Entertainment Theatre & Arts

Saturday 20 October 2018

What Lies Beneath: Brother Tao by Paul Hallahan

Brother Tao by Paul Hallahan, Watercolour on Fabriano paper, Courtesy of the artist

Brother Tao by Paul Hallahan
Brother Tao by Paul Hallahan

Niall MacMonagle

Though always drawing with excellent eye-hand co-ordination, "anything but" was Paul Hallahan's insurance broker dad's response to his son's career choice of artist.

Naas-born Hallahan instead,studied geodetic surveying and map making, switched to animation and film studies and, after graduating in 2009, was given the use of a former chocolate factory and tax office by Waterford City Council, which he gutted, turned into a white box and for three years ran a non-commercial gallery all the while trying to make time for his own art.

Then he worked at IMMA and later was assistant to Martin Creed, Turner Prize winner for Work No. 227: The lights going on and off.

Working for a superstar artist, Hallahan learned the facts that "art involves hard work - that it's a small business. There's pressure with success, with staff, rents".

There followed a year and a half doing "tech, website stuff" until right now were he's where he wants to be: on his own, in his Temple Bar studio, every day, making art.

Be it large canvas, paper, sculpture, Hallahan has no interest in painting people, "there's enough of that in the world".

He gets Jane Austen's joke - "what are men to rocks and mountains?" More interested in "non-images and super-quiet work", he admires William McKeon and Agnes Martin, loves the quiet of Ardmore beach but plays music very loud in his studio, LA hip hop, Mozart, Terry Riley soundscapes.

"It loosens me up and allows me to run with things."

Last year Hallahan exhibited 900 watercolours on hot-pressed Fabriano paper, in three columns of 300. Piled high, the images on top were rotated every day and Hallahan computed that there were 27m permutations. That work he called Aimlessly Pretty and doesn't apologise for art that is pretty, nice, beautiful.

In this diptych, Brother Tao, Francis Bacon meets Paul Henry. Look carefully. The work on the left has those Bacon characteristics; curtain, floor, rug. On the right, Paul Henry's; sky, mountain, foreground.

"Henry didn't care about the human, the cottages are there to sell the painting." Tao, means path.

Hallahan has found Bacon and Henry, unlikely bedfellows, have become brothers in art.

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