Caroline McCarthy, Essay by Mark Hutchinson with Introduction by Paul O’Neill,

solo catalogue published by Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin 2002

Golden Wonder; The Gift of the Everyday

Art, for those who wish to participate in its mediation, is a kind of friendship. It operates by means of the gift exchange, as a sender-receiver model of communication. The acting out of this paradigm is central to...the work of Caroline McCarthy...She is in constant dialogue with the world around her...

She has inadvertently taken Douglas Heubler’s comment from 1969 that: “the world is full of objects, more or less interesting: I do not wish to add any more…” and brought it to its inevitable conclusion.

She mischievously plays upon our expectations of, and our desire to locate, the everyday through the material objects which surround us. She toys with the belief that the objects in which we invest, and within which we look for meaning, can somehow belong to ‘our’ world, - that we can somehow align ourselves with them and claim them as our own. They are nothing more than surface: nothing more than things which have become familiar to us...

Paul O’Neill

An Art of Escape (extract only)

...Caroline McCarthy’s work with objects is no less concerned with the power of surfaces. Our relationship with everyday objects is mediated by the relentlessly designed and moulded surfaces of those objects. Familiar objects are unremarkable because they are familiar. A bit like the purloined letter hidden in the letter-rack, the particularity of the surfaces of everyday objects are unseen because they are so visible. At the same time, commodities sell themselves to us with the promise of escape. Even the stuff that does exactly what it says on the tin, promises us an escape from the broken promises of escape of other packaging. Packaging is a kind of escape: an escape which is always present and always deferred.

The idea of image as escape is explicit in Souvenirs (Blue) and Golden Wonder. Images of swimming-pools are cut out from holiday brochures, so that they become abstract blue shapes. Each one stuck to its own stalk of wire, they are displayed in a long row. Underneath each one, similarly displayed, is a crisp, each one chosen to echo the general shape of the swimming pool above it.

The swimming-pools are all the same and all different. They are all the same deeply artificial blue and come in all kinds of contrived shapes. The hotel swimming-pool is an essential part of the image of escape that holiday brochures sell, yet the particular features of any one swimming-pool are utterly contingent. Sprung from their escapist setting this bizarre array of contingency becomes obvious in its bathos. This bathos of the swimming-pools meets the elevation of the crisps half way: this is a kind of mutual embarrassment of display. The artificial of the swimming-pool is matched by the artificial yellow of the crisps. Holidays offer an escape of a couple of weeks; crisps one of a couple of minutes. Both illusions of escape are predicted upon manufactured images of naturalness.

In other works with objects, the familiarity and contingency of everyday things are displaced by one product masquerading as another. It is only by going into hiding that these everyday objects can be found. It is in escaping their usual, familiar context that the strangeness of their particular design can be seen...

Mark Hutchinson