comments are closed on this review, click here for worldwidereview home

RITA DONAGH Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 28th Sept-13th Nov 1005

From: Charlie Levine
Category: Art, Exhibitions
Date: 30 January 2006


Ikon is the leading contemporary art gallery in the Midlands. Its world-wide reputation has often, through its many years, been at the forefront of exhibiting new artists and techniques. It is with this in mind that I am led to question its last offering, a retrospective of artist Richard Hamilton’s wife, Rita Donagh.

As it stated in the exhibition guide ‘This is the most comprehensive exhibition to date of work by British artist Rita Donagh.’ The work displayed included her most recent series of paintings based on the Black Country ‘a place significant not only as a cradle of the Industrial Revolution, but also as the artist’s birthplace.’ So local lass Donagh gets her first major retrospective.

This all seems like the perfect ‘crowd puller’, and it certainly was. It was an exhibition heralded a must see by national newspapers as well as the usual local rags. However, in my opinion, what was displayed was a mis-match of sketchbook looking research interspersed with final painted pieces. I know her background is in technical drawings but I feel that the show was lacking in everything from visual excitement to intelligent content. I felt her work dated, dull and bland. There was definitely, in my opinion, no need for a two-floor exhibition and one would not be surprised if in the next couple of years we see a Richard Hamilton show at Ikon.

Though I did admire her subject matter if the IRA and the resonance of resent terrorist attacks on the UK. I do believe, however, current social and political matters aside, I still find Donagh’s work lacking in something.

Ikon has recently been ‘dumbing’ down what they are exhibiting and have made the gallery a much more public friendly gallery, opting for safe, audience guaranteeing shows rather than choosing gritty, contemporary, challenging shows that they are better know for and that their reputation was built on.

Has Ikon become the Midlands answer to the Tate? Are crowd numbers and press pleasing exhibitions more important that prompting debates and introducing new concepts, themes and opinions? Unfortunately it would appear so. Let’s hope next show at Ikon by Mike Marshall, Ding Yi and Alan Smith give us that something that Donagh was so importantly missing.

comments are closed on this review, click here for worldwidereview home