As Above, So Below | Review

IMMA's latest exhibition shines the spotlight on our perception of spirituality


Words by Sinead O'Reilly
April 27th, 2017

Spirituality. Yep, we went there. Or rather, the Irish Museum of Modern Art has, in its latest exhibition – As Above, So Below: Portals, Visions, Spirits & Mystics. Curated by IMMA’s Senior Curator, Rachael Thomas (read our interview with Rachael here) and Sam Thorne, Director of Nottingham Contemporary, the show, which includes more than 200 pieces of work, started as a conversation between Thomas and Thorne over two years ago. The basis of their discussion revolved around the notion of bringing a freshness to the ever-existing relationship between art and spirituality. An ambiguous affair which has personified itself through so many mediums, whether you position yourself closer to art than spirituality or have a strong aversion to both, there is an unavoidable connection.

As unavoidable as last week’s news, where a spotlight was put on a certain Irish element of spirituality. Far from picturesque, the creation which was sculpted by the hands of a strong religious body oozed of craft but lacked any kind of conscience. And, though it only coincidently clashed with IMMA’s latest instalment, suggestions of some divine intervention cannot be totally overlooked. Because alongside all that is fermenting across the country, perhaps there is a dire need to present how spirituality is expressed in the alternative.

Throughout the four chapters; Portals, Visions, Spirits & Mystics, Thomas and Thorne lead us through the development of our ideas of spirituality. Pioneers in this field, visitors to the exhibition will be greeted by Kandinsky, guided through by af Klint and then cordially introduced to brand new works, commissioned specifically for the exhibition. Ideas have been submitted to the show on a global scale, with the artists’ origins spread across the globe. This eclectic mix brings a supply of sculptures, installation pieces, paintings, photographs and more to the gallery space, which spectators should expect to take with them long after they left the show.

photo: © Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk
Hilma af Klint, Altarpiece, No 1, Group X, Series Altarpieces, 1915

Spilling out further from its confinements of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, the IFI will hold a film series in the month of May which will look to add to the narrative of As Above, So Below. Cult classics meets the occult, the series starts with 1973’s The Holy Mountain and continues on with a variety of films based around the topic, serving as a cinematic answer to IMMA’s exhibition.

So as we said, spirituality, we are going there, or rather we are letting IMMA do it because unfortunately as history pushes its finger further towards the repeat button, we still feel the need to dance around it. So we will let, and graciously thank, the museum for allowing us to walk around it and explore it, in a comfortable space which plays on all of our discomforts. Even if it was not conscious, As Above, So Below is a wonderfully cultivated contradiction to Ireland’s current series of events.

As Above, So Below is open from 13th April to 27th August 2017 at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. For more information on opening hours visit