Jack Mottram, 'Plastic Casino' (The List, 24/06/2004)

Craig Mulholland Plastic Casino

Plastic casino is a dense thing. To simply list the influences and allusions Craig Mulholland has drawn together at Sorcha Dallas and in a former sewing factory space would take up most of the current issue of The List. In among the paintings, sculptures, murals and video works, though there are recurring elements that provide a clue to the underlying structure of the show. First, comes a pair of paintings – Grey Ecology and Circuses & Bread – both depicting stubbed out cigarettes. The ashtrays are rendered in a knowingly photorealist style, the ash is cubism – by - numbers, and big fat Pop outlines are thrown in for good measure.

Then there are the artists’ palettes, painted over with hints of art history, from Russian Supermatist geometrics to cartoonish speech bubbles. Finally, an arrangement of blocks is reworked, linking dystopian cityscapes seen from above, architectural maquettes and the agency of the human hand. Add to that the presentation of paintings on squat plinths that practically ooze irony, and it begins to look as if Mulholland is sticking two fingers up in the face of a century of art history and saying: ‘Hey painting! Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!’

There’s much else to think on besides, from nods to the space’s status as a former sweatshop to a queasy examination of consumerism, but this show is about an artist engaging with his influences, mixing allusion and cynical appropriation. There’s a fine line between hubris and chutzpah, and Plastic Casino is just on the right side of it.