Colin Martin RHA, Empathy Lab at Highlanes Gallery until 13th April 2024

Catch this must see exhibition before it ends on Saturday…

Colin Martin in front of Fulfilment Centre, at Highlanes Gallery, April 2024
Colin Martin in front of his painting Fulfilment Centre, giving a talk to the Friends of the RHA at Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, April 2024

I love it when an old building gets converted to some new purpose that the original designers could never have imagined.  The Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda is a superb conversion of a Franciscan friary and oratories to a contemporary public gallery in the heart of Drogheda.  How appropriate that Tate Britain classes one group of its visitors as Spiritualists!  Also how appropriate that this building was once a Franciscan friary run by an order of gifted custodians of written and illustrated communication, a collection now housed in UCD, safe for future generations.  It seems fitting that this is the place that now hosts Empathy Lab, Colin Martin’s current exhibition, his largest and most ambitious exhibition to date.  Empathy Lab, co-hosted and curated between Highlanes Gallery and Centre Culturel Irlandaise in Paris, explores our dystopian relationship with the amassing of data.  It is a collection of seven years’ work and the large oil paintings look formidable yet comfortable in their sanctuary repository at Highlanes. 

There is a excellent essay in the accompanying catalogue by Tom Lordan (catalogue €25 from the Highlanes Gallery).  What struck me looking at these stunning large paintings was the extraordinary skill that Martin displays in the graphic representation of each tiny individual aspect of the background of the works.  Standing back (and you need to, in order to really appreciate the mastery in these paintings) there is a strong photographic representational element to the work, unsurprising for an artist whose oeuvre includes significant works on film.  However, I feel that he has brought his skill as a master-printer in etching to bare in these works.  Who else could have the patience to colour block each package bought online during the pandemic, and scale that up into the major oil painting facing you on entering the gallery!   I could have stood there all day looking at the squares merge for each packing cubby in the Amazon warehouse in a place that could be anywhere in the world….

Detail of Fulfilment Centre painting by Colin Martin RHA
Fulfilment Centre – DETAIL

Empathy Lab continues to 13th April 2024 at Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda and for all our love of interacting with information online, this is one you truly have to visit in person.