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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - VISUAL ART -

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

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