Exhibition Review: "Philosophy of Furniture"

Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, January 10, 2007

At the Ashford Gallery Eamon O'Kane, an exceptionally prolific and capable artist, has titled his solo show The Philosophy of Furniture. His starting point was a piece written by Edgar Allen Poe for Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in 1840. The piece seems to be lighter than the headline might suggest, offering a critique of American furniture. O'Kane seems to be primarily interested in pursuing his own preoccupation with the natural and the fabricated.
Previously he has explored the siting of Modernist architectural structures, whether grandly public, or more domestic and personal, in natural settings.
The drawings, animations and laser etchings here are inventive explorations of the dialogue between manufacturing and natural processes. His large-scale drawings of trees are made with charcoal - burnt wood - on paper that is derived from cellulose. Most of the trees are conifers, presumably grown in managed plantations for use in construction. Each laser etching features one item of furniture. The image is burned through a layer of paint so that it is formed by the substance of the masonite board beneath, composed of the rendered fragments of the conifers.
A number of images feature composite images, of trees growing through items of furniture. These recall a strange episode in John Fuller's novel Flying to Nowhere, in which the wooden or wood-derived elements that make up a study - shelves, chair, desk, books - come back to life and start to sprout leaves, twigs and branches, gradually overwhelming the human cultural project. It's a haunting image and, while there is nothing in O'Kane's show with quite that concerted effect, he does generate some fruitfully ambiguous, conceptually neat pieces.

Aidan Dunne, Chief Art Critic, The Irish Times, January 2007