by Brian Fallon
We were very privileged that Brian Fallon, esteemed art critic and the son of poet Padraic Fallon, opened our show ‘CRUX – a dialogue in Metal’ on the 16th May 2017.
It was a lovely summer evening; Brian who is a very softly spoken man called everyone closer.
‘Welcome all. The show which I have now seen twice, I can uncompromisingly say that it’s a good show. And what’s more – rare for group shows – it’s extremely even.’
‘For me this show is about one subject and that’s metals. Everything here is made of metals and that is a big breakthrough in fact for sculpture on these islands. When I was a young critic, the average sculpture if shown at all, was either carved or if it was metal it was bronze. Here we have a whole breakthrough of people who haven’t necessarily art school training, but come from a background of technical training.’
David Smith drawing in space
Mr Fallon went on to the topic of metal sculpture starting with the Catalan sculptors Picasso, Gonzales, Chillida. ‘If you can stand a bit of art history…’ Referring to the American David Smith as one of the greatest sculptors in the last few hundred years – the Jackson Pollock of sculpture – he described how Smith’s breakthrough in the mid twentieth century has gone on. ‘He broke up the old convention of sculptures as something of weight, mass, something which couldn’t be lifted, which was heavy and opaque. You could see through most of Smith’s sculptures, they were open works, if you put them on the lawn you could see the grass right through them, that’s the way it should be. It was a totally new approach.’
Craftsmanship as the root of art
Brian continued on the subject of Smith who was himself a child of a blacksmith and became apprentice to a practising blacksmith, an Irish-American named Blackburn. ‘Smith worked with his hands, he didn’t get an assistant as the older academics had done. Even Rodin, the great sculptor, never did any work, he moulded in clay; his assistants – mainly with Italian accents – did the rest. Smith did everything himself, he specifically was a craftsman creating sculpture; so no longer can this arbitrary thing – we habitually went on about for donkeys years – exist: the boundary between arts and crafts. We know now that there is no such boundary. All good art is craft. All good craft is not necessarily art, but each needs the other. My late friend the portrait painter Edward McGuire was fond of saying: ‘Every good craftsman isn’t necessarily an artist, but every great painter has to be a great craftsman’. That’s true. Craftsmanship is the root of art.’
A very successful show
‘I won’t discuss this exhibition in finer details. Certain things impressed me. Gunvor herself should – if any Dublin gallery were up for it – be offered a one-man exhibition. I like her ideas. I like her ability to place certain things off balance, to spur off attention, and her ability to suggest more than she actually gives. Gunvor’s husband Michael is also a very gifted man; blessed with a sense of humour. Jane Murtaghs craftsmanship is extraordinary. The remaining two gentlemen are virtually hard edged sculptors. It isnt a cliché in the sense of the seventies and eighties when we got so much bad work in that area. Moss Gaynor has a very vigorous, very intelligent, slightly cerebral style – to my mind – but obviously very good, great work in there. John Hogan, whose work is outdoors, has a great sense of rhythm carried through from top to bottom. With all these toils and ins and outs, I don’t know how technically he manages, I’m very struck. I think it all adds up to a very successful show.’
‘I hope the five artists in mention will be able to develop the talent and the shared craftsmanship.
Meanwhile I think you have come to an event which will hopefully give you pleasure as much as it has given me. I am very privileged to be able to recommend it to you.’
Our group show Crux travelled to 4 venues across Ireland.
John Hogan’s Cascade at Glór Arts Centre.
Jane Murtagh’s Flaggy Shore Leaf at Burtown House Gallery.
Moss Galynor’s Tide nor Time at Siamsa Tíre Arts Centre.
Michael’s Nest at Glór.
We were deligthed to see David and Sally Shaw-Smith of the acclaimed Hands at the opening.
Michael’s Bird at Custom House Studios.
Gunvor’s A Big Apple at Custom House Studios.