I've always thought that landscape is the last refuge of the scoundrel, a lurch into abstraction from those who can't find anything to paint about.Welllll, for the record I do actually paint landscape , very rarely . Back in 1998 after the previous exhibition I was knocking around thinking what shall I paint now . I'd been talking to Kieran Brennan about maybe putting a joint exhibition together , and he had been talking to the arts officer in Portlaois who was in charge of commissioning exhibitions from local artists and showing them at the Dunamaise gallery and theater , http://www.dunamaise.ie/ one of the few very good exhibition spaces in the Midlands of Ireland .We kind of scraped in as we were both living in Offaly , and Offaly shares a border and half a town with Laois.
But what to paint ? Kieran at the time was making very honest watercolors and oils of the nearby Clara bog ,and I had fixated on a group of thorn trees in a nearby hedge which resulted in a series of paintings.
The thing that struck me on first seeing the farm I eventually called home was how stark and barren it was , the trees had been rubbed against by horses and chewed on by goats , and cut down by chain flails and hedging discs . They looked like bones , exactly like bones .
so we met up with the arts officer and pitched our idea to her - basically we would swap subjects, Kieran would paint what I was working from ( the thorn trees above) and I would go to where he was working from and photograph and paint the woods and bog he was looking at , a very simple idea , not great but workable , might have worked better if I'd said Kieran should use my mountain of templates and objects . Anyways , I dually went out into the landscape and took photos of Doorey woods ( a beautiful place if you can find it) . I took the photos back with me to my caravan studio got them printed up and then thought aaah , these are somewhat boring. so I took the negatives and photographed those as the colours and shapes looked far more interesting , like these :
Now this I could work with , they appealed to my sense of the abstract , and also tied in with my use of slide projector and a new found liking for transparent paint and epoxy resin. which resulted in the paintings below .
First off , I tried just straight projection ( the painting on the left is just an outline traced using the slide projector , just two shades of blue I think), but then I hit on the idea of first tracing the lines out in pencil using the slide projector , then pouring mixed epoxy along those lines , drawing back into them , then painting over that surface so there would be more within the paintings and also because of what happens to the paint when suspended over a semi transparent medium , the colour comes alive and the spread of the epoxy as it dries gives a natural feel to the lines its following .
One of the things I couldn't get over having moved to Ireland was the clarity of the night sky and when the moon was full the luminance and radiance of the fields were astonishing , to be able to walk the countryside at night without aid of torch or streetlight is truly magical , like exisiting within a completely alternate reality where grass is silver , shadows are made by the moon and colour takes on a completely different quality . The final four paintings here were my attempt to illustrate that sheer sense of wonder.
Englands' dirty skies do not hold such secrets.