EMBLEMS OF A LIFELONG OBSESSION
Former art rocker Guggi will forever be associated with The Virgin Prunes and the particular late-1970s musical moment from which they emerged, but creatively, he has always been more focused on the art than the rock
back (they have five sons). He is non-committal about the connection but doesn’t rule it out. On balance, given our historical moment, it seems likely that he has in mind a more general sense of broken.
Words and numbers have recurrently played an important role in the paintings: numbers at one point when he noticed how people used to make a note of phone numbers anywhere handy. One series of works incorporates fragments of text from War and Peace, not so much for the meaning, more for the language. Another used just individual letters from the Cyrillic alphabet which, he felt, “has tremendous visual power”. The Russian emphasis might relate to the fact that his father had a particular, religiously inspired suspicion of the USSR. So Russian was inherently rebellious, and his enthusiasm for Cyrillic perhaps ties in with his penchant for devising languages of his own.
The Kerlin show includes examples of a development that emerged in his work in the past 10 years or so: bronze bowls, three-dimensional versions of the vessels ubiquitous in the paintings. The essential idea for the bowls is that “the exteriors have this dead, charcoal black patina, a surface that eats up all the light, while the inside is burnished and polished to a degree of impossible perfection.” That’s a good description and as sculptural pieces they are extremely effective.
They are made by CAST foundry in Dublin. As Guggi recalls, John Rocha commissioned the first bronze bowl, then Paddy McKillen happened to see it, really liked it and commissioned one, on a monumental scale, for the sculpture park at Chateau La Coste in Provence (Guggi has also shown some of the Broken series there).
Guggi may not analyse his paintings, but he is self-critical and takes nothing for granted. As he shows a piece of work, he’s clearly just a little nervous, and watchful, ready to pick up the slightest flicker of a response. There are, he notes, people who never doubt themselves: “It must be strange. I mean, I’m not saying it’s bad. I wish I had more of it, but it is strange.”
The age of 60 finds him keen to follow up on everything. He hasn’t always done so, he notes, ruefully. “I know I’ve allowed opportunities to pass.” He remarks on how an artist needs a business manager, and more often than not the manager is also the artist, which is difficult. Besides, he notes, the art world is known for people “who talk the talk. It’s the same as music or film in that way. You have to remind yourself that nothing happens till it happens”.
He seems happily positioned in that regard at the moment. Besides the Kerlin, he has shows with the Yoshii Gallery in New York, and in Tokyo with Kazuhito Yoshii’s brother, who has a gallery there. And there are other projects in store. “Hardly anyone is allowed the luxury of just painting, which of course is what you want to do. But, you know, the last train is about to leave the station, and I’m not going to miss it.”
Broken is at the Kerlin Gallery, Anne’s Lane, South Anne St, Dublin Until January 17th, kerlingallery.com
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND THE KERLIN GALLERY