‘A Pair of Larger Green History Paintings’
Over the space of a year, I interrogated a selection of historical sources to inform the evolution of a series of paintings that represent a changing landscape in an attempt to better understand how it came to be. These pieces explore the subject of time and the effects human endeavour has had on the fabric of the landscape we inhabit. I would like to propose an exhibition that centres on the two resulting large-scale history paintings [both 6’ x 4’], accompanied by a series of smaller mixed media pieces that were produced as a byproduct of the process and tie in with the overall theme.
During the course of the project I used a selection of found historical sources to develop two large-scale history paintings of the areas around Wexford Harbour on the south-easternmost corner of Ireland and the Norman town of NewRoss on the river Barrow. For a large part these paintings were concerned with the arrival into south Wexford of the Normans and the major changes their arrival had on the architecture and infrastructure of the area, but the scope of the project was not confined to any one specific period in time. The earliest stages of the ‘Wexford Harbour’ painting were concerned with the setting out from the original text of a 2nd century Ptolemy Map of Ireland, the UK, and greater Gaul [as this was the earliest mention I could find of Wexford town] where in the years c120AD Ptolemy placed in Wexford Harbour, the mouth of the Modonnus river and the city of ‘Menapia’ the long lost home of the Irish branch of the Menapii tribe of the lower Rhine. By starting in prehistory and bringing the paintings forward through time I hoped to reveal something of the mishmash of culture that went into creating the contemporary landscape as we experience it today.
When I embarked on this project it was with the express intent of ignoring all aesthetic considerations as they pertain to the finished works of Art [in so far as this can ever be possible] and my reasoning was thus: I wanted to put a greater emphasis on the journey that I was to go through in the process of finding some truth in the images as they developed (as if by magic) on the canvas before me… Each distinct layer of painting was to be informed by the reading of what historical sources I could find on the subject area, where the ideas for the mark-making grew organically from not just the raw data, but more importantly from the time spent standing in front of the canvas in contemplation of the various things that I had learned. Each layer of the painting looked to describe a different epoch in time and was designed to superimpose and work against the preceding layers in a way akin to the natural process of development as it would have occurred on the ground over centuries. Both feature paintings are concerned with this onward progression of time and the impact man has had on the world around us, the point being that over long periods of time, all that was thought of as new and different, would in the course of a few generations, come to be taken for granted as being part of the natural environment.
My proposal aims to create an exhibition of contemporary landscape paintings that go some way toward describing an environment that is constantly in flux; The two larger paintings will be supported by a series of supplementary mixed media pieces denoting specific points of interest from various stages of the project, and provide an insight into the process of their creation. I hope the resulting exhibition will be seen both as a display of interesting oil paintings in their own right, but also as an enduring document pertaining to the history of the subject area.