2018-03-27-2018-06-21 --- 2018-06-21 05:08:28--18
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LOT :78
Tony O'Malley HRHA (1913-2003)
Good Friday Painting (1983)
Oil on board, 120 x 39cm (47¼ x 15½'')
Estimate EUR : €15,000.00 - €20,000.00
Auction Date : 27-03-2018

Description

Tony O'Malley HRHA (1913-2003)
Good Friday Painting (1983)
Oil on board, 120 x 39cm (47¼ x 15½'')
Signed with initials, inscribed with title and dated 1983; signed again in Irish (AR 695)

1983 Marked a big turning point in Tony OMalleys recognition as an artist in Ireland. From relative obscurity in the previous decades he found himself featuring in three group exhibitions that year; Kilkenny Castle Gallery, Saint Ivess Artists at the Winchester Gallery in England and, more importantly he was one of the artists in Six Artists from Ireland, a European touring exhibition jointly presented by the Arts Council and the Cultural Relations Committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs. OMalley had been included in an earlier travelling exhibition within Ireland, Miles Apart, in 1981, and was the subject of a film documentary on RTE in 1982, but inclusion in the Six Artists show, and having his work chosen for the cover of the catalogue, confirmed his acceptance as a leading Irish painter. It paved the way for an extraordinary sequence of accolades and successes, which were to culminate in 1993 in the award of Saoi of Aosdana, the highest honour that Irish artists could confer on one of their peers.

OMalley had, by then, a well-established practice of painting a Good Friday painting each year. Although he had no particularly religious feelings about the day, this theme provided one of the threads of continuity that ran through his career from 1961 to 2002. His sense of history and ritual was exceptionally keen and Good Friday was a rich source for both of these. OMalley loved the idea that the mythology surrounding the most significant event in the Christian narrative, was also the day of the death of the legendary, but pagan Irish king, Connchubar Mac Nessa as well as that of the slaughter of Brian Ború as he celebrated his decisive victory over the Danes at the Battle of Clontarf. Separated by approximately 12 monthly intervals, the Good Friday paintings vary widely in wood, colour and iconography, but a regular theme that recurs in many of them, as here, is a reference to the instruments of Christs Passion. In Good Friday 1983, overt references to the historical events are handled discretely. OMalleys work generally leans towards abstraction, but the vertical form and a delicately outlined cruciform shape could be read as a reference to the cross on which Christ died, and line drawings of some of the more familiar symbols of Christs passion, the hammer used to drive the nails connecting the body to the cross and the outline of the cock that crowed when Christ died, prompting Peter to deny his leader. But these symbolic objects, usually designed to evoke suffering and horror are barely visible. More provocatively their emotive power is gently undermined by the presence of a tiny birds head, visible directly underneath the cock on the left

Instead of the weight of history, or religious mourning the mood of the painting is light and warm, more linked to the colours of Paradise Island in the Bahamas, which OMalley visited each year from the mid 1970s with his wife Jane, than to the sombre Good Fridays of his Irish childhood. OMalley visited Paradise Island in 1983. He told his friend Brian Fallon that he had hoped to paint the light there but found it so bright, at first, that it reduced his palette to white. That is reflected in many of his paintings from 1983. It infects Good Friday 1983 with a sense of spring rather than death.

Catherine Marshall, February 2018

 

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