AUTUMN ART – review of exhibition by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Deire-Fómhair (‘October’, also “End of Autumn’), an exhibition of art by Eoin Mac Lochlainn, was on show this afternoon in the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Great Denmark Street , Dublin and I went along to view it.  An installation and 24 paintings are listed.

Photo: D.Breatnach

It is of course the installation that first catches the eye, mainly due to its size, secondarily its colours and viewing it one must, I think, come to the conclusion that the space is too small for it. Artists I suppose must use whatever exhibition spaces are available to them. Standing back as far as one can, the installation still does not reveal its full potential. But photographing in the gaps between the hanging pieces in the first row, one sees tree-trunks, dappled with slanting autumnal light through dying leaves, moss and lichen pattern on trunks and the autumn leaves themselves.

A view of almost the full width of the front of the installation (but please see the revealing subsequent photos).
Photo: D.Breatnach
Tree trunks appear in this and subsequent views of the installation.
Photo: D.Breatnach
Another view of tree trunks appears.
Photo: D.Breatnach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The installation is composed of 64 painted lengths of rice paper and is lit from behind with accompanying recorded bird song which adds to the ambience. In the leaflet accompanying the exhibition, the artist wrote:

This is a traditional paper which originated in ancient China and has been used for centuries for calligraphy, artwork and architecture. It is as white as alabaster, known for its strength and smooth surface, very delicate when wet but said to last for a thousand years – an enchanting medium with which to work.

Earlier views showed tree trunks in an autumnal light, perhaps surrounded by falling or fallen leaves. This is a different view again, the trunks covered in blotches as of alga and lichen or fungal colourations.
Photo: D.Breatnach
Photo: D.Breatnach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photo: D.Breatnach
Viewing at an angle, the tall trunks appear, most perhaps in the receding distance. Photo: D.Breatnach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the wall are a number of watercolour paintings, mostly 15×19, some 12×12 and a few 20×20 and one, very different in style and composition, of 45×33. The latter looks older and by another painter and appropriately so, perhaps, since it is an interpretation of a painting by the German Romantic landscape painter Friedrich (1774-1840), “Solitary Tree”, painted probably (according to Google) in 1822, nearly two centuries ago.

Ó Lochlainn’s interpretation of Friedrich’s “Solitary Tree” (original painted two centuries earlier).

The subject seems to be an oak, its upper trunk dead but with leaves on branches spreading further down. It seems to have weathered many storms and perhaps a lightning strike years ago …. but it yet remains, stubbornly alive.

I do not know what motivated either Friedrich or Mac Lochlainn to take this image as their subject but in the leaflet, the latter has written:

 

 

 

 

 

Trees are a link between the past, the present and the future. The majestic stature, the long lifespan and the familiarity give them a monument-like quality but they also have a special aura that is difficult to define. Research has shown that within minutes of being surrounded by trees, our blood pressure drops, our heart rate slows and stress levels begin to reduce.

Less calming no doubt are the images of the watercolours which he titles Dóite (‘burned’ but also: ‘wasted, laid bare, destroyed’). The images are bleak, disturbing, of dead tree-trunks in a wasteland. In the accompanying leaflet, the artist notes:

I have been developing a body of work which explores the effects of climate change and in particular, reflects on the significance of trees.

One of the “Dóite” series, disturbing yet with a horrific beauty.
Photo: D.Breatnach

These images could also reflect the negative effects of acid rain, nuclear or chemical contamination or timber monoculture and the exposure of trees thereby to increased likelihood and intensity of infestation by invertebrates and fungi (as for example the latter is attacking pine plantations in the Basque Country).

The watercolour series titled Cosán Coille and Siúlóid Sléibhe are exquisite colour and tone in a way of which I think only watercolours can be. It is surprising then to learn that Mac Lochlainn’s previous work has been in oils and that he found the change exacting:

In recent years, I switched from oils to watercolours in order to have less of an impact on the environment.

The switch has been both challenging and rewarding – challenging to master the idiosyncrasies of the medium but very rewarding in discovering new possibilities and avenues of enquiry for my practice.

The smaller size of the paintings restrains one from being pulled into them, the way a larger painting might do but that does not prevent them from being beautiful, sometimes in an almost painful way.

One of either the Siúlóid Coille or Siúlóid Sléibhe series (I cannot remember).  Photo: D.Breatnach

Trees have been called “the lungs of the world” and were considered of great importance to the Celts; the Gaels peppered our place-names with references to them: abhall (apple), áirn (sloe, fruit of the blackthorn), beith (birch), caorthainn (rowan), coll (hazel), cuileann (holly), dair (oak), draighneán (blackthorn), fearnóg (alder), fuinnseog (ash), giúis (fir, pine, deal), iúr (yew), sail or saileach (willow),sceach (whitethorn, normally).1 They appear also in many of our folk-songs.

Prices of paintings range from 380 Euro to 1,200 and the gallery offers a service of payment by installment. The artist, Eoin Ó Lochlainn, who happens to be closely related to Patrick Pearse, has had numerous exhibitions in each year going back to 2013 and has won a number of awards. Collections of his artwork are held in AIB, Bank of Ireland, OPW, Revenue Commissioners, AXA Insurance, Foras na Gaeilge, Gael Linn, the Boyle Civic Collection, Wesley College, University of Limerick, Donegal County, Cló Ceardlann na gCnoc.

One wall with ten paintings hung, including examples of the Siúlóid Coille, Siúlóid Sléibhe and Dóite series.
Photo: D.Breatnach

USEFUL LINKS:

Fuller CV of artist: http://www.oliviercornetgallery.com/#/eoin-mac-lochlainn-artist-cv/4585927092

Artist’s Blog: https://emacl.wordpress.com/

Artist’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/EoinMacL

Olivier Cornet Gallery: 087288261 or info@oliviercornetgallery.com

Tree Council of Ireland: https://treecouncil.ie/

Place-name database, Irish and English: https://www.logainm.ie/en/

FOOTNOTES

1Place-name examples: Abhallort (Oulart), Co. Wexford); Beith an Ghalláin (Behagulane, Carberry, Col Cork); Cill Áirne (Killarney); Doire (many, including Derry City and County; Áth na bhFuinnseog (Ashford, Co. Wicklow); Giúiseanna Boróimhe (Boroimhe Pines, Fingal); Iúir Chinn Trá (Newry, Cos. Armagh & Down); An Baile Sceathach (Ballyskeagh, Co. Galway); Saillí (Scilly, Kinsale, Co. Cork)

2 thoughts on “AUTUMN ART – review of exhibition by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

  1. Go raibh míle maith agat, Diarmuid as an tuairisc seo. Nóta amháin – bhí sé i gceist agam go gceapfá go raibh an foraois ró mhor don seomra (!) Thaistigh uaim beagáinín uafáis a chur ar an slua. Nach bhfuil rud eicint faoi foraoiseacha a chuireann faitios orainn – an fhiántacht bfhéidir… Ar an chaoi, bhí mé iontach sásta go dtáinig tú agus gur scríobh tú an t-alt faoi, slán go fóill, eoin

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