Thursday 27 April 2017

What Lies Beneath: Summer, Still by Therese McAllister

Summer, Still by Therese McAllister Oil on canvas, courtesyThe Open Window Gallery

Summer, Still by Therese McAllister
Summer, Still by Therese McAllister

Niall MacMonagle

Light and colour are for Therese McAllister her whole life. Last summer while living in County Mayo, she chose two little potted flowering plants, a bunch of carnations, a grapefruit, mandarin and apple in a supermarket in Swinford; and they became, over three days, in a little one-window studio facing north, this perfect little still life.

There's nothing 21st-century about the work. It looks to, and belongs to the finest classical tradition. She has painted large works but Summer, Still is "more a little detail, a side show to a bigger work".

Top left, the while flower complements the carnation bottom right; the pink flowers - "I don't know what they're called" - are edged with light; the pieces of fruit are ripe and reachable, touchable.

Born in Dublin, McAllister's mother, a tailor and fashion illustrator, taught her drawing. After school she worked in layout and illustration for Woman's Way and for the funkier music magazine Spotlight. She created window displays. Evening classes at NCAD, then in Kildare St, led to her giving up the day job. She enrolled full-time but it was a time of student protests. Classes were unpredictable and through the Italian Cultural Institute she headed to Italy, where, encouraged by Pietro Annigoni, studied in Florence under Nerina Simi.

When she's not painting what does she do? "Paint!" And never under artificial light. "My work needs the softness of daylight". And while working she likes to have "the noise of the radio - music, talk shows, even Joe Duffy". But she does do research, has studied Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Rubens, her favourite, in detail. "It's all about technique: composition, line, texture."

McAllister spent time in London, France, has lived in Canada, Italy, has painted landscapes, portraits, still lifes but "it's all about the effect that colour has on my eye. Eye, brain, hand recreate what's before you".

Her favourite colour? Orange. She'd never work from a photograph.

"When my kids were small, kitchen vegetables were my subject. They've grown up. I now do my own thing." If this were hanging by the fruit and flower section in Tesco's in Swinford it would be their best ad imaginable.

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