas structure is quite harsh in contrast to the majority of greenery and the other sculptures surrounding it.





Both the sand and the stone garden (along the outside of this structure) encouraged me to think about the nature of the garden - especially after reading the above historical notes which outlined all of the hard work that had gone into regrowing and restoring the gardens.  I thought about the grass, and any other nature that lay below this structure, and how it may be trying to grow up from below this frame and under the stones.  




I reflected on how this man made structure is forcing the nature below it to suffocate and remain underground.  As mentioned above, this sculpture also reminded me of a cage like enclosure.  These themes of suffocation and containment were themes that I had touched on in many of my projects during the Certificate in Drawing and Visual Investigation and the Drawing/Print/Mixed Media courses.


 My Project 



We were quite restricted with the materials that we had to use on the day as we had only been instructed to gather found materials and bring them along to this studio session.  We had no idea of the type of project that we would undertake on the day.  I had brought along some foam balls and these reminded me of plant bulbs and the vegetation that may lie within the gardens of I.M.M.A.  I decided to use them in some way that may illustrate the attempts of any underground vegetation that may be trying to break through and fight their way out from the darkness underneath. 


I had also brought along several small constructible boxes to the studio (see below picture) and these boxes reminded me of this square Helio Oiticicas enclosure found within the I.M.M.A. garden.  The yellow color of the box mirrored the yellow grid of the Oiticicas enclosure.



I decided to leave the top part of the box open and place some of the stones from the I.M.M.A. garden inside of the box.  I then placed the foam balls (symbolic of the bulbs/vegetation) within the box.  I used these foam balls inside of the box in order to mirror the idea of the plant bulbs being captured within the darkness and attempting to push their way out towards the light.  I then used a thread to hold the balls in place within the box.  I overlapped the thread throughout the piece as a symbol of a force that is attempting to block the bulbs from escaping outwards towards the light. 


The white overlapping of the thread reminded me of spiderwebs and this thus created an image of the bulbs becoming encaptured within this spiderweb as they try to fight and push outwards.  It was not until later in the Diploma year when I remembered how these underlying themes of connections and containment held similar subjects and ideas to that of which I had drew inspiration from for several pieces I created during the Certificate in Drawing & Visual Investigation course a few years earlier.  Even in my very first project during the Certificate course I had used a spiderweb as part of my work.  I would also return to these themes time and time again throughout the Diploma year.