In the early 1990's I reproduced in paint on canvas a series of advertising posters showing music gigs etc., that appeared on hoardings around Dublin's city centre (fig 1). I liked the variety of effect these posters achieved using one or two colours -including graphics and words presented in different sizes and typefaces plus photographic images -which I reproduced on my canvases with a chiaroscuro technique. As well as the logos of rock groups I reproduced in paint corporate logos as they appeared on premiership football shirts (fig 2). The random juxtaposition of these logo designs on long established football kit designs made for an exciting incongruity while maintaining a flat unmodulated and saturated colour technique. After venturing into producing some text-based works I reduced the words to letters and then to the letter L. The letter L's angular nature allowed it to be reproduced in different sizes and tones to produce an interesting pattern that can be painted in a crisp colour technique.
Graduating in fine art from the Crawford in 1981 my work instinctively reflected the art ideas of the time represented by movements such as firstly The Pictures Generation and then Neo-Geometric Conceptualism. Today I see my work grounded in concepts originating in these movements. Neo-Geo artists created artworks that were influenced by the style of earlier developments in twentieth century art –such as Minimalism, Pop Art, and Hardedge Abstraction. Grace Glueck, one of the key documenters of the movement, notes “The painters among the Neo-Geo movement consciously recycled geometric motifs of the 1960's and 70's in their canvases, but put them to new use, regarding their geometry as referential rather than abstract.”
Currently I'm interested in the period between Mondrian and Minimalism, the Neoplastic followers of Mondrian and the Abstract Classicists. Ilya Bolotowsky 1907-1981 for example developed Neoplasticism after the death Mondrian. Two main areas where he departed from Mondrian were his palette and his use of circular and oval supports/stretchers. By very much broadening his palette (Mondrian only used red, yellow, blue, black, white and grey) Bolotowsky broadened the language of Neoplasticism and made it the language of juxtaposing unmodulated coloured squares and rectangles. Bolotosky's subtle colour schemes softened this rigid geometry, as did his use of circular and oval stretchers. Painting squares and rectangles on circular and oval stretchers was counterintuitive in the race to the reductionism that became minimalism. The blank canvas of minimalism tended to become clinical and sterile and a dead end for painting. Bolotowsky's approach suggests an alternative path for formalist painting a way to avoid reductionism.
In many of my abstract paintings I have been leaving a portion of the design in raw canvas. (fig 3) Leaving part of the painting as raw canvas was a connection with the real world with terra firma and the starting point of the painting. When painting on canvas the colour of the canvas becomes the first colour element in the painting. Soon the issue arose as to why restrict myself to the canvas colour when paintings can be painted on other surfaces including wooden panels and pre-printed fabrics.This idea combined with the Bolotowsky influence of painting on oval formats inspired my recent paintings (fig 4).
Fig 1. 3 Posters, Acrylic on Canvas, 1991, 152 x 300 cm
Fig 2. The Sponsors, Acrylic on 12 Canvases,1995, 267 x 132cm overall.
Fig 3. Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 72 x 60cm 2013
Fig 4. Violet Little Trees, Acrylic on Pre-printed Fabric, 82 x 48cm, 2019.