Tuesday 20 February 2018

What lies beneath: the longest journey IV

The longest journey IV by Oliver Comerford, oil on panel, courtesy of Kevin Kavanagh Gallery

The longest journey IV by Oliver Comerford
The longest journey IV by Oliver Comerford

Niall MacMonagle

You're in a comfortable seat. Before you, a wide screen shows constantly-changing, fast-flowing images. There's a soundtrack in surround sound. But you're not at home before a widescreen TV, you're not at the movies, you're in your car, you're on the road. You're going places.

"The car becomes the camera." For Oliver Comerford "real places, real experiences" inform his paintings but "I don't locate them. There's no particular destination, no particular starting point. The concept of journey is a cliché and I avoid that." His new show is "a series of encounters, punctuation points." Dawn or dusk, those in-between times of day interest Comerford and preferring the wide expanse, like film maker Terrence Malick whom he admires, he doesn't use close-ups. Comerford knows that "it takes only moments for an individual brush stroke but it takes years, years of reading, music, conversations to make a painting." The moody German romantic Caspar David Friedrich is another influence especially his handling of "light, drama, chiaroscuro" and Comerford's time spent in the US, Iceland, Scandinavia. He's driven in Ireland too but it's never a Sunday spin. A car allows Comerford to "go to the edge. As soon as the light goes out I go out". He once found himself on sinking wheels in boggy Connemara where Alcock and Brown landed in June 1919. A snowy motorway with blinding headlights, the road into Wicklow with a looming Sugar Loaf, a river in flood, a city - looks like Dublin - viewed from a hard shoulder high above all feature in Comerford's show the longest road. This painting - IV - is of no particular city; it is every city: glimmering and unexpectedly beautiful with its minty green neon and pinkish yellow street lights and surrounding darkness beneath a huge blue darkening night sky. The reflected lights, the speed, the movement invite reflection. Then there comes a moment when, with a final brushstroke, I "turn the paintings on". Before they leave the studio, "this mark making is something from the gut." Then they're ready. "Most of painting is about watching." Watch this man. Watch his work.

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