Visual artist based in Limerick
Onyx, marble, travertine, chrome, glass, water.
The Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Mies van der Rohe for the 1929 International Exposition, is one of the most iconic pieces of Modernist architecture. Surrounded by myths and misunderstandings, Niamh Porter’s work examines the construction of the pavilion; the skin and the skeleton.
While the concept for the design is ultra-modern, the materials are traditional and luxurious; they were to be ‘the indispensable compliment to modernity’. The building displays three variations of marble originating from Greece and Italy, an economical use of travertine once the chosen material for ancient Roman monuments and a red onyx wall is an extravagant image, floating in space, attached to nothing. Eight innovative chrome cladded columns bear this load. Porter’s work observes the tactility and physicality of these materials, how they assist in our navigation through the space and the juxtaposition of ancient and modern.
For fifty-six years, before its reconstruction in the 1986, the pavilion existed only in photographs. Porter draws on this; documenting the building through a camera lens, then translating a photographic language into painting to address the reproduction and retouching of the 1929 images. The pavilion’s sense of mystery, the complexity of a seemingly minimal design and its unique relationship with photography inform the colour, form and provisionality of these paintings.