Tracy Fahey launches Keepers of Silence
Gerry O'Mahony's 'Keepers of Silence' in our Ground Floor Gallery was launched by Tracy Fahey, Head of Fine Art, Limerick School of Art & Design on Thursday 27 November 2014. Tracy has very kindly given us her speech for our Blog.
Tracy Fahey & Gerry O'Mahony
I’m starting with a quote from the poet Jo Slade that helps to contextualise the title for the show.
‘We need to care for our, “keepers of silence” they are the ones who feel the changes in society. They remind us of the power and magic of the image and of the word. They help us to understand, to shape, a form to the unutterable. They remind us that we are willing to explore silence - the empty spaces, the areas between words, between ‘the said’ and the as yet unknown.’
Gerry O’Mahony is one of these keepers of silence, these chroniclers of change. The paintings which surround us are beautiful and aesthetic objects in themselves. These magical, numinous landscapes of the mind recall the best of abstract expressionism, they remind us of the dreaminess of Chagall, the curiosity of Klee, and above all, of the instinctive compositional response of Kandinsky to colour and form.
However, they also have a function similar to Russian icons; they stimulate within us a silent and intense response, they provoke meditation, introspection, and wonder.
Gerry’s works are world within worlds, and are infused by his notion of man’s boundless potential as micro-cosmos, a potentiality as yet only partly visible to the naked eye. The paintings are permeated with a yearning desire for a world that we can almost see and touch, a world of change and excitement, a world of evolution. Earlier this month I had a long conversation with Gerry in his studio about the works he was selecting for this show. As we stood, thigh-deep in the paintings that span his career, he waxed lyrical on the passionate concern for the human condition that infuses his work ‘We are like lamps that emanate light” he told me “we are a realm within a realm, with infinite connectivity with all things that float around us and influence us.’
Beautiful words, and looking around we can see his vision translated - the works vibrate with a charged inner life that is a mixture of gentle spirituality and the sheer delight in scientific discovery. Like Kandinsky and Klee who experimented with a mystical language of forms against a backdrop of atomic discovery, Gerry O’Mahony situates his work somewhere between transcendent philosophy and discoveries of quantum physics. Unusual bedfellows, but in his own words – ‘Spirituality and science are like the wings of a bird. One needs the other to operate.’
This is big work, big work on every level. It deals with large themes – change, evolution, connectivity, cohesion.
This exhibition is made up of two different series of work that map this notion of man’s aspirations and evolution; Changing Shadows and The Seed Sank Deep
Changing Shadows was marked by what Gerry terms ‘a paradigm shift’ in his work. In this he reflects on the value of words, of language, the irrevocable nature of utterance. Like Kandinsky, Gerry’s work revolves around moments of inspiration and revelation – his experience in Israel of having coffee grounds read illustrated for him that language could operate beyond words, that things are written in different ways and that it is possible to communicate in oblique images. The basic forms of mark-making evolved from this experience, the desire to reduce language back to a symphony of simple forms. These works with their stippled dots, palette-knife scratches and organic forms have the immediacy of rock-paintings from the Aboriginal Dream-time or the cave-paintings of Lascaux, the desire to communicate urgently and immediately about life, society, dreams and the human condition.
The Seed Sank Deep took these themes and explore how change in man starts to germinate and grow, while his current series The Mid-Most Part of the Ocean deals with aspiration, development and the advancement of mankind.
For ultimately, as I said, his work is big. It deals with large themes. It engages head-on with notions of what art should be – its function - to ask questions, to dream, to philosophise. It confronts us with ideas of transcendence of the dizzying, wonderful potential of the human race, of evolution, the journey we have made, are making, and have yet to make.
We see within these paintings, radiant forms, surging movement, and the experienced hand of the artistic conductor. As Kandinsky said - "Colour is the key. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano with its many chords. The artist is the hand that, by touching this or that key, sets the soul vibrating automatically."
Tonight we salute Gerry, the poet of colour and form, the artist, the communicator of change, the conductor of these exquisite symphonies. We salute his passion for change, for evolution, for connectivity and his translation of these ideas into the beautiful, glowing works that surround us here in Draiocht tonight.