Thursday 25 May 2017

What Lies Beneath: Ten Thousand Feet and Climbing

by Marian Buckley

Oil on canvas

Niall MacMonagle

Ninety billion is the number. Approximately. That's how many of us, since the beginning of human history, have lived and died. Ninety billion of us have watched the sun rise and set, have felt the wind blow, the rain fall, have seen those ever-changing clouds overhead.

But far fewer have been way up high. For centuries, we've watched the birds and dreamt of being among the clouds but humans have only been flying for a hundred years and only really got going in the past five decades.

A click on flightradar24.com will show you the number of planes in the air right now; multiply this by 200, say, and you'll have a good idea of how many people are sitting back, relaxed, enjoying their flight.

Or should that be struggling with plastic food in plastic containers? And to think people once dressed up to go on a plane!

Artist Marian Buckley loves all aspects of travelling: cars, motorways, airport lounges but especially those cloudscapes from her window seat. One recent work, Driving Rain, captures the road to Dublin airport in November-coloured weather. The cold, grey road, with its blurred traffic in driving rain, is viewed though an arc of luminous, pearl-like raindrops where the wipers couldn't reach. That road led to a flight to Edinburgh, a weekend away - and this painting, Ten Thousand Feet and Climbing, is the happy result. It brings us above and beyond a wet, dark winter.

Buckley is "obsessed with clouds"; she knows her troposphere and has looked at clouds from every side.

Up above, there's that pure, baby-blue sky and we look out on delicately, gloriously beautiful cloud formations. Cloud arrangements last for a fleeting moment, but Buckley "immersed in a moment in time" captures it forever on a huge canvas.

This painting, taller than I am, is, for Marian Buckley, the star of her new show Passenger - a series of paintings that features the sea at Brittas Bay, clouds as viewed from a window seat ("I always book a window seat") and, in a surprising new development, intriguing Chinese and Japanese landscape paintings.

Fluffy, cottony clouds abound in her new show, as does a tranquil sea, but using "sponge, brush, palette knife, tissue" and inspired by a lecture she attended at the Chester Beatty Library, Buckley has now come down to earth. She is also showing strikingly different and contrasting work to sea and sky.

"I feel I'm heading in a totally new and exciting direction." Using rich autumnal reds and browns and midnight blue, Buckley has produced intricate, richly-layered paintings of hillsides, acer trees, patterned leaves, animals, figures. No sky in sight.

Having learned "more since leaving art college than during my time there", Buckley considers herself self-taught, and the internet has been an inspiring and invaluable resource.

For her, technical ability is crucial and she has certainly, expertly, caught every kind of cloud.

Here, in Ten Thousand Feet and Climbing she's up and away.

Her mastery of glazing is evident. Thin transparent or semi-transparent layers change the chroma, hue and texture of the work and capture the light, creating an over-all dazzling translucency, cloud harmony, a poetry in slow motion: stratocumulus, nimbostratus, altocumulus, altostratus... We are flying.

Passenger, new work by Marian Buckley, The Athena Room, 8 Dawson Street, Dublin 2, until April 12

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