Seamus Moran: Harness – Armour for Bird

I am intrigued to discover how very much I want to be challenged by Art and not just to see something done well that has already been done and is now being done again.
Of the 6 artists in this exhibition, by far the most interesting work is by the sculptor Seamus Moran. His work is complex and intriguing. He is at once thoughtful, challenging, humorous and incredibly skilled. The attention he gives to his work is apparent in every tiny element. The humour is black, the Catholic influence evident, the whimsy unexpected.
Of the many pieces in the exhibition, the humour of a half-closed, spiked pod containing feathers called simply ‘Snatch’ is clear but the piece itself makes a stronger statement about the harshness of life, dog eat dog – live with it.
‘Disposable’ is a crab shell filled with what appear to be pieces of acrylic with plastic forks unfolding around the shell. The crab lies on its back and we do not know if it is dead or about to flip over and scuttle away. It is an animation waiting to happen.
For me, the star of the show was undoubtedly a piece called ‘Harness’ in cast alloy, stainless steel and wood. An articulated bird-like figure, armoured and ‘volant’. There is heraldry a-plenty here and the figure is reminiscent of some of the earliest and crazier ‘crests’ worn on top of the tilting helm for jousting. The figure is both open and strong while being intensely vulnerable. It reminds me of Epstein’s Rockdrill. Strength and vulnerability. Great combination.
Next to Harness is the tiniest piece in the exhibition ‘Untitled Bronze’ – incidentally, how challenged we are by the lack of a label. Will it make us look more carefully, more openly – longer? The piece is minimal and bone-like yet still strong, very ancient and utterly fragile. There is a resemblance to a holy relic, both in the object itself and in the presentation – a spike from the Crown of Thorns. The complexity in such a tiny piece is intense.
Seamus Moran uses bone, feathers, resin, metals, porcelain, leather, wood – he uses what will work and it does work in each piece. There are elements of fetish, the grotesque, there is hard-hitting humour, there is pain, punishment and fragility but, above all, there is a mind that never stops asking questions or looking for new answers.

Maxine flaneuse de Cornouaille

Penwith Gallery, St.Ives 6th Oct-3rd Nov 2018
Group exhibition by Tom Leaper, Karen McEndoo, David Moore, Seamus Moran, Iona Sanders and Mark Verry


Volume 33 no 3 January / February 2019 pp 32-33

15 thoughts on “The Penwith Gallery improves to One out of Six

  1. Hi Maxine,
    I was unfamiliar with the work of Seamus Moran and was fascinated by his metallic net toilet roll that I found on his website:

    “A mind that never stops asking questions or looking for new answers” shows geniality and is what a five year old does, something most of us lose as we grow older; apparently he hasn’t lost this ability. But what you wrote at the start of your review was even more revealing, also about your geniality, “I am intrigued to discover how very much I want to be challenged by Art and not just to see something done well that has already been done and is now being done again.” Isn’t this the problem with the art world today? With the world? As our lives are more and more organized and controlled by Mama Google and Daddy Amazon, we are losing our capacity for independent thinking and for creative problem solving, aren’t we?

    1. Good morning from Cornwall. Yes, I am quite surprised to discover how much I want to be challenged by Art and, yes, I agree that our lives are controlled. I usually shock people by telling them that I do not have TV or radio or read newspapers. I’m afraid the lack of other people’s opinions might be leading me to think – oh, dear! And I think that part of the problem is that what are in fact ‘tools’ i.e, phones, laptops, googles, amazon, have become Gods, tiny insinuating Gods, a species of Comfort Blanket God without which people are unable to function. People are, I think more afraid than ever of being different, of standing out from the crowd, of not having and displaying what everyone else has. It’s all about status and googles and amazons have latched onto this idea and will now persuade people how very much they NEED an object. We don’t need all this STUFF! But it, it might seem, does need us. We DO need to ask questions and not just accept what we are told and, worse still, regurgitate it as SOLID FACT without letting it pass through as many areas of our brains as possible while we sift these SOLD FACTS and question them. Challenge them. Throw them out if they are found wanting. OUFF! That’s a bit hefty for a Friday morning with only one coffee under my belt so far. Good morning from Cornwall.

      1. Maxine… with your abandonment of all waves news and media, have you ever felt “left out”? I am saying navigating through the onslaught is an essential 21st century necessity in and of itself and an experience that is necessary for the in take of contemporary culture and it’s failure…. or are you with “it” none the less..? Off hand, your deprivation of 21st century reality is rather precious for you know not what your transcendence really means. Or have you other thoughts that are not with in the framework of acceptability?….

        1. Hi Joe,
          How many hours a day are you online? It would be interesting to know. Disconnected from the media, it could be that Maxine has a perspective that isn’t conditioned like the rest of us are!

          1. I think Maxine is not conditioned as the rest of us; the internet has changed our vision. The computer is a window on the Post-Modern world of today for news and information. It is not the world; it is an electronic illusion, which I think is the dilemma that Maxine has shared with us. Derek Guthrie, Publisher.

          2. Hallo Derek, How are you? At least with the aid of the Internet, I can ask you that very quickly!!! It is how the news is presented that bothers me, who decides not so much WHAT we need to know but HOW we need to be told. Nope! Not for me!

          3. OH, I use the Internet but I CHOOSE what I watch and I use it when I want to use it and turn it off when I have finished. For instance, I am in the garden now and the last of the sun is splintering through the trees and the river is making the sound of life. Quite soon, I shall turn this off and just sit here. I have no TV, no Car, no Radio, no Newspapers, no Money, come to that BUT, I can listen and, better still, I can hear.

          4. Hi Maxine,
            I love where you wrote, “the last of the sun is splintering through the trees and the river is making the sound of life.” It sounds like you live the perfect life of an artist and writer; how I envy you!

          5. Hi Maxine,
            With the recent study that the British are “having less sex and digital life may be to blame”, which is published in the British Medical Journal, I think there are very few of us who are still connected to our bodies. We are only connected to our digital gadgets, clicking away our lives, while suffering from depression and in need of antidepressants to get through the day.
            I love what you have written in the threads throughout this comment area and imagine you full of life and energy and above all a highly creative individual. If artists are going to start producing any work of relevance, they too will have to reconnect with themselves and each other and stop this isolation that the internet world is imposing on our society.


          6. I think connection is all. To ourselves, our bodies, our minds, to the past, the countryside around us… it is connections that thrill the brain and body, after all it’s what our brains do all the time without us even being aware of it. I do quite a lot of historical research in the area where I live and it is an utter thrill to make these connections – the connections of words, people, places, all out there waiting to be made and the act of making is the real pleasure.

        2. No, I don’t feel left out. I’ve just been to the Writer’s Meeting in Penzance and we were talking about this. It brought up a number of points. 1 I stopped listening to the radio when the non-answering of questions became the norm, when rude interruptions became acceptable, when spin became so lit up in lights as to make it desirable and a new language in and of itself. I reject all of this in the only way I know how. I threw the radio in the river – spoiler alert – I fished it out again! 2 I think that the differences we can all make in this world are small ones, which I hope then radiate outwards. I can make a tiny difference in the community in which I live, I can fight outrageous planning applications, I can re-cycle, I can care about what has been made here and needs to be preserved. I can choose not to own a car and either take the bus or walk, YES, walk wherever I want/need to go. I can care in small ways for the people around me. This is not religion, nor Christianity, this is easy decency, this is basic, no one needs to teach me this. 3 I can – wait for it, hold your horses, hang on in there – think. It’s free. It’s always been free and it is about the best thing that exists and the most wondrous part of being human. 4 Nope, you’re absolutely right, I know not what transcendence really means…and, having looked it up just to check, I realise just how very far the world has moved on since it did mean what it meant. 4 As for my thoughts that are not within the framework of acceptability, well, I will keep them to myself – for now!

          1. Well the point being is all your points above are in the frame work of acceptability or accountability and the in the nature of free speech. Your ideas are all social in practice– if you put them into words, for all of us, to read. The point is –this is useful –communication, which, as you so deftly point out,… our so-called electronica communications are not communications AT ALL these days– but irritating blather. You see , this blather is scattered around us, intended, wired, broadcast– all around us all the time.. as effect– and as an effect it has affected us all, whether intentional or not, conditioned us all to the point our social communication is skewed. Some say we have lost language ..others become shut-ins… weary and fearful of others or the non confidence of communication. Although this blather can be interpreted for what it may be or not be… be it fair or foul or just useless banter at these points this is exactly the call to the artist and critic alike to counter and over come this post modern situation of omnipresent walling off–the obstructive jangle that frays our sensibilities and feelings. These feelings of helplessness and loneliness are the fodders of creativity– in these times. This is not an unknown time in human history. Can we not say Rembrandt or Gauguin or any artist we may admire felt this distress, this mire of the human condition, albeit in their own times? It will depend on our courage to point out our feelings, our ideas as to whether we will navigate ourselves through these times, these times of dystopia, darkness and Trumps. Our sense of looming. Comment?

            If anything, The New Art Examiner is extremely mindful of our age as our mission states and the challenge to artists and art thinkers alike. Our work is a for us

            So thank you Maxine for stepping forward and putting your toe in the
            water for us to enjoy the ripples. And may we all get very wet in courage.

          2. Just for the fun of it, Al, my cottage is called Ripple Cottage – because of the river! I honestly think that as we grow older, we have less fear of what we say. Or, at the very least, we can name our fears and diminish them. Al, banter is never useless, it is the stuff of life!! You’ve raised so many interesting points that I am spoilt for choice. So here is just a question. Have you noticed how re communication, we now use stock little phrases, so as to show that we belong? Even one word with an upward inflection –
            ‘Really?’ can show that we are ‘of a certain group’ or ‘of a certain generation’ and those who do not use these little stock expressions are not trustworthy, do not belong – TV has a lot to answer for. It encourages sheep-like behaviour, it denies original thought – repetition is all – and this is true for Art as well. How many artists are stultified by the gallery system – the public sheep want the same thing as their neighbours have, the gallery asks the artist to ‘do another one’ the artist needs to buy a loaf of bread, and so it continues until the artist has lost any chance of development. And so we lose original ideas, thought, there must be denial in order to progress… blimey! I need more coffee!

  2. NEW! Have a look at our Writing Challenges from the Penzance Writers’ Group in Cornwall. Just click CHALLENGES and join in!!

  3. Shady Crowan or Ironic Art Installation?
    On an entirely unrelated subject, the tiny settlement of Crowan, in Cornwall has recently gained a sign. You know the sort of thing, ‘Welcome to Crowan’ all jolly nice. Someone has added a little amusement. It made me laugh as I took my morning constitutional around the leafy lanes. Is it an ironic statement on the state of the world today and on the state of the art world today where everything is taken very, very seriously indeed? Will the Puritans and Thought Police gather? Meanwhile, before someone takes it down, enjoy by going to Crowan Crafts Facebook Page –

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