2018-03-27-2018-03-21 --- 2018-03-21 01:12:04--18
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LOT :77
Tony O'Malley HRHA (1913-2003)
St. Canices, Kilkenny (1988)
Oil on board, 57 x 118cm (22½ x 46½'')
Estimate EUR : €15,000.00 - €20,000.00
Auction Date : 27-03-2018


Tony O'Malley HRHA (1913-2003)
St. Canices, Kilkenny (1988)
Oil on board, 57 x 118cm (22½ x 46½'')
Signed with initials and dated 1988; also signed, inscribed and dated verso

Exhibited : Tony OMalley Exhibition, Taylor Galleries, Dublin 1991, Cat. No. 63

Saint Canices Cathedral, so called after Kilkennys patron saint, was very dear to Tony OMalleys heart. One of the best-preserved of Irish medieval buildings, it stands in an ancient graveyard, where a substantial round tower and the ruined foundations of an earlier church, also dedicated to Canice, embed it in the history of Kilkenny city and surrounding county. OMalley was proud of his own Kilkenny background and painted Saint Canices and other monastic ruins, like the abbeys of Jerpoint and Kilcooley, from the area on a regular basis, although he tended to avoid Kilkennys even more dominant historical monument, Butler Castle. His choice of one over the other, is consistent with OMalleys politics, favouring inclusion and participation, rejecting power and control.

In this painting from 1988, OMalley opts for the overall atmosphere of the gothic building, with birdsong and plant life and sunshine, toning down the weight of the limestone and granite edifice. Only a series of horizontal, parallel lines in the top right remind us of the architecture. By 1988 OMalley and his wife, Jane, were increasingly spending summers in Ireland, prior to a permanent removal back to County Kilkenny in 1990 from Cornwall. They regularly cycled from Callan into the city to sketch and paint the cathedral. Earlier depictions of medieval Kilkenny and the cathedral, emphasize its centuries of usage, with shadowy, ghostlike figures mingling with self- portraits, set into grey niches, like medieval stone carvings. Here, however, the artist celebrates the building and the wild life that flourishes around it, away from the bustle of the city down below, offering forms inspired by long grasses and seed heads, birds in flight or their song, against sun-drenched grey walls. A small triangular form in pink and maroon is probably a self-portrait, but even this is sub-ordinated to the overall atmospheric rendering of the place. The colours are muted, with carefully controlled flashes of brilliance, edges are softened, the only movement suggested is consistent with summer breezes. This is about peace and slow time, not military conquest.

Catherine Marshall, February 2018


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