Thursday, October 19, 2017
The Yellow River at the Triskel
This review first appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on 15 October 2017.
The Yellow River is a tributary of the Boyne which it joins near Navan in Meath. It’s also the source of this collaboration between Seán McSweeney’s paintings and the poetry of Gerard Smyth. McSweeney and Smyth recently revisited this area where they had spent their childhoods. While Smyth has quibbled with the term “nostalgic” as applicable to the show, I’d defy anyone over a certain age with a rural background to view it without experiencing that bitter-sweet tug from the past. The restrained and evocative images by McSweeney in watercolour and egg tempera and the accessible accompanying poetry by Smyth (printed alongside on the gallery walls), bring to mind that land of “lost content” referred to in A. E. Housman’s poem, The Shropshire Lad: “The happy highways where I went and cannot come again”. Those used to McSweeney’s dark expressive bogscapes will be surprised by the almost Japanese lightness and delicacy of many of these works. The Stations of the Cross layout of the Triskel, often a hindrance in displaying art, is ideal for this leisurely journey back to the joy and innocence of youth. Recommended.
John P. O'Sullivan