Des Kenny Reviews Gerry O’Mahony - Keepers of Silence

December 8, 2014

08 December 2014 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny gives a personal response to our current exhibition by Gerry O'Mahony, 'Keepers of Silence'.

Gerry O Mahony’s paintings occupy the Ground Floor Gallery of Draíocht like dark pools where forms shimmer and float in a primitive state waiting gently for the viewer to plunge into their depths to decipher and reach an understanding of their content. The paintings are immersed in a clear resin on panels of wood and various layers of paint float in the solution, magnifying the illusion of a bottomless interior realm. The wood panels are scoured with calligraphic marks anchoring elementary signs and symbols to a formless subterranean landscape. These rudimentary marks may describe a mountain, tree, sun or moon and signify a primordial language before the use of words. Arcane signs contain the spiritual essence of objects and act as a pathway into the origins of an archetypal underworld that is lost and forgotten.

Searching for a wide embrace, 60x60cm

In Searching for a Wide Embrace a yellow mountain hovers above dolman structures while a white full moon hangs like a pendant of an ancient order as white dots flicker and dance across a boundless sky. Forms and shapes shimmer into being from darkness and return undefined to their source. Blobs of red punctuate the paint surface akin to the flamed torches of acolytes on a pilgrimage through the night seeking solace from a deaf sky.

Changing Shadows 1, 120x120cm

Changing Shadows 1
is a large painting containing four panels where circular and pyramid designs compete with a surface of globular blacks, pale yellows and transparent purples. Forms are etched with a black line pining them to a dynamic formless painterly picture plane. The artist permits the forms discover their own placement in the crammed chaos of shifting space before sinking into complete dissolution and allows form freedom to flutter into life or fade unannounced into silence. The painting attains a dream state where the unconscious dictates a blurred mysterious narrative.

Changing Shadows 2, 120x120cm

Changing Shadows 2 is a more structured painting were the forms find a harmonic balance within the square edges of the picture. A wheel shaped structure has equal placement to an upturned moon and soar above three echoing mountains. Pale yellows and greens lend the painting a serene sensibility allowing the ancient symbols of nature renew a gutted utopia.

Close to the edge, 60x120cm

The two panels in the painting Close to the edge have totem like imagery. The left hand panel contains a single winged warrior bathed in yellow light while the right hand panel contains what appears to be a sickly obese creature. The external reality of a world on the precipice of climatic change invades the internal domain of an inner vision and invokes scorned and forgotten guardians from primordial origins to rise from the bellows of their dreams and heal nature’s wounds. The artist has no control of the unconscious but can consciously remove barriers which impede access to the underthings that dwell in the mind.

The Seed Sank Deep 2, 80x75cm

The Seed Sank Deep 2 is a small painting charged with primitive imagery. A crossed wheel floats in the blue sky marking the hours of the heavens while a ringed form in green and red is surrounded by white dots. Seeds of life and time emerge from the darkness of creation, breaching the edge of emptiness with the caress of life.

Gerry O Mahony’s accumulated images of ancient signs, symbols and mystical fetishes introduce the viewer to an underworld which lies buried beyond folk memory. The understanding of these ancient hieroglyphics and imperishable myths will illuminate contemporary culture.

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Gerry O'Mahony,

Tracy Fahey launches Keepers of Silence

December 1, 2014

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.


Thank you.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts, Gerry O'Mahony,