Tuesday, August 15, 2017
An edited version of this piece was published in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on 13 August 2017.
As the muse of Louis le Brocquy, Anne Madden’s place in Irish art history is secure. The permanence of her reputation as an artist only time will tell. Her work has tended towards the decorative – with a penchant for large scale paintings often in dramatic colours such as cerise, magenta and orange. These are pleasing enough on the eye but somehow lacking that visceral or radiant element that constitutes the real thing. Her current show in the Hugh Lane illustrates her shortcomings. The myth of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur is a dark and bloody tale of sacrifice, lust and betrayal. Its essence is hardly conveyed by a show that consists of an array of candy-coloured panels, a few cosmic streamers, and some dark intimations conveyed by a brace of horned heads. The painting entitled The Labyrinth (above) is a particularly weakly executed piece lacking both geometry and poetry. The gaudy rhetoric of these works seems unlikely to lead us to “a deeper understanding of the nature of existence” which is the artists’s aim according to her blurb writer. It also begs the question as to whether the show merits three large rooms in one of our major art museums.
Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
John P. O'Sullivan
Monday, August 07, 2017
An edited version (sabotaging the Herrick allusion) of this review appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on 30 July 2017.
The title of Nick Miller’s impressive and expressive new show in Skibbereen can be translated as “still life”. However, the French term “nature morte” carries a resonance confirming that mortality is the issue here. The paintings were inspired by a long-term creative project at Sligo’s North West Hospice and by his mother’s terminal illness. He used a selection of her vases and other vessels to add a personal dimension to the universal truth implicit in the work. The flowers are on the turn, some petals strewn around the bases, but we still see the glory of what they were. They present to us intimations of mortality and a poignant reminder of the transitory beauty of this world. The varities chosen represent the changing of the seasons: the hazel, the honeysuckle, the blackthorn and the fair daffodils that haste away so soon. The paintings have an energy and immediacy that come from being painted at one sitting. The artist is determined to seize the time – tomorrow may be too late.
Catherine Hammond Gallery
John P. O'Sullivan