In 1957, American avant-garde composer John Cage wrote a poem called “2 Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance.” In typical Cage style, the writing is abstract, with words scattered across two pages in no seemingly logical order. According to Cage, his poem aims to emulate not nature directly but rather the natural processes inherent in artistic creation. The movement between passages in the text significantly influences one’s understanding of it and with the absence of linear progression and grammatical norms, readers have the freedom to interpret the material without constraints. This freedom is accentuated by the interplay of vertical and horizontal paragraphs. Attempting to read the piece conventionally, from left to right and top to bottom, proves frustrating. While the words are thematically linked, interpreting the precise relationship between their respective directions remains ambiguous, and frankly not important.

“2 Pages” was one of the starting points for Habda Rashid, the curator of the newly-opened group show Each now, is the time, the space at the picturesque Lismore Castle Arts gallery in Ireland. Cage’s playful essence of experimentation and boldness permeates the veins of the exhibition, which captures the spirit of his revolutionary approach to artistic expression.

'Each now, is the time, the space' exhibition curated by Habda Rashid, Lismore Castle Arts, Ireland, 2024. Photography by Jed Niezgoda

Each now, is the time, the space brings together Leonor Antunes, Alexandre da Cunha, Rhea Dillon, and Veronica Ryan. All four artists share a fascination with delving into the essence of materials, the intricate techniques of assembly, and the nuanced layers of symbolism and conceptuality embedded within their discovered and crafted elements, all meticulously arranged into captivating compositions. The artworks displayed not only showcase a keen exploration of sculptural history but also demonstrate a deliberate approach to craftsmanship–including a thoughtful consideration of colour usage–which delves into the symbolic significance of objects and materials, resulting in a rich tapestry of meaning that reflects on life’s myriad observations. By drawing parallels to the visible layers of the fascinating history present within the Lismore Castle’s lifetime, the exhibited artworks stand as amalgamations of diverse histories, materials, and narratives held close to each artist’s hearts, while existing within its current context as a testament to the intertwining of past and present, offering viewers a profound reflection on the interconnectedness of existence.

The works of all four artists intertwine gracefully across the expanse of three gallery spaces, creating a natural rhythm that allows each piece to shine without overpowering the others. As I stroll through the exhibition, I find myself pleasantly surprised by the autonomy afforded to each artwork, the room they have to breathe. Much like Cage’s “2 Pages,” this exhibition offers the viewer freedom to navigate as they see fit, unencumbered by the constraints of a designated pathway. It’s an invitation to meander at will, allowing the viewer to chart a course that resonates most with their sensibilities.

The artists delve into a rich tapestry of influences, pulling together bits and pieces of meaning, materials, and inspirations from all corners of the globe, across different eras and disciplines, to craft sculptures that are a beautiful mishmash of ideas and histories. All of the four artists’ nomadic approaches shake up more traditional approaches, making room for fresh thoughts and innovative shapes to take root.

Leonor Antunes, 'Sophie #4'. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto Mexico City and New York. Photography by Sarah Muehlbauer

Leonor Antunes, a Portugal-born and Berlin-based sculptor, weaves together a diverse palette of textures and techniques in her practice, serving as a tribute to often historically overlooked women designers. With each piece, Antunes assigns a title that acknowledges its inspiration, frequently opting for the use of first names as a subtle nod to the historical neglect of female artists. For example, her “Sophies”–wall-mounted sculptures that pay homage to the great Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp–can be seen taking an impactful stance on the walls of the upper gallery. Much like the complicated history of art itself, Antunes's work requires a more in-depth dive into the strong historical and theoretical frameworks present within her practice, in order to discover something (or someone) that has been there all along.

Rhea Dillon, 'Seeing from nowhere the place in between', 2022. Concrete and glass, 31.5 x 13 x 13 cm. Courtesy the artist and Soft Opening, London. Photography by Theo Christelis

Rhea Dillon’s exploration of colonialism, rooted in her Caribbean background juxtaposed with English history, is palpable in the choice of materials as well as techniques she chooses to work with. Dillon’s practice often delves into the use of personally significant materials, such as crystal plates moulded in soap, molasses, and even the aroma of sweat, with the aim of weaving narratives that echo the histories intertwined with the experiences of the transnational Black diaspora as well as her own embodied experience. The exhibited pieces weave together the pinpoints of Dillon’s practice, juxtaposing her expansive sculptures with delicate small-scale ones. This fusion illuminates Dillon’s prowess, showcasing her remarkable breadth and meticulous craftsmanship. In doing so, she prompts viewers to contemplate the significance of their surroundings and urges them to delve deeper beyond what meets the eye.

Alexandre da Cunha, 'Formula (Shift)', 2023. Shoe sole, scourer, keys, paper note, coins, brush, mesh, clay, powder, turmeric, bottle, concrete, 45.5 x 20 x 20 cm. 18 x 7 3/4 x 7 3/4 in. © Alexandre da Cunha. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery. Photography by Edouard Fraipont

Alexandre Da Cunha’s multifarious work reflects the mingling of Brazilian and British influences, blending historical design elements with readymades–found objects from everyday life (think plastic bottles, cleaning mops, bicycle locks). The works on display aim to shed light on environmental concerns such as mass production and consumerism, providing the space for reflection on one’s own habits. Equally as important, the works chosen for the exhibition seek to create a world where utopia meets reality, and where we recognise the privilege and potential of our surroundings, even if it is seemingly just an abandoned piece of glass.

Veronica Ryan, 'Precarious', 2021. Locker shelves, cable ties, tea bags, fruit net, orange peel, cloves, fruit net, raffia, sculpey clay, mango stones in fabric, fishing line, 63.5 x 52 x 27 cm. 25 x 20 1/2 x 10 5/8 in. Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Veronica Ryan. Photography by Dawn Blackman

Veronica Ryan’s artistic journey echoes her travels through New York, London, and Montserrat, gathering diverse materials along the way to ponder on the very act of creation itself. Ryan’s work elegantly showcases the subtle transformation of everyday materials that serve the practicalities of life, into objects imbued with ritualistic significance. Dotted around the gallery, delicate sculptures prompt moments of contemplation on themes of care, interconnectedness, and the value of appreciating and acknowledging the simple aspects of daily life. Smaller in size, it can be easy to disregard some of them in the plethora of pieces on display. But upon intimate engagement with her work, one is enveloped by the palpable essence of heart, soul, and most importantly, the presence of the human touch (most of her pieces on display contain crochet, one of Ryan’s fondest hobbies) that distinguishes her practice, in a quiet yet powerful way.

Installation view, Each now, is the time, the space, 2024. Courtesy: Lismore Castle Arts.
Photography: Jed Niezgoda

At the end of the tour, Caroline Campbell, the director of the National Gallery of Ireland, delivers a short welcome speech to the audience. After the usual courtesies and messages of gratitude, she says something that stays ringing in my ears long after the peaceful and lush landscapes of Lismore are behind me: “The world is teeming, and everything can happen.” And so it is. May we have the patience and kindness to see it through.