Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mary Lohan at the Taylor Galleries (22nd May 2008)

This is a major return to form – in fact more, it’s a creative leap onto a new level by an artist that I’ve long admired for her lonely, moody, atmospheric work. Her paintings suggest a watcher looking out to sea, taking in the intersections of shoreline, sea and sky. And never a building or person in sight. There's a cold elemental feeling to the work - suggesting the benign indifference of the elements (or that could just be me).

Her last couple of shows had suggested that she was stuck in a rut and her subtle variations on West Coast seascapes were beginning to look laboured and repetitive. Also, in those shows the paintings were subdivided to the point of fussiness into diptychs, triptychs and heaven forfend polyptychs. Apart from any aesthetic reservations, they were a pain in the ass to hang.

But this show is a revelation. There is a freshness of image and a variety of style and there’s not even a diptych in sight. The work is inspired by the East Coast this time, specifically the Blackwater, Tuskar and Ballyconnigar areas. The catalogue essay by Colm Toibin suggests that Lohan painted a lot of the work in a house he lent her in that area. It was obviously a source of inspiration to her.

There has been some changes to her palette as well. There’s a new grassy green that would not be out of place in a Sean McSweeney piece. Also in a few of the pieces she loads on the paint in a manner that suggests Paul Doran – but achieves a more resonant image. I liked most of the show a lot and was particularly impressed by the still, almost austere, works on paper – the Cush Strand series.

There wasn’t a huge turn out which surprised me – Lohan is a very popular artist. I keep thinking that Thursday’s in town are very difficult these days with late closing and horrendous traffic.