All Ireland Group Show
The Gordon Gallery in Derry~Londonderry mounts its first exhibition of the City of Culture year, featuring a 'stunning' array of works
Derry~Londonderry is looking dapper in the dusk as I walk across the Diamond and up Pump Street to the Gordon Gallery. Here, the All Ireland Group Show is the first in the gallery’s calendar of events during the UK City of Culture 2013 year.
On show are 90 works by 54 artists, 23 of whom are Aosdana, Royal Hibernian Academy or Royal Ulster Academy members. Many have exhibited before in this gallery or that of Richard Gordon’s father, Nat Gordon, who owned an Art Shop in Bishop Street. Ephraim Gordon set up the Empire Picture Frame Works in Newmarket Street around 1860.
All of the featured artists were either born in Ireland or live and work here. Some are Irish but have settled in France, Spain or Holland. Some are ‘blow-ins’ from as far away as India, Malta or South Korea. Apart from this international aspect there is a sense that this is also a family affair.
As such there are contributions from Mavis Thomson and her daughter Marion; Graham Gingles and his daughter Lisa; Jim Allen, his Armenian wife Sophie Aghajanian and their daughter Neisha; husband and wife Brian and Denise Ferran. And Derry is well represented too by Orla McLaughlin, Eamonn McAteer, John Kerr and Malachy McGonagle, all of whom teach art in the city’s schools.
Some of the pieces, which range from mixed media installations to seascapes, landscapes, still life and abstract paintings are hot off the easel. One is drawn in by the drama of Brian Bourke’s poignant ‘Day of the Eclipse’, with its muted colours and windswept trees and shrubs. It was painted by the artist in memory of his brother Fergus who died in his garden at Pollough.
Chris Wilson’s contemporary approach to landscape echoes his interest in ordinance survey maps. The stark outline of cliff top houses and sky, delineated in distinctive black and grey acrylic paints and graphite, make ‘Evening Light’ (pictured above, and cropped) one of the most arresting pictures in the exhibition.
Philip Flanagan’s choice of a smaller than usual canvas (60cm x 80cm) for his winter series is all the more pleasing for it. ‘Lower Lower Erne’ is typical of Flanagan’s densely layered tonal abstractions.
Gary Devon’s preoccupation with Irish architecture, meanwhile, is evident once again in ‘Tubercurry Ten Ten’. This painting was inspired in part by John McGahern’s Memoir, in which the writer recalls the various homes and schools of his childhood, the moves occasioned by the different postings of his father, an Irish gardai policeman.
In a style that critics have likened to Constable or Turner, Melita Denaro paints the cattle, the people and the landscape of Doagh Island in County Donegal where she lives. Her work, like that of Gary Devon, has been collected by the Prince of Wales. See 'So Wonderful to Be Home and Fit Enough For This' below, and cropped.
When Lisa Gingles consulted a palmist, she was told she had already lived many lives and would be re-born next time as a dragon fly. So she vowed to make 100 dragon flies before she dies. ‘Animus XII’ is delicately mounted on parchment, and carefully framed under glass.
Music and art come together in ‘Distant Voices’, an example of Barbara Freeman’s paintings inspired by contemporary composers and musicians, while Neil Shawcross offers two pieces inspired by jazz, a family passion. Martin Gale employs his usual vivid photorealist style in ‘Carny’, which depicts a single fairground carousel and a lone figure, his back to the viewer: a Gale trademark (see picture below, cropped).
Colin McGookin’s ‘Harvest in the Lagan Valley’ is a homage to unspoilt farmlands in the rolling drumlins of County Down, a precious enough commodity given the proliferation of motorways and wind farms. In the hedgerows he has hidden subliminal pound signs, which could be confused with the L in Lagan.
In contrast to the quiet seashore in Nicola Nemec’s ‘Walk at Rathlee 4’, Lorraine Wall conjures up the energy and power of a billowing sea ‘In full flood’, its surging waves spuming spray against the rocks.
Victor Richardson, whose large pointillist panels inspired by the St Stephen’s Green gardens hang in the bar of the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, is here represented by ‘River Blackwater after the Rain’, a smaller piece in the same style.
By choosing top quality work from Ireland’s leading contemporary artists, Richard Gordon has undoubtedly tailored this show to cater for art collectors and buyers, but the casual visitor will be stimulated by the sheer variety of the pieces on display.
No-one need leave empty-handed, for the well annotated catalogue has a detachable cover which also serves as a handy poster style souvenir, reproducing as it does 56 of the paintings on show.
During the hour that I spend in the gallery, there are half a dozen visitors. One man stands mesmerised by the tender realism and exquisite detail of Miseon Lee’s self portrait (main pictured, cropped). Turning to me, he mouths the word 'stunning' then moves off to view the other works in this exhibition. I can think of no better word to describe the exhibition as a whole.
All Ireland Group Show runs in the Gordon Gallery, Derry~Londonderry until February 23, 2013.