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Kennys since 1940

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Exhibition of Watercolour Paintings
by James Flack
April 4th - April 24th 2003

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Artist's Statement

Opening Speech by Christine O'Neill

Ladies and Gentlemen, friends, artists, it gives me great pleasure to be here this evening to open this exhibition of 40 watercolours entitled "Byways" by James Flack.

I have known Jim for some 20 years as a tutor and friend. He first came to tutor at the Burren Painting Centre in 1983 being highly recommended by Phyllis Ind Pennyfeather as "a really good teacher". Indeed he turned out to be a generous and attentive tutor. From the outset his dedication to art was very apparent and his determination to open up the pathway to the joys of painting for those uninitiated in the difficult medium of watercolour was very clear.

What is so special about this man, this artist and his work? The words commitment and enthusiasm come to mind. You have only to look at the impressive list of his numerous one-man shows to see the dedication to his craft. It is not easy to make a successful career in the visual arts. I know he will want me to mention his helpmate and wife, Marilynn Flack. I first had the pleasure of meeting her and getting to know her, when she traveled to Russia with me on an Art and Culture trip in 1991. Her resolve and encouragement has enabled Jim to overcome days of self-doubt. They share the workload of a tough annual schedule that they set for themselves. Their symbiotic relationship has nurtured Jim's talent.

From my own viewpoint I have looked upon Jim as a tutor - but his qualities that make him a good teacher also shine through in his paintings - his diligent, sympathetic approach to instruction - are reflected in his careful detail and soft misty horizons. He uses watercolour to great effect, capturing the familiar and loved vignettes of the Irish landscape. His special interest in Natural History can be seen throughout his work. His paintings are an intimate sharing of what he sees and feels when viewing the landscape. His special interpretation.

His painting has matured over the years. Starting out as a schoolboy enthusiast in Armagh, his election to the Watercolour Society of Ireland in 1972 was a further stepping stone to his acceptance in the Art world. Now a member of various Art Societies, a recipient of prestigious awards and with his paintings in collections worldwide, James Flack is acknowledged as a leading watercolourist on this island.

There is tremendous originality and variety shown by each piece of work in this exhibition. Jim's paintings are famous for their dramatic skies. Here you can see examples of the skies reflecting the underlying landscape, comprising beautiful washes, a subtle blend of colour laid on with a masterful wet into wet technique. He also captures the time of day with reflections of coloured light as in "Morning Light Lough Corrib". He manages to keep the difficult medium of watercolour looking fresh, with an unspoilt transparency.

His interpretation of the varied subject matter keeps your eyes constantly searching and your mind alert. His choice of "Wayside Daisies" and "Garden Path in Winter" explore a composition with no skyline but show a foreground painted with great attention to detail. The different sizes and shapes of the pieces of work also provide the opportunity for him to explore new compositions. Another key signature to his paintings is his ability to depict trees. Each type of tree forms a specific outline with a structure that makes botanical sense and yet much of the work is suggested rather than particular as in "Wandering Through the Gorse" and "The Gold on the Whinbush". The spirit of that particular landscape can be interpreted at a glance.

Jim has a confident style when dealing with water and reflections. His dry brushwork on untouched white paper gives a sparkle to his waterscapes as in "At the Break of Day, Lough Corrib" and "Light on Calm Water". Finally I must mention his handling of dry stonewalls. He's had many years of practice confronting the miles of walls in North Clare and the Burren on his many visits. He shows a masterly touch in that he can visualise the total finished look, sort out what he sees and put his interpretation onto the paper, as in "Mountain Wall".

Each creative artist interprets the out of body stimuli in their own unique way. May I ask you to close your eyes for a moment - rest your eyes - these words by Seamus Heaney were his reaction to the Burren landscape:

"And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the lights are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By earthed lightening of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open."

Thank You. I now declare the exhibition "Byways" to be officially open. Enjoy!

Christine O'Neill - 4th April 2003.

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