at Douglas Hyde
The aesthetic of the new has, thank goodness, become distinctly old fashioned. The endless regurgitation of innovation, which had felt passé for some time, is giving way to space for the kind of considered work that is valued for content as well as for form, eschewing schlock as well as shock, and which is all the more rewarding for it. This is the seriously strong work that had always been there, but which had been shunted from centre stage by glitter and showmanship that often balanced vacuity with seeming-depth in equal measure. And this, quietly, insistently persuasive work is where Katy Moran’s paintings come in.
There’s a sense of familiarity to the works on show in Moran’s solo exhibition at Dublin’s Douglas Hyde Gallery. I already feel at home with these small-scale paintings. The colour aesthetic – faded creams, yellowed whites, dulled ochres, greys and browns, with the occasional jump into exuberant colour – is straight out of the sixties and seventies. And, yes, that staple material of a previous era, hessian, even makes an appearance. But it’s not just the colours that are pulling at the corners of my consciousness. The paintings remind me of something, hinting at half held memories, not only of other artists, but also of objects and states of mind. It’s a feeling reminiscent of that conjured by Irish poet Thomas Kinsella, describing the aftermath of a dream in Wormwood: “I am straining, tasting that echo a second longer / If I can hold it… familiar if I can hold it…”
Assembling a checklist of painters whose work seems to be among the antecedents, colleagues or cousins of Moran’s could easily descend into one of those nauseating essays in artistic one-upmanship that it is always so much better to avoid. And yet, I want to say that I can see Wassily Kandinsky’s exuberant yet controlled genius in the matter of geometry and colour in the Main Event, 2012; or the deft ability of Patrick Collins to occlude dynamic, dramatic action with the mists of white in Muffin Power, 2009. Collages, including Primal Cat and the truman show, both 2011, bring me to Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Robert Rauschenberg in various measures; and paint escapes to take on the frame, à la Howard Hodgkin in Slide out of View, 2011.
I’m also seeing Cy Twombly, Kurt Schwitters, Willem de Kooning, something of Tomma Abts. Or perhaps Merlin James and Tal R, both of whom have previously exhibited at the Douglas Hyde, and with whom Moran’s work will be shown, from March, at the Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci di Prato in Italy, as part of The Inevitable Figuration.
But none of this is to say that Moran’s paintings are homage, pastiche or even artistic eclecticism; instead the diverse range of referents are satisfyingly absorbed into her paintings, as if, for Moran, to work in paint, is to bring together elements of what paint has been made to achieve in its modern and post-modern history. Equally, while…
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