Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Gale at the Taylor Gallery

Went with B and J to the opening of Martin Gale's new show at the Taylor Gallery last Thursday. The show was sold out so there wasn't the usual crowd of potential buyers, but there was an exceedingly large number of artists present. Either Martin is an artist's artist or it's a reflection of what a thoroughly nice guy he is. The opening was being filmed by Sean O'Mordha - that doyen of arts related documentaries - as part of a film he's doing on Irish landscape painters. Myself and J arrive early and are followed around by the camera in an embarrassing way.

Gales's work is photo-realist in many aspects, the lovingly detailed old water pumps, the circus tent in the field, the minute attention to leafs and blades of grass etc. However, there is something off-kilter and vaguely sinister about a lot of his work. Some of this has to do with the rendition of light. There is an aura of gloom, of light fading. It's far from Arcadian. The figures depicted are always looking away from the viewer and some of the images suggest something nasty is about to happen - or, in some cases, has happened. The image of the boy on the trampoline in a deserted field, the party baloons sagging sadly on a nearby bush, or the farmer sheltering under a large tree looking out at an expanse pf gloomy countryside. come to mind.

Looking around at he gathering I realise that all my favourite Irish artists are present, with the exception of John Shinnors. There's Gwen O'Dowd, spikey and animated, with her ever-present escort Phelim (her impending show in the Hillsboro is postponed because the gallery's lease has run out); and Mary Lohan with that weird quiff of red hair - suggestive of a Star Wars character. Her slightly other-worldly manner confirming this impression. Sean McSweeney is there, a big avuncular rural presence - florid and friendly. He is with his amiable wife Sheila (and her strangely closed left eye) . They are house-minding in Donegal and he seems to be doing no painting. Charlie Tyrrell is also in a very sociable mood and forgives me for calling him John. He will be showing in the Taylor next February - something to look forward to. He tells me he will be doing some more of those small aluminium pieces. Donald Teskey joins the crowd and I get a chance to pin him down about a piece he has promised me. He is cautious at first but as we converse later in Buswell's the deal is sealed. When you get beyond his initial reticence, he seems very sound - no arty bullshit. He has a show opening in London next week. It dawns on me that the only artist present whose work I don't have is Martin Gale himself. He is disconcertingly like Charlie Haughey around the eyes but, unlike Charlie, is devoid of airs and graces. Mike Murphy is also present in a splendid Miro tie and Peter Fallon from the Gallery Press has come to support one of his favourite artists.

After some debate, the entire crowd move on to Buswell's hotel - in the continued absence of the Shelbourne option - and a spontaneous party gets going. B. has joined us - a rare opportunity for her to move beyond the Dalkey fannies circuit and converse with other artists.