Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Suzy O'Mullane

Working in an art gallery in Dublin I keep hearing about Suzy O'Mullane and her scandalous-for-its-lack-of-scandal affair with Mick Mulcahy. It's strange to be eavesdropping on gossip about someone I knew growing up, as a friend of my mothers rather than as an artist, and pleasing to hear she is doing so well for herself in Ireland and abroad.
It's also made me re-evluate her as an artist rather than family friend, and address my own personal opinions of her art separate from my opinion of her as a person. Knowing more about her private life than her professional career makes that difficult, but I'm finding myself increasingly drawn to her work when it crops up in group shows or sits alongside other artists, most obviously Mick Mulcahy, whose art I never really understood what all the fuss was about. Suzy though has developed enormously since I last had contact with her work, which must have been nearly ten years ago. While she always had a flair for intense engaging portraits, her singular focus on life drawing, and the female form particularly seemed to restrain her somewhat. Then I remember going to an exhibition she held after the tragic death of her daughter Roisin, and being bowled over by the emotional intensity of the work, multiple portraits of her daughter and herself, strewn with miniature pink rosebuds to signify her daughters name, they were allegorical as well as realistic, and added an extra layer of complexity to her bold outlines and strong, confident marks. Since then her work has been rife with animal imagery, most notably wolves and while women still dominate as subjects, they are less studied portraits of individuals than metaphorical symbols of emotion. She herself makes the connection between her own personal tragedy and an unleashing of artistic growth:
"Since 2004, during a time of massive personal crisis and subsequent growth, my work began to emerge dramatically from its formal reality, and its concern with observation and architectural space.”..."Thus, the central concept of the current work is a recording, narrating and mythifying of autobiographical events and issues of personal significance. Through intensely worked charcoal drawings, sometimes using paint and oil crayon on paper, the intention of the work is to convey emotional and sometimes metaphysical connection, as well as absurd hypothetical situations. Humans and animals have interchangeable roles, and are devoid of accepted markers.”
Your Hair Veils My Eyes
Even her portraits have gained a depth of feeling and intensity, with their palimpsest quality of thickly worked up lines left un-erased, showing the physical labour invested in her work.


Cold Bride

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