The LAB Gallery is pleased to present the first major solo show by recent graduate Michelle Malone.
Michelle’s work is rooted in a desire to materially explore working class histories through personal experience. This exhibition considers her childhood experience of home and most particularly her grandmother’s house and experience of moving from flat 1A in Fatima Mansions to new social housing in the suburbs. Through sculpture, installation, textile and film, the exhibition celebrates her grandmother’s pride in her home, recalling specific details and drawing on the material nature of memories. Michelle’s research considers where personal narratives fill gaps in collective histories through the material nature of objects and physical retelling through large scale sculpture and installation. She is interested in creating affected meaning through working-class materials and objects. In this large scale installation, we are invited to consider the nature of specific elements that were brand new in her grandmother’s home. The gallery is filled with the smell of freshly laid carpet. The pattern is synonymous with the ‘sitting room’ or good room in Irish homes in the 70s and 80s. Here it moves from the ground to become a floor to ceiling dramatic call to the street, where tenements once stood. Bold yellow and soft sage walls seem to question the colour choices of the carpet pattern as they are pitted side by side. Bare soil presents the viewer with a hint at the excitement and potential this garden provided the new homeowner, while the tapestry gives a reverence to the reproduced photograph of her grandmother’s favourite seat in the more mature garden with her beloved rosebush.
There is a strong play between public and private space throughout the exhibition. Expanding out the domestic space into this large scale exhibition in a public gallery. A focal point of the exhibition, again visible from the street, is a staircase. Having originally
grown up in the tenements, the staircase held a particular significance for Michelle’s grandmother. Despite the stairwell being a place for public access, it provided the space to have private chats outside the one room home of overcrowded tenements. In the‘own door’ house, where in theory the whole home is private, the staircase continued to hold this significance and its inclusion here references the artist’s memory of where the special conversations might happen with her grandmother.
Continuing to bring us on a fluid journey back and forth in times past and present, between the personal memories of the artist and the shared experience of visitors, the dark room includes RTE Archive footage of Dublin’s inner city residents preparing or aspiring to move to the new social housing provided by Dublin Corporation in suburbs like Finglas where Michelle’s grandmother lived. Upstairs we find another familiar material, creating an unexpected dreamlike quality through its unfamiliar use. The small shining white and grey gravel of pebbledash, used to coat the exterior walls of houses, creates a pathway across the floor. The effect, alongside the brilliant white net curtains, is to take elements of a proud home owner’s personal choice additions, again somewhat ubiquitous in working class suburbs, and present them as the new surfaces of the white cube. On these new walls hang more tapestries depicting not the epic battles we come to expect from this medium, but rather a captured moment of a domestic space in transition. Michelle takes us on a journey through familiar and near forgotten aspects of suburban Dublin’s domestic working class interiors, through the perspective of lived experience, eliciting memories and holding a space for a deeper look at stories often marginalised from the visual arts.
The exhibition will be part of The Lab's Culture Night programme on September 23rd and also the conference Streets Ahead: Post-Pandemic Civic Spaces, organised by The Irish Humanities Alliance (IHA) in collaboration with Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and The LAB Gallery. This event takes place as part of Dublin Festival of History 2022.
Curated by Sheena Barrett.
Michelle Malone’s practice is based on her experience growing up in a variety of social housing systems in inner city Dublin, mainly Oliver Bond flats. Her multi- disciplinary installations are comprised of sculpture, image-making, oral histories, audio and text. Her practice seeks to give material voice to working-class histories from the perspective of lived experience. It is her belief that it is much needed in the art industry to let marginalised people tell their own story. She believes that all materials are biased and that objects have a collectively known cultural value. It is her intention to instrumentalise and weaponise the shared meaning of materials and objects to visually tell working-class histories and to create embodied empathy/ identity for the subject matter. She is interested in creating affected meaning of working-class materials and objects. The ultimate goal of her practice is to enter authentic working-class symbolism into the canon.