During my visit to Ireland last week, before travelling over to Portlaoise from Heuston station, I called into the Irish Museum of Modern Art to see the exhibition of works by Patrick Scott that had opened a few days earlier. To be honest, I knew very little about this Irish artist, but thought it would be worth having a look as I had an hour to spare.
Patrick Scott was born in Kilbrittain, County Cork, in 1921. Although he held his first exhibition in 1944, he trained and worked as an architect and later as a graphic designer with the Signa Design Consultancy, only becoming a full time artist in 1960 after he’d represented Ireland at the XXX Venice Biennale. Sadly, he died on 14 February, the day before the exhibition opened.
Located in the Garden Galleries, the smaller building in the corner of the grounds, the exhibition occupies 8 rooms with the works displayed chronologically, starting on the first floor and working downwards. It features works from the beginning of the artist’s career in the 1940’s through to the 1970’s. Later works are shown in the other part of the exhibition at the VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow.
As usual, photography wasn’t permitted, but the IMMA have a timeline on their website showing key events from Scott’s life and career and examples of the paintings shown in the exhibition and there’s a good selection of images, some of paintings featured in the exhibition, here.
Paintings from the 1940’s and 50’s were displayed in the rooms on the first floor. In the early part of his career he was associated with the White Stagg Group of artists and there was a selection of works from this period in the first room. My favourite was probably the simple work – Sea Fish (1942) – an almost child-like outline of a fish on a dark background . The paintings in the second room, such as A box of Pippins (1949) reminded me of the works of the St Ives’ artists and his namesake, William Scott.
A box of Pippins (1949)
There was a change in style in the next room. My favourite work here was Bog Sun (1959) but I also liked his Under the Pier (1959)
The next paintings, chronologically, were displayed in the basement – his abstract Bog and Device series. It was my favourite room.
The Bog series paintings were inspired by the bog lands and lakes of his native country. And to evoke the waterlogged landscape and the effects of light on the water he applied his paint to dampened, unprimed canvas where it dripped and ran producing distinctive effects.
The Device Series, were Scott’s most political pieces. Described by the curator Christina Kennedy as
“a series of paintings in which the artist registered his dismay at the testing of H-bombs by painting abstract ‘explosions’ of diffused and dripped colour to symbolise the terrifying beauty of such destruction. (Irish Examiner)
Purple Device (1963) Tempera on unprimed canvas Source here
Moving back up onto the ground floor there were a number of Scott’s gold paintings, which are amongst his best known works. They were not unlike some of Maria Schendel’s later works – simple geometric forms with minimal colours and with gold and silver leaf. Simple and some very beautiful indeed. And images available on the Internet really don’t do justice to them. They need to be seen “in the flesh”
I particularly liked the Pyre series of paintings.
Well, an hour wasn’t enough. I was bowled over by the fantastic works on display and would have liked to have spent longer taking a longer, more lingering look. But I had a train to catch. I almost bought a catalogue but at 20 euros hesitated as I’ve been accumulating several from exhibitions I’ve visited of late. But I’m beginning to regret not purchasing one. I think I’ll have to return to have another look as I expect to be back in Ireland before the exhibition finishes. And perhaps I’ll find some time to visit the other part of the exhibition in Carlow too.