Wednesday 15 February 2023

Rooftop archive 7: solo exhibition in Dublin 1989

Last week I gave all the links to the various posts I made regarding the rooftop archive, so rather than do that again, I am simply providing a link to that post here.

In the fall of 1988 I was offered an exhibition from Temple Bar Gallery & Studios in Dublin. The exhibition, my first solo show, was to take place the following spring. Other than some of the work, which has since been framed, I have not seen much of this work since 1989 so it was with great pleasure that these drawings were sighted again when going through the rooftop portfolios. 

Shepherdess I was the very first drawing I did in this particular style, which I always think of as sculptural: the paper is covered with graphite and the drawing created through careful erasure. I distinctly recall the inspiration for this image coming from a formation of bricks on a wall I saw while looking out the train window on my way in to Dublin one day. It is 76 cm x 56 cm and is from 1988.

This drawing, Figure with Rose, provided the image used for the exhibition invitation. It is also 76 cm x 56 cm and drawn in 1988. The exhibition was launched by the Canadian Ambassador at the time, Dennis McDermott. As well as plain graphite, I also used some coloured graphite for accents.

Prayer, graphite on paper, 76 cm x 56 cm, 1988

The Cloak I, graphite on paper, 76 cm x 56 cm, 1988

Rose Kiss, graphite on paper, 64 cm x 52 cm, 1989

Rose Rain with Thorns, graphite on paper, 64 cm x 52 cm, 1989

The exhibition also included some oilstick drawings of cloaked figures with roses, and some symbolist but figurative paintings on paper in oil and alkyd. Most of these works have been sold and I do not actually have images of them available. In any case, those pictures are not part of the rooftop archive! The rooftop archive also included rolled up works and one of the rolls contained the four large drawings from this exhibition. 

I remember how this drawing came to me fully-formed in a vision one night while thinking of mortality (a dear Aunt was suffering with a cancer that would eventually be fatal). 

Dream of the Time, graphite on paper, 100 cm x 150 cm, 1989

Rose Rain and Time, graphite on paper, 100 cm x 150 cm, 1989

After seeing this finished drawing (which I had yet to title), a friend of mine loaned me his book of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Sweeney”. When I finished reading the beautiful poem I thought of an appropriate title for my drawing, as for me the poem and the drawing were a portrayal both of madness and freedom. At the same time as my Dublin exhibition there was a two-person show in another Dublin gallery where the two male artists visually imagined Sweeney in their works on display. I remember being annoyed (and still am) that my female portrayal of Sweeney was not mentioned in the review of the male artists’ exhibition. To me it was a completely missed opportunity for dialogue!

Sweeney Among the Roses, graphite on paper, 100 cm x 150 cm, 1989

This was the very last drawing I did for the exhibition while on a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig. 

Whirlpool, graphite on paper, 100 cm x 150 cm, 1989

Rooftop archive 6: more dreams

In previous "rooftop archive" posts I have discussed selfies and early work here and here, other people's work here, other dream drawings here, and the Tidal Series here, which is more vision than dream and remains a major influence on my work still.

Here is some 80s dream work from the rooftop archive. I have been interested in dreams and psychoanalysis for a long time with a dream diary spanning four decades. Imagery from my dreams is often used as a starting point in both my writing and my visual work. I had picked up a number of oilsticks (as opposed to oil pastels) while visiting my parents in Ireland one year and absolutely loved drawing with them. The diptych of swimming angels was created directly from a dream that reflected my obsession at the time with the Wallace Stevens poem “Our Stars Come From Ireland”. This diptych from 1987 is quite large, each panel measuring 102 cm x 67 cm.

Dolphins often appear in my dreams, and this depiction of them churning up the sea is also a direct dream image. “Dream of Dolphins” measures 82 cm x 66 cm and is also from 1987, when I was still living in Toronto.

When I first moved to Ireland, I lived with my parents in Bray and one of our morning rituals was to discuss our dreams over breakfast. This image of a double bass in the water is related to one of my Dad’s dreams; oilstick on oil paper, 51 cm x 76 cm, 1988. 

This chalk pastel drawing is my attempt at visualising a specific dream of my own. It measures 56 cm x 76 cm and is also from 1988.

In 1988 I worked on a number of oilstick drawings, which were an amalgamation of recurring dream images (ladders, the sea, the red-sailed boat, dolphins) before I finally settled on a theme and medium for my 1989 solo exhibition in Dublin. Ladders to the Sea, 77 cm x 57 cm, is one of these dream amalgamation drawings.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Rooftop archive 5 - Tidal Series

Continuing with the 1980s work from the rooftop archive (which I have previously blogged about here, here, here and here) I was delighted to see the pastel drawings from the Tidal Series. These drawings are all on paper 76 cm x 56 cm.

I specifically remember the summer night of 1986, in my apt in Toronto, feeling unsure of where my art was going now that I had finished my education. 

After a phone conversation with a good friend, however, I felt confident and invigorated and the drawings came to me, fast and furious, using both hands.

I did a purge of my work before I left Toronto in 1993 (again), so not all of the original pastel drawings survived.

In 1986 I had decided to create 27 paintings from these drawings before I turned 27 the following year. The large paintings (I got to 18 of them: 4 ft x 3 ft canvases) did not have the same vigour and I destroyed them all

I also did not keep all the pastels, just these 7 that tell the story. I always saw it as an animation and finally created a short animation related to the project several years ago. 

I have previously blogged about the Tidal Series here and have also blogged about the related collages and collage cards here and here.

With this work, I always felt indebted to and recognised the relation to Andrew Wyeth’s haunting painting Christina’s World, which I saw at the MoMA on my first trip to NYC in 1980. 

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Rooftop archive 4 - dream drawings

Continuing with sorting through the rooftop archive, I took great delight in tearing up loads of life drawing exercises removing the proof that I can draw but really, at this point I hardly need proof! Of more interest to me, and thus kept, are the left-handed drawings I was encouraged to do while studying art at York University in Toronto. I think the following three drawings were from 1984 or 1985 when my professor for independent studies was sculptor Hugh Leroy. They are based on dreams/nightmares and I remember the b&w drawings being exhibited in the display cases of the fine art building at the time.

charcoal on paper, 56 cm x 76 cm

charcoal on paper, 56 cm x 76 cm

charcoal on paper, 76 cm x 56 cm

pastel on paper, 101 cm x 66 cm

Once I had regained my confidence and proficiency with my left hand, I was able to go back to my regular right hand and not be inhibited. I enjoyed using tackier media, such as this dream drawing in crayon, 101 cm x 66 cm, 

And of course, luscious and beloved oilstick!  Along with another two oilstick drawings (no longer extant) the following two works were exhibited on the walls of Calumet College lounge in 1985 as part of a two-person show with my friend Elizabeth Canfield.

101 cm x 66 cm

I didn't hear The Cure song till a few years later, but "A Forest" always made me think of this dream.

101 cm x 66 cm

For previous posts on the rooftop archives, look here, here and here.