Monday, September 10, 2007

Brian Bourke at the Taylor Gallery

I think that there was only one show of Brian Bourke's that I unreservedly liked and that was a series of New York skyscrapers four or five years ago. These were striking and evocative works, accurately drawn but with a quirky use of colour (reds, russets, pinks etc.) that seemed to work. He does like that part of the palette. I have a red-faced head of Don Quixote by him over my desk and a self-portrait that also favours the ruddy side of the spectrum.

This latest show in the Taylor is mainly of olive trees in Spain - and lots of red earth . They mostly have this annoying painted border around them - a device from the 60s that Bourke uses a lot, both in portraits and landscapes. I find it intrudes on the image - they already have a frame, why paint an extra one. But the trees are interesting, gnarled, alive, and demented. And then there are the surreal skies - occasionally reminiscent of Van Gogh. The whole effect is fantastical - far from naturalistic.

Bourke himself is an interesting character - an artist out of central casting. Large, loud, eccentric, hairy, with an air of one who happily indulges all his appetites. I remember being struck by his chuzpah at Tony O'Malley's funeral where he was sketching the body of O'Malley as it lay in a coffin at the top of the church - during the funeral service.