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Exhibition of Paintings, Bronzes and Ceramics
by Selma McCormack
June 1st - June 22nd 2001

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Opening Speech.

Note on Exhibition by Gerry Walker

Artists dislike labels. They invariably regard them as crude reductive devices best suited to the needs of art critics and commentators. At best they rarely articulate anything meaningful about creative impulses, at worst they merely describe attributes of a perceived style. The American artist Willem De Kooning disliked the term 'Abstract Expressionism' and took the view that it was disastrous both for him and his contemporaries to be described as such. Yet with the passage of time and the wisdom of hindsight the term has prevailed, and in fairness has offered useful starting points to access the essential concerns of this particular cultural phenomenon.

There are connections to be made here, and ultimately they centre on the business of classification and association. Selma McCormack's work invites comparison with such illustrious predecessors as Robert Motherwell, Clifford Still and Helen Frankenthaler.

The abstract expressionists can be viewed coherently as a group not for reasons of a common manifesto or shared core style values. Nor could their output be described as 'abstract' in the pure sense of the term. Their cohesion, if indeed there is such, was derived from their concerns with both subject matter and content.

This provides a useful context for looking at McCormack's work, particularly her painting. The works are consistently referential. The connections with landscape are fairly self-evident, and thus her subject matter is clearly established. It would however be a mistake to assume that formal considerations alone dominated these works. It is true that she explores formal relationships whole-heartedly, and revels in the juxtaposition of elements such as colour, texture, shape and line. What emerges from these engagements, in an abstract expressionist manner, is a series of forceful statements about structure and composition. Just as the American painters controlled and grounded their spontaneity in a strong underlying structure which acted as an enabling vehicle for their explorations of what critic Robert Hughes referred to as 'timeless themes,' so too does this artist approach and transcend her subject matter.

The content of this work is complex. It can be approached in a manner, which is comparable to its mode of initial gestation. This is reminiscent of the surrealist device of 'psychic automatism' - a means of accessing the unconscious mind, which is the key repository of this imagery. Whilst landscape and, in some cases, the figures contained therein may form the subject matter of this work, the content contains more primitive mythic resonance's which are the source of knowledge and feeling. This is also true of McCormack's sculptures, particularly those tending towards greater abstraction, which celebrate the seemingly accidental shape, the happy accident or the involuntary configuration. The spontaneous primary feeling is articulated and held in place by a strong yet unobtrusive concern for structure. The analogy with music is also fairly obvious.

The sources and tensions, which inform this body of work, are interesting. From an early age she has had a love for cinema and the theatre. Later, a sustained interest in photography emerged. Although she tends to work very spontaneously, McCormack's imagery is also control-filtered many times before achieving finality. Paintings are often reworked and in some cases cropped until the desired result is achieved.

And so it is apparent that her concern for methodical composition is hardly surprising. Cinema has its screen. The stage has its proscenium arch, and the camera has its viewfinder. We engage with these media and are unaware in most cases of these inherent distancing devices. Thus images, both two and three dimensional, are composed, considered and finally consciously selected for display to best effect in the mind of the artist, and we the viewers marvel at the sense of immediacy. Selma McCormack has revealed to us some of the better aspects of the art that conceals art, and we have been privileged to witness the creative actions of the dreaming mind.

Gerry Walker, NCAD, May 2001

Note on Exhibition by Tamara Pasztor

Artist Selma McCormack utilizes her eminent, articulate representational style as a conduit for delving into the formal relationships of colour, texture, shape, and line in order to confabulate upon the question of abstract expressionism. Then again, there is a hint of Romano-Celtic art.

A native to Galway, Ireland, Selma began to sculpt in the 1980's and has exhibited in the Oireachthas, R.H.A, Iontas, Claremorris, R.U.A., The Caldwell, Dublin (1991), Carroll Langford (1994), American Embassy (1996), and The Kenny Gallery, Galway (1995, 1998, and 2001).

Someplace In St.Anne's is an intonation of Post-Impressionism. In spite of the fact that McCormack's fluid brushwork omits quintessential detail, nevertheless the painting transmits an entirety of the scene through a pastel palette.

Horse and Rider conveys an inkling of the Romano-Celtic period. The artist's ceramic piece can be paralleled to the Study of a Male Deity and Tombstone of a Cavalryman. Upon examination, the facial features of both the rider (Horse and Rider) and the male Romano-Celtic celestial being are similar by the long, straight nose, high (almost Etruscan) bone structure, and bulbous eyes. Hypothetically speaking, the cavalry motif, prominent in Romano-Celtic funerary relief, for instance, Tombstone of a Cavalryman is palpable from the detached, nonchalant stance and the creation of their own space.

Tamara Pasztor, 2001

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