Galway Advertiser 2002/2002_11_28/GA_28112002_E1_060.pdf
[ents1 Context and contradictions in new Sweeney collection
DRAWING LARGELY on the landscape for his inspiration. Mayo-born artist Ger Sweeney has employed the concepts of relationships and contrasts to create paintings which offer an intriguing mix of colour, texture, and shape. Appropriately entitled Cusp, Sweeney's latest collection deals primarily with dialogue and movement, using contradictory elements to create dynamic abstract and semi-abstract forms which emerge from beneath harsh geometric lines. Much of the works employ red, white, black, and grey to convey a sense of atmosphere vaguely reminiscent of the West of Ireland landscape, which is often regarded through a grey veil of rain. However, the artist has stressed the works are based on ideas rather than places. T h e visual dynamic in the work comes from contradictions." he said. "I am playing with images and non-images. You pick up sensations from places. It's analogous to landscapes rather than any specific place. I haven't put as much emphasis on those aspects before, but I don't like to overstate them. The landscape is kind of a memory rather than actualised, it's playful. It's playing with ideas of visualised space and actual space. 'They suggest possibilities rather than conclusions," he said of his new works. "They get a lot of different responses and I like playing around with that." Many of the pieces in Cusp -- which is currently on view at the Galway Arts Centre -- feature physical forms which appear through an atmospheric haze of colour. In one piece a boat can clearly be seen emerging from the mist. Other paintings are vaguely suggestive of cliffs, water, trees, or hills. Horizontal lines add a sense of movement to the forms, as if they are being viewed from a passing vehicle. Although well known for his adventurous use of colour, texture is a new element in Sweeney's work. Many of the pieces exhibit contrasting elements of texture, from fine, veined brushstrokes to large blotches of paint under an otherwise confluent patch of colour. The artist often uses areas of opaque sand, which create a sharp contrast in paintings which are otherwise covered in a reflective oil glaze. "The texture is new, I love using it now." he said. "I like the paint marks to be obvious. The indentations become a physical part of it. The red can be very aggressive, but 1 think it's working out quite well. "I tend to go through phases of colours. I used to use a lot of blue. It makes the eye think of space, but I have pulled away from that because I am trying to deal more with surface. Other people say they sense sound or music off them. That's because colour resonances have the potential to suggest that." Though Sweeney is usually regarded as an abstract artist, his work also falls within the scope of contemporary landscape painting. Sweeney himself is loathe to categorise his work so succincdy. "It's very easy to put yourself in a corner where you are essentially an abstract or an expressional painter," he said. "I am very interested in minimal abstract formal painting but I think a painter should be expressive as well. "The atmospheric part of painting is very intriguing. Prior to this the work was really gestural expression. Now it seems a little bit more contained. I used to paint photorealism. Now I am combining some of that experience with more recent work, and it's given me new options." Sweeney has a painting on display in Ceannt Station as part of the semi-permanent exhibition of works at the train terminus, an exhibition which he played no small part in organising back in 1997. A former lecturer in GMIT, Sweeney took a break from painting for four years and travelled extensively before returning to set up a studio in Waterford last year. The Ireland which Sweeney returned to had changed dramatically over the turn of the millennium, and the economic growth and accompanying rural decline have had a profound effect on his work and how he now views the Irish landscape. This is reflected in the use of vague outlines of ruinous buildings in some works. "It's really about structures, and there's a sense of Irish castles." he explained. "Sometimes there's a debate in them. You see these old remnants of places that are forgotten. They are really indigenous to the landscape. Is it positive or negative, all this progress?" Cusp can be seen at the Galway Arts Centre until December 21. Una Sinnott
BIRDS ARK extraordinary creatures. Unlike humans they have actually colonised and adapted to all known environments across the world, and they can fly.
by John Coll
CATHAL O SEARCAIGH IN WORDS AND IMAGES
POET CATHAL 0 Searcaigh is in Galway this week to mark the publication of two books in which his work features. The first of those, which was launched at the Taibhdhearc on Monday, is titled Caiseal na gCorr and is a collaboration between O Searcaigh and Dutch photographer Jan Voster. Voster provides striking black and white images of the Donegal glen where O Searcaigh lives and the poet supplies the accompanying text. Published by Clo lar-Chonnachla, it is a handsome publication. Also out this week is On The Side of Light, from Arlen House, a collection of specially commissioned essays on 6 Searcaigh's work by a variety of Irish and international writers. O Searcaigh has also contributed a number of poems and photographs to the volume which acts as a lively and illuminating introduction to his work. After the Taibhdhearc launch, O Searcaigh took some time to discuss the books and his writing in general, beginning with his collaboration with Jan Voster, "Jan is an extraprdinary photographer. He's a very keen seer, in both senses of that word, he sees things that others don't see which is probably the function of a great photographer. He presents a very primeval, archaic landscape; he hardly ever focused on the new houses or on anything from the century we live in. While doing that, he took me around the whole area and asked me about it all so the collaboration is really a dialogue between the two of us.because he'd ask me about an abandoned old house or a person in the landscape and I'd tell him stories about those places or people. 1 must give credit also to Clo-lar Chonnachta who do great work. Books in the Irish language used to be published badly, the design or paper were inferior but Clo-lar Chonnachta sell books internationally which never happened before with Irish books. They're probably the most important publisher ever to emerge in Irish." Speaking of Irish, one of the ironies of the Arlen House volume is thai the essays are all in English though O Searcaigh points out this was a deliberate choice in order to broaden the I book's appeal. "For all of us who depend on vitally important for me to make my work much more accessible. In the past there's been very little response, in English, to Irish language poetry or literature so I'm delighted to see this book published." The book contains several translations of 6 Searcaigh's verse, but he himself rarely translates his own work. "If I was to do that I'd be thinking of the translation while writing the original and if I came up with a phrase in Irish that I couldn't adapt or find an equivalent for in English I'd end up compromising my poem. Translation of course is very difficult; poetry depends to a large extent on exploring the possibilities of language, so how do you change from one to the other - you can't. But good translators somehow re-create the poem in the target language and I've been fortunate to have some very good translators." 6 Searcaigh has however translated other poets into Irish. "I can only translate those poets that I feel an affinity with." he reveals. "For example Constantine Cavafy who is one of the great influences on my work, he's the great poet of homeerotic love. 1 feel strongly attached to his work and have translated some of his poems, they're not translations though, they're more - Robert Lowell did translations called 'imitations' where he made a new poem from the original based on some idea or image. Some of his versions are far from the original but others are close. Often my own translations of Cavafy have focused on just one element of a Cavafy poem and then recreated it in Irish." Another key influence he cites is the great Scottish poet Sorley MacLean; "For me he embodied 2000 years of bardic tradition. He was a real presence, anyone who met him could not have been but impressed by his learning and when he read his poems aloud you were aware that you were present at some extraordinary ritual. I've always fell an affinity for Scotland. My father was a migrant labourer there and my mother worked as a herring girl." As well as his affinity for Scotland. 6 Searcaigh has also travelled widely in Nepal and his next publication, due out in the new year, recounts his experiences there. In the meantime, these two fine volumes more lhan CMcB
They certainly deserve to be celebrated and sculptor John Coll has done this with his exhibition Quare Birds & Ould Hawks which is currently running at the Kenny Gallery, Middle Street. Quare Birds & Ould Hawks is a playful and imaginative collection of bronze sculptures, welded bronze, brass, and copper sculptures, and paintings full of humour and playfulness from a fertile imagination. Pluminer Birds shows the specie's ability to adapt to any environment. Two birds appear out of cylinders linked by pipes, nuts, and bolts. One holds a fish in his beak and is clearly thriving but the other is in a spot of bother with a nut around his neck. Sometimes the human environment encroaches negatively on the birds' habitats. Other sculptures such as the Mr & Mrs C Gull, showing two gulls resting are more traditional in both depiction and form. Yet, as with the more surreal works, the forms have a delicatness, grace, and detail you can spend a while looking through. Shawlie may appear to be just a bird perished on a branch, but look closer, it's a skull, and there's more than one bird. The paintings are less interesting, but Corncraked (self portrait) shows the influence of Francis Bacon with its streaming diagonal lines of paint encasing a figure. Instead of screaming popes though we get Coil's head on which is perched a screaming bird. Coil's own style comes through as the lines are multi-coloured and let drip freely creating an attractive pattern that contrasts with the tension of the two figures yet emphasis the birds call.
Robin Davies exhibition
MANY ARTISTS have started out in one career and Called Landscapes and Designs the show is aptly in .the relinquished it in favour of their art. For Robin Davies it Bord Iascaigh Mhara regional headquarters here in Galway hasn't got that far - yet. He is currently successfully Besides his fascination with fish he loves waves. He grew juggling his career as a marine biologist with painting. up for a while in south Devon where he learned to surf and Davies first came to Ireland from north Wales in 1998 to is passionate about the sport. That goes a long way to study for a PhD in marine biology in NUI. Galway and explain one of his landscapes, Mexican Wave, which seems a found himself so inspired by the unique and wild landscapes little out of place. The painting itself was an exercise in of the west that he taught himself to paint, first in experimentation, trying to get the oil paint as translucent as watercolour and then later to experiment in oils and Indian possible to get the right effect of the water. inks. But it is not only landscape that prompts him to paint, Davies speaks fluently about his own work, listening to his work as a marine biologist also informs him. In some of him offers the viewers the opportunity to delve somewhat his simplest-looking watercolours there is a wealth of deeper into the work than they might have imagined, and scientific information. they'll get a free science lesson to boot. His work can roughly be split into four areas. There are Landscapes and Designs is on in the boardroom of the the watercolour landscapes with their mountains, mists, and BIM Regional Headquarters (behind the Harbour Hotel) seascapes. There are the oils where Davies explores the from Saturday until Tuesday December 17. Opening times meshing of fish and water, another set of oils where he is are Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 5pm and on Saturdays trying to capture not only the vibrant colour of rocks under from 10am to 5pm. pressure from ice and from fire but their strata and texture as Michele Viney well. Then there are his Indian inks which has varnished to heighten their lustre, and the glistening fish are so full of life and energy that they appear ready to wriggle out of the painting. "I have always been fascinated by fish" Davies told me. "especially the curvature of their shape, their colour and the flow and movement of the water they inhabit." In four years he has put together an exhibition of more than 30 paintings.