Irish Times: Art in Focus

Aidan Dunne: Carbon Sync by Michael Quane

What is it? Carbon Sync is a sculpture by Michael Quane.


How was it done? Carbon Sync is carved in elm. The overall sculpture is the figure of a diver clad in a wet suit with flippers. His arms are out-stretchted and, incongruously, he is wearing a pair of water wings. His pose suggests they might be keeping him afloat. Quane is a virtuoso carver and the carving incorporates what might be described as a striking piece of sculptural trompe l'oeil. The wet suit is meticulously carved, vividly conveying how it clings to the skin and structure of the figure. To complete the illusion, Quane has rubbed graphite into those areas of the figure covered by the suit, creating a rich, lustrous sheen, while leaving the face and hands and toes as bare wood. It's a startling effect. 


Where can I see it? It is included in Michael Quane - New Works at Solomon Fine Art, Balfe St, Dublin.


Is it a typical work by the artist? Yes and no. No because Quane is habitually associated with stone. Look back over his oeuvre, and it is clearly fair to describe him as a stone-carver. The extent of that oeuvre is exceptional given that stone-carving is a slow, labour-intensive business, regardless of mechanical input in the initial stages.  

And Quane has said that, rather than choosing a block to suit a particular design, he "draws" by cutting a chisel into the stone and finds the form as he goes along. Even some years back he was saying that carving is so physically demanding and brings with it other potential drawbacks that he was unsure how long he could continue.

Yet, the elm Carbon Sync is the exception rather than the rule. His exhibition is dominated by carvings in hard limestone. Perhaps, following the traditional description of sculptors as either carvers or modelers (pre fabrication, video, conceptualism, text art and so much else, clearly) why not just say he's a carver and leave it at that?

He was born in Cork City, which is not to say that the city's stone-carving heritage drew him in. He has never aligned himself with that heritage and in fact he is an omnivorously curious person. He explored maths and science before switching to the Crawford College of Art. 

When he began stone carving, his singular imagination engendered an imagery related to classical tradition - including the horse, the human figure, moments of extreme endeavour - but unorthodoxly treated, and with almost cartoonish interlopers. 

His often allegorical creatures, especially  the humans, appear unaware that they are slightly ridiculous. Their superbly carved forms reveal that they are fighting a losing battle with gravity and time: age, sagging flesh, corpulence, exhaustion, all undercut the notionally heroic. Everything is dragged down - until buoyed by water. Quane's penchant for the comically grotesque jumps back to the Gothic and the medieval, but he does not mock his subjects or their plight. 

Carbon Sync is presumably a pun on carbon sink, desperately needed, and the oceans, trees and forests are pretty much the best carbon sinks.


Until July 6th


June 19, 2019