Thursday 18 July 2019

What lies beneath: Cosmos

Cosmos by Conrad Frankel, oil on linen, courtesy Oliver Cornet Gallery

Cosmos by Conrad Frankel, oil on linen
Cosmos by Conrad Frankel, oil on linen

Niall MacMonagle

We all need the beautiful as well as the basics. Big Jim Larkin knew this. His great catch-cry was bread and roses: bread for the belly, roses for that emotional, imaginative glow.

Artist Conrad Frankel also values the ordinary and the special in this painting of a solid brick from an old glasshouse and a glass of delicate, fragile cosmos flowers against broad bands of muted colour.

Though Frankel's work is varied and includes portraits, landscapes, photo-realist Victorian daguerreotypes, chairs, lovers' eyes, his paintings are quiet and still. Working "from 3D to 2D" recent images feature a tea caddy, a goldfish bowl, a teapot, Italian landscapes, a glass bowl. The two landscapes in the new show are of Via Flaminia, north of Rome. Frankel had gone to Civita Castellana to study, sneezed while getting out of the shower, slipped a disc and spent six weeks looking at the ceiling.

But the Flaminia paintings he did manage to make are timeless and classical. Using palette knife not brush the effect is soft, gentle, beautifully atmospheric. He loves using lead white, though now banned, not the inferior titanium white. He loves mixing colours and quotes an Italian teacher, briefly encountered: "the more unnameable the colour is, the better".

Drawing since childhood, Frankel deliberately avoided art college, studied Theology at Trinity, did a Masters at City and Guilds in London on art theory rather than practice and restored a Victorian townhouse but "because everyone in London is looking at a phone" he upped, left and now lives in Doneraile where he paints, farms, accommodates woofers, doesn't use a smart phone and attends the Buddhist Temple in Mitchelstown which happens to be the house where William Trevor was born.

In his northern light-filled studio he works to the sounds of Lou Reed and Brian Eno's Ambient Music for Airports. Morandi and Rothko are influences.

Mind Objects, Frankel's new show, is a Buddhist term. View his "joyous response to objects in light" and discover that "we are more than we think".

Mind Objects, new paintings by Conrad Frankel at the Olivier Cornet Gallery, 3 Great Denmark Street, Dublin 1, until November 8.

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