Buzzing and Humming

It’s a great title for an art exhibition: Buzz and Hum, and you’ll be drawn into the gallery – Uillinn in Skibbereen – by the glimpses of strong colour seen through its doors and windows. If you like colour (as I do) you will remember the memorable exhibitions we have seen in Skibbereen over the past few months: at Uillinn – Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone, West meets West (the work of Cornish Artists), David Seeger: 80 Moving Still – and the wonderful William Crozier: The Edge of the Landscape. At the O’Driscoll Building at Levis Quay in the summer we also saw the excellent retrospective of the work of West Cork Artist Terry Searle.

Colourful art shown in Skibbereen, 2017 – clockwise from top left: Jennifer Mehigan; David Seeger; Booth, Lanyon and Lattimer; Terry Searle and William Crozier

Uillinn’s first exhibition of 2018 is a stunning outburst of colour and composition, the non-objective accomplishment of two artists who have different approaches, different philosophies, yet allow their work to hang together – literally – and find balance with each other.

Upper – the smaller ‘Locus’ panels by Samuel Walsh form an astonishingly rich group in this juxtaposition; lower – Gallery II at Uillinn, awaiting the Artists’ Talk, creates a dramatic sunlit setting for Richard Gorman’s  3 metre square ‘Shuffle’

. . . The title of this exhibition by the two artists who have been familiar with each other’s work for nearly 30 years, derives from an insight arrived at by one, then happily endorsed by the other, regarding a persistent distinction between their respective bodies of work . . . writes Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith in her introduction to the exhibition catalogue . . . Richard Gorman’s observation that his colleague Samuel Walsh’s paintings generally ‘buzz’, while his own tend to ‘hum’, was not intended to occlude the fact that they otherwise have much in common. What they share most significantly is a fidelity to the pursuit of abstract painting over the course of three decades during which the fortunes of this form have varied considerably in different parts of an increasingly globalised art world . . .

Buzz and Hum – clockwise from top left: Walsh, Locus II (Ladakh); Gorman, Kan Run; Walsh, Autumnus X (Bénodet); Gorman, Kan Fly

The gallery talk at Uillinn was partly a dialogue and partly a presentation by each artist on their individual approaches to their work and the techniques they use: it was a gentle and informative amble, and it was clear that each respects the other. I always wonder whether I should come away from such encounters with insights as to what the work means. I don’t know any better, now, what this work ‘means’ – but, having heard the artists speak, I do sense that they don’t want it to ‘mean’ anything. It’s visual exploration, and I sense the artists want us to view their works completely as visual experiences: I don’t have a problem with that approach, in fact I like to engage with any artwork with no prior preconceptions. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic experience of walking through Uillinn and absorbing these works, all of which are – in my opinion – of a consistently high standard. I could easily live with any or all of them.

Samuel Walsh (upper image) talked of how he records events and places in a number of notebooks (lower image) – making an intricate series of lines; his paintings will extract and build on these records

Richard Gorman (upper image) explained how important the process is to his work: each shape is fully considered and placed: this becomes an anchor for the next shape. The continuity follows, not only in each individual work but through a whole series of works. Gorman’s canvasses have been shown in Castletown, Co Kildare (lower images), and I was intrigued to see how the paintings interacted with and related to the Palladian setting

I’m hoping that this little review will have whetted your appetite for the work on show in Skibbereen. It’s well worth looking at the whole exhibition. It runs at Uillinn until 20 February: don’t miss it!

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