Exhibition of Paintings
by Vicki Crowley
Jun 12th 1998
Opening Speech by John O'Donoghue
There's a strange kind of beautiful symmetry in an exhibition which derives all of its impulses and creativity from an existent garden, which in turn derives its structuring and minding and formal beauty from the mind and care of Lorna McMahon.
The garden is one of the most ancient themes in mythology and literature. Those of us who were born and reared on farms are not unacquainted with both the beauty and the struggle of gardening. If I were to describe my concept of hell if it could be non divided and completely agrarian, it would be endless planes of turnip, which had to be thinned and thinned. I remember as a child thinning turnips and saying to my father what an awful thing this was to have to do. That was the first time I heard the story which explained our toil the story of expulsion from a perfect garden. The notion of the beautiful origin, the garden of paradise, is at the heart of the idea of the golden age, the idea of the ideal, and the idea of perfection. A garden in some way focuses the spirit and the hidden mind of a landscape. A garden is a place where a landscape becomes intense with colour and beauty. Flowers are wonderful presences. They are presences which have an incredible spontaneity in them, and this is put beautifully by the poetic mystic Angelus Silesius. He talkes about the fact that that which is really mystical and has real presence is never burdened by purpose, or agenda, or the whole ideology of the while. He had a little short two-line poem about the rose, which seemed to me very apposite this evening given the lovely lyricism of all the flower presences that are here in this exhibition.
The rose is without while,
she blooms because she blooms,
she does not care for herself asks,
not if she is seen.
The flower has a perfect if very temporary kind of presence.
One of the achievements of Vicki's exhibition is that even though you are dealing with nature, you have all these presences which have an incredible personal signature and intimacy in them. It struck me, looking at these pictures, that the more that you attended to the individual paintings, that the deeper that you actually got into them. One of the excitements of the exhibition is the nuance and diversity of presence that there is within each piece. You can take any one on them and you can go in, and in, and in to their presence, like a bee or a butterfly.
On a June evening, which should be summery, but is kind of haunted by the chill of winter, it's great to see such spring and summer colours. Colour is one of the constants of perception, it is the outer dressing of objects and presence. One of my favourite lines from the good book is when Jesus was talking to the people, and telling them not to worry, and he said 'Consider the lilies of the field, they neither spin nor sew and yet Solomon in all his regalia was never arrayed like one of these'. That's the kind of magic of colour, which comes out of the dark anonymity of earth.
There have been some famous artists who revolutionised 20th century painting by their voyages into the possibility of colour. One of my favourites is Kankinsky. I have often visited his wonderful paintings in the Lanebach house in Munich, where you see colour doing incredible things and functioning as shape itself. In Vickiís paintings you have a sense of the presence of colour as a kind of essence in itself. They are beautiful pictures and are also a lovely transfiguration of transience. One of the things about a beautiful garden is even though it faithfully returns every year, no two years are the same and the flowers that are beautiful still remain ephemeral. So it's important that one period of this gardens arrival into visibility and presence, will be totally preserved in these paintings.
It's a tribute to Vicki, who has exhibited all over the world, has lived in many different continents, and whose work is in permanent collections in many places in the world. It's lovely when you have a mind of that capaciousness and sensitivity and incisiveness, and that you see what it brings when it attends to one single garden.
It's an invitation to us, regarding the possibilities that there are in attention and presence. I congratulate Lorna McMahon on a wonderful garden and also Harry who was a lovely gentleman and I am sure in the old unseen world that he is not unaware of the lovely creations that Vicki has done.
I congratulate Vicki and I'm delighted to declare this exhibition open. I hope that it brings lots of people great joy and great colour into their perception of presence.
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