Artist Clive Moloney’s new kinetic sculpture exhibit in Massachusetts explores the parameters of art that breathes and moves.
The two-dimensional never interested Boston-based artist Clive Moloney: 3-D offered more room for his imagination to roam. As a child growing up in the countryside in County Tipperary, Ireland, he created little towns and farms made from hazel tree branches and garden tools. As a graduate student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he created sculpture out of found objects such as laundry baskets, fans, plastic bags, with the intent of getting people to look at domestic objects from a different point of view.
In his exhibit at Contemporary Arts International in Acton, Massachusetts, Breathe, Pause, Breathe, Moloney goes a step further with a large-scale installation of multimedia projection and moving body-like parts that seem to breathe. It takes up more than 700 square feet. “The main aspect is to create a fantastic environment,” he says. “It may cause people to question how they perceive their own environment, particularly in terms of time. I regularly attempt to slow the viewer down, and this is often in stark contrast to our everyday lives.”
In the exhibit, extended through September 29, Moloney drew inspiration from The Quarry, the site of CAI, where the owners’ mission “is to promote the creation, understanding, and appreciation of contemporary art in the global context.” The 12-acre campus, the site of a former granite quarry, is surrounded by close to 100 acres of forest.
The exhibit took Moloney three years to finish. “Three years is a long time for a body of work,” he says. “There are a lot of structural engineering challenges, and you had to learn it all as you went along.”
Moloney used latex because of its flexibility to create the appearance of skin on the parts that inflate and deflate as they move at alternating slow and fast speeds in a 10-minute loop. The pieces dip into vats of liquid latex, building up layers and twisting around, with tentacles forming and falling off. “The motor that drives it is like a life-support machine,” he says. “The enclosed system is like our bodies are. I started with the Buddhist idea of meditation and watching the breath.”
The 33-year-old left Ireland six years ago to study at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, where he completed his MFA in 3-D in 2013. He got his BFA in sculpture at Limerick School of Art and Design in 2007. He has exhibited at the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Occupy Space in Ireland, 555 Gallery and Gallery Kayafas in Boston, and The Front Gallery in New Orleans.
Moloney has come a long way from Tipperary, a landlocked rural county that’s home to mountains, rivers, lakes and farmland. He says he always knew he wanted to be an artist; his father, an electrician, and his mother, a nanny, supported him in his dreams. “Within my fantastic environments, I investigate the true nature of chosen materials,” he writes in his artist statement. “My work exploits transformative materials that go through chemical reactions and changes of material states such as plaster, cement, sugar, and latex.”
Moloney says the process is as important as the product. “The artwork goes through several steps and processes before completion. Mold making and casting is an example,” he says.
In the CAI exhibit, Moloney’s first major piece after earning his master’s, collaboration was also part of the process. He relied on the expertise CAI co-founder and Hungarian-born sculptor Viktor Lois, known for his machine creations. Lois did troubleshooting and helped weld pieces together. Moloney’s wife, an immunologist, lent biology textbooks and discussed her knowledge of the human body. Sue Murad, an artist and filmmaker who lives in nearby Jamaica Plain, made a video.
Next up Moloney plans to head to Taiwan to an artist village in Soulangh for two months to do a artist residency hosted by CAI co-founder Yin Peet, a Taiwan-born sculptor and philosopher.