2017-11-22-2018-10-24 --- 2018-10-24 04:35:17--18
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LOT :36
Basil Blackshaw HRHA RUA (1932-2016)
Estimate EUR : €100,000.00 - €150,000.00
Auction Date : 22-11-2017


Basil Blackshaw HRHA RUA (1932-2016)

Night Rider (2001)

Acrylic on canvas, 152.5 x 213.5cm (60 x 84)


Provenance: The Eamonn Mallie Collection, purchased directly from the artist.


Exhibited: Basil Blackshaw Paintings 2000-2002, The Ulster Museum, December 2002 May 2003, Cat. No. 5; Basil Blackshaw at 80 Retrospective, The FE McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge, May October 2012, The RHA Gallery Dublin January - February 2013, The Gordon Gallery, march 2013, as part of the City of Culture.


Literature: Basil Blackshaw Paintings 2000 2002, Ulster Museum, illustrated p.22; Irish Arts Review Front Cover illustration, Winter 2002, inside article by Brian McAvera, picture illustrated again p.59; 'Basil Blackshaw by Eamonn Mallie, 2003, illustrated Plate 16, p.365; Basil Blackshaw at 80, FE Mc William Gallery,2012, Fig 25; 'Basil at 80', The Gordon Gallery, 2013, illustrated p.25.



It was not uncommon for Basil Blackshaw to carry an image about in his head for over half a century.

He was a consummate romantic, passionate about everything about which he was passionate - women, horses, dogs, markets people, edge of the town people, travellers, horse racing, boxing, cockfighting, 'rare characters,' the craic, politics, poetry, the countryside, giving to the poor and so on.


Among his favourite 'Pictures' in the cinema were Westerns and he loved cowboy novels when he was young. Enter 'Night Rider' from Blackshaw's fantasy world. More often than not his images were of himself playing out his fantasy. He worked and owned horses all his life. Such is the control of the rider in 'Night Rider' here that we know Basil is in charge. 'Night Rider' fits into what would be his 'late period' - always returning to earlier themes and subjects but much more psychological in interpretation. The rider's eyes speak volumes about his character ... he emits danger signals. He is 'a down looking thief' who would not take prisoners. One senses a gun is but one hand movement away.


What is remarkable about this work is Blackshaw's choice of colours. They convey a sense of menace.

My recollection of Westerns way in the distant past is one of the sound of distant drums, the pounding of horses' hooves on sun drenched plains above deep river sunlit valleys. We are however dealing with Blackshaw here - the art delinquent - the re-maker of images seeking out the otherness of an event or happening. One can image the muscularity which the artist brought to this large painting. I can still see him stabbing the canvas with a lick of paint - retreating only to attack another area with the same brío. This was war on a canvas.


Blackshaw often compared his picture making to boxing - throwing punches, stepping back, all the time ducking, diving and contorting his wiry frame in pursuit of his dream in paint. My own experience of sitting for my portrait bore testimony to this extraordinary ritual of picture making by Blackshaw.

As to the presence of the large yellow cross-like mark to the left of the canvas - Blackshaw regularly explained to me the composition needed that mark to give the work balance. "The painting wouldn't be right without that mark" he protested. Blackshaw's Spanish contemporary - Tapiès regularly uses a cross-mark too, in his oeuvre. I can't help thinking that that 'cross' notation invokes the notion of death. Blackshaw unashamedly claimed "I steal ideas from good artists and bad artists but what you do with the theft is what matters."

He asked me to establish if it would be possible to get a look at a large collection of Lucian Freuds on this island. I managed to arrange this. Observing Blackshaw scrutinising the Freuds was instructive. I thought he was going to lick the canvasses. He appeared to be in a trance, his eyes fixed on every square inch of the paintings. A year or two after the execution of 'Night Rider' Blackshaw told me "do you see that grey triangle of paint on the side of the horse's neck - I stole that idea from one of Freud's paintings that morning you took me to see the works."

It was what he did with the theft that mattered. It helped him resolve a problem.

Eamonn Mallie


Hammer Price : €90,000.00
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