Carmel Buckley’s Universe

October 15th, 2011  |  Published in October 2011

Untitled, Carmel Buckley

Carmel Buckley’s slice of the universe is filled with sheer unlimited creativity, topped, like the traditional cherry on a sundae, with surprises, as if the universe were not enough. With a twist of wire, a dollop of clay, and a few well-used found objects, her sculptures blossom with curious freshness and  drawings and prints become hypnotic in their profound simplicity.

Clay Street press currently carries Buckley’s wondrous originality in its simple gallery with quiet dignity.  All of the work is easily portable in size, utilizing space as a unique  medium, one which the artist has obviously mastered in chine collet etchings.  Parallel thinly etched lines make the space they encompass through their tight-packed imagery more than a drawing.  Think of the exquisite lines in centuries of engraved plates, now moving into abstraction,  manipulated by the spaces they occupy, and the spaces they do  not,  into far more precious realms of art than their previous practical purposes could encompass.

Titles are few.  Most of the work shown is simply numbered,  a discernment which allows the pieces to speak their magic in their own voices.  Just when some portion of these whimsical meanderings seems to become a concrete image, it wanders off again into unrecognizable curls and patterns.  #20 incorporates tiny feet in pointy-toed slippers which almost lead the viewer to crow, “Eureka!”, only to turn  back into a maze of almost something-ness. Swirls of flowers, grasses and spaces filled with closely drawn circles or lines manage to charm, even as they confuse.

Perhaps one of the most amazing coups in this space and counter-space game are 3 sets of drawings, two to a set,  one a drawing and its partner of  the same image sewn into the paper.  In #1  a perfect line of carefully drawn brown ink dashes bisects the page vertically, repeated in the other part of the set in neatly sewn running stitches, each the same size as the drawn dashes, allowing the tail of thread to float off the end of the page.  #2 forms chain stitches neatly into a square, while next to it is a drawn replica.   And the final set of this trio forms a circle similar to the chambered nautilus design using the same two media. All are placed in the center of a page, allowing the space around them to dwarf the images , surrounding them with silence.

Untitled, Carmel Buckley

Ah, but there’s more.  Buckley’s sculptures, “Tools for the Imagination”, evokes  the same qualities as those previously described  2 dimensional works.  They sprout from the wall as indescribable inventions, seemingly endowed with false measurements.  Steel wire and found objects pop out into  space, surrounding emptiness and creating mass in their embrace.   Here, more than ever, the uselessness of titles is obvious.  These pieces are both everything and nothing, defying much and creating more.  Using low-fire clay sometimes as a delicate tie and , again,  as a weighty anchor,  they wind through the air with a feeling of motion, held down by the clay bases.

#3 in the wall sculptures perfectly epitomizes the many dimensions of these objects. Rather distressed coiled clay forms a horn shape, although the mouthpiece has been replaced by a wheel.  From the large opening of this form steel wire curves out and back, invoking a shape of sound, if such a thing were  possible.  This example of how these sculptures are more than visible art is precisely what makes it all, prints, drawings, and sculptures, more than their verbal identities permit.

Lately, Buckley has been interested in soft sculpture.  Three pieces in this show illustrate her move in this direction.  The most successful of these is “Sweatshirt” an altered sweatshirt with form, wrists, neck, but the body is replaced by space. Not just the physical parts of the sweatshirt  make it work.  The spaces between black cloth are an important element, and the shadow cast against the wall from these soft, looped fabric forms increase its impact. Taking this a step farther, those shadows will be different with each exhibit,  something to think about.

Born in Derby, England, Buckley studied art in London, Newcastle, Madrid and New York, where she studied on a Fulbright scholarship.  Her signature style of sculpture appears to be a highly cosmopolitan conclusion resulting in sincere sophistication with a quirky twist.  The Exhibit continues through November 12 at Clay Street Press, 1312 Clay Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.  531-241-3232.

– Fran Watson

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