Fergal Stapleton’s work occupies a mysterious and beautiful place between something like high seriousness and borderline worthlessness. A main characteristic of all his work is the extreme precision of its tunings – and then look at what is being tuned: bare little moments of attention, variations of low-energy hope, the slight, the perfect, the sad.
His output has some scope to it – from perfectly otherworldly large oil paintings of animal/spirit conversations/ceremonies, to smaller oils of peculiar, delicate blossoms, unlikely glassware, meagre fivers, coins and other dimly shining things. And then there are the sculptures: varied accumulations of strange-but-familiar objects such as concrete lumps inside dark cases, red-lit like remote items from another world; freestanding panels, some mirrored gold, bearing lowly arrangements of pale light and grey concrete; and constructions with motors and flapping fabric or wavering lightbulbs. And there are also much larger works, such as his pale, hengelike monuments of polystyrene and household emulsion.
Against the grain of artworld trends, Stapleton has been quietly influential to a certain breed of younger artist for at least a decade, and is recognisable as an exemplary force in his attitudes to art. With his new show at Carl Freedman Gallery, London (to 15 March), and a new set of works, Stapleton looks like he’s in range of the public eye once more, and those mysterious forces that surround art trajectories again just need that boost to bring his career closer to its proper place.
Originally published in the March 2014 FutureGreats issue, in association with EFG International