Percept/Pathos: A Solo Exhibition by Colm Mac Athlaoich

6 - 19 May 2021

Grove Collective is pleased to present the upcoming solo exhibition Percept/Pathos, featuring new works by Brussels-based Irish artist Colm Mac Athlaoich, on view at Grove Collective's Battersea space, as well as online in virtual reality through the Grove Collective website. This is the first time Grove Collective has worked with Mac Athlaoich.


The impetus behind this exhibition comes from very specific source material: an Instagram post made by New York-based designer and sculptor Erik Bergrin earlier this year. However, it is not the post itself - a series of colorised photographs of Ellis Island arrivals - that has drawn Mac Athlaoich to action, but instead the symbolic journey of the post's images. Beginning as black and white photographs, these images were then colorised and printed before being photographed again and posted to social media. Extending this chain, Mac Athlaoich abstracts these images through his painterly process, both stripping them of their initial forms and giving them new life. The result is varying degrees of what Mac Athlaoich calls "unresolved images": abstractions in which the viewer can find form, only to swiftly lose it.


In addition to the eight canvases on show, Mac Athlaoich includes two graphite drawings, providing insight into the procedural nature of his practice. Often composing sketches as precursors to larger works - only to abandon these sketches in the thrall of colour - the creation (and breakdown) of structure and form is drawn into clarity here, with final products having little resemblance to their sketched referents. Indeed, these disparities give credence to Mac Athlaoich's method of using colour to create form; tonal consonance acts as a conduit to pictorial depth and composition.  


Moreover, Percept/Pathos provides a new direction for Grove Collective, both exhibitionally and thematically. In addition to being the first solo show in the gallery's Battersea space, the thematic questions raised by Mac Athlaoich prove a sharp departure from recent exhibitions. Notions of temporality and transmutation overtake an inward gaze towards the body that has defined much of Grove Collective's recent work, opening up new directions to be explored in exhibitions to come. 


Colm Mac Athlaoich's Exhibition Statement


Percept/Pathos is the second instalment in a series of exhibitions programmed for 2021. This particular show draws its source material from a post made on Instagram by New York-based designer and sculptor Erik Bergrin earlier this year - a series colourised portraits of immigrants arriving through Ellis Island at the turn of the last century. However, process and methodology are at the core of Mac Athlaoich's interpolation of these images: the activation of photographs through colourisation, along with their reposting on social image platforms, begin a journey for the image which he wants to continue in these paintings. Through a process of drawing studies, cropping and digital editing, the compositions arrive at a point of abstraction that echo the various histories of the original image. The reference to "Pathos" in this show comes from the Stoic use of the term, "complaints of the soul," or appeals to the emotions - visual hooks which we fall prey to on a daily basis. The term "Percept" can be understood as how one explores these observations when confronted with the found image.