Open Paintings: ,The Paul Kane gallery, 6 Merrion Square,Dublin 2, 15 October- 7 November 2009 2008,
As I sit in the Lacken Studio surrounded by
several of the Open Painting series, a selection
of which constitutes the exhibition in the Paul
Kane Gallery, what they are is an open question.
The paintings appear to have both the quality of
individual human presence and of cosmological
states and spaces.
In the Buddhist understanding of reality, as
with other Eastern traditions, including the
meditation practice with which I am familiar,
psychology and cosmology co-arise.
The trajectory of human development through
a hierarchy of increasingly subtle, open and
expansive psychological states corresponds
to an equivalent opening to deeper levels
of existence. This dual presence seems to
be implicit in the Open Paintings human
presence and cosmological states.
For historical reasons the eastern meditation
- based traditions have a distinct depth and
continuity of research and practice into
the nature of self it’s conditioning, it’s
deconstruction and it’s transformation.
Broadly speaking they share the perspective
that the conditioned and contingent self that
mediates our experience of life, obscures
the innate ground of being. This core state
is sometimes described as a field of pristine
awareness inherently open, interconnected
The Open Paintings are made with oil
paints and rollers, the width of the roller
establishing the central opening. They start
with the observation of light touching matter.
This is observed externally in the west of
Ireland sky and observed internally as light,
(prana), removes complexity from individual
consciousness, both in individual and group
The paintings start with a complexity of
contrasting colours. Through a layering
process with a translucent medium they move
towards the light image initially observed.
The paint is applied using the rollers in the
manner of Zen raking. The painting process
opens up with it’s own dynamic. It resolves
when I recognise an equivalent open stillness
to the initial impulse an immanent, soft-lit
There is a lot of colour mixing in the making
of the Open Paintings in an effort to get at a
light tinged with materiality, a light without
The paintings are open also in the sense that
there are few pictorial stratagems to distract.
Oil painting is quite difficult, taking coloured
fats with different light reflecting properties and
organising them to generate a truthful image
that transcends the materials.
Painting is also a useful, deep method of
inquiry. It demands that thought is subject to
the humbling test of a lived material process,
of physical craft. The painted surface is the
instantaneous record of values chosen and
moves made. Painting offers the nuance and
compression of meaning of a rich tradition
of research and formulation. And most
importantly, it requires clear seeing.
The Open Paintings echo the precedents of
Rothko, Reinhardt, Scully and others. The
intent is entirely unromantic. It is to make
objects based on the observation of subtle
energy transforming material complexity,
particularly in human consciousness. Eastern
modes of observation and transformation are
merged with a western visual tradition. They
are slow paintings, which emphasize the
processes of seeing, and feeling.
Whether they achieve any of the above is, of
course, an open question.
15th September 2009.