This exhibition presents a series of pastels on raw canvas depicting scenes from Dress Rehearsals for the Apparition of Saint Veronica.
In these drawings, the transience of a performance is caught in an evaporating medium. The dusty volatility of chalk pastel may contribute to its reputation within the history of art as fast, frivolous and un-enduring. It is only twice since the invention of paint, that pastel has gained a toehold in the toolbox of artists, once during the Rococo period, and again in the hands of Impressionists such as Morisot, Degas, and Cassatt. Powdery sticks of pastels were used to record images of women and children, complete with rosy cheeks, velvety sleeves, and tulle skirts. Just as artists and feminists are beginning to reconsider these once trivial images, I wish to reconsider the medium which lent these works their tenderness. Using a new approach to pastel handling, I have succeeded in binding the pigment with the weave of the canvas, preserving an eternal softness.
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1497, Florence) saw the destruction of mirrors, cosmetics, and fine clothing among works of literature, painting, and sculpture in blaze constructed from objects of temptation. In Dress Rehearsals, a model undresses in preparation to life model, behind a screen constructed to both conceal and expose. Looking into the lens, she is aware of the audience she commands beyond the bounds of her screen. Within that screen, however, she is a woman fully immersed in the activity of her toilette. By capturing moments of this ritual in pastel, the figure of the life model reclaims that space of powders and pigments such as the vanity table.
Sian Costello (b. 1998, Roscommon) is a multidisciplinary artist working out of a painter's studio in Wickham Street, Limerick City. In paint, pastel, and performance her work seeks to establish the importance of a contemporary female reimagining of the traditional artist’s studio. Her current studio practice builds on issues pertaining to femininity, corporeality, and perception. Graduating in 2020 with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art Painting from Limerick School of Art and Design, throughout her studies, Costello has exhibited widely in group shows in Limerick, Galway, and Roscommon. In the summer of 2019, Costello completed a residency with 126 Studios Galway and it was here that she again exhibited upon graduation with her most recent work Dress Rehearsal for the Apparition of Saint Veronica (2020). Her graduate work has been profiled in the Irish Arts Review and is the recipient of the Collector General’s Main Purchase Prize.