Tuesday 22 October 2019

What lies beneath: Due West by Pete Monaghan

Due West by Pete Monaghan

Acrylic on wood panel

Courtesy the artist and The Doorway Gallery

Due West by Pete Monaghan
Due West by Pete Monaghan

Niall MacMonagle

'Imperfection attracts me," says Pete Monaghan. He also prefers "the weed rather than the flower, the ruin, the modest, the unnoticed, rather than the grand or the noble". He'd prefer "a factory or even a burger van to a palace".

Born in Stroud in the UK, the young Monaghan, one of eight children, visited his father's birthplace of Kells often and at age seven spent "an influential year in the Meath Gaeltacht". And he never felt foreign in England.

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"In Catholic schools half of the children were of Irish heritage. It was only when I realised that we had no lessons in school about Irish history that I began asking questions about who I was and where I belonged."

Growing up, Monaghan "often sought solitude". Not a loner as such, just shy.

Drawing was "a source of solace in a house with many siblings. In my early years I despised paint. It just wouldn't do what I wanted". Preferring "dry mediums, pencil mainly", he studied mechanical engineering.

A reluctant artist, he was "in denial for a long time" but doing an MA at Aberystwyth was encouraged "to incorporate the technical illustration skills and saw how important they were in developing my own style. I was a bit of a control freak and probably needed to go through the rigours of technical work before allowing myself the freedom to let paint flow".

He still lives in Aberystwyth: "I once drew a straight line on a map from Stroud to Kells - and the line passes directly through Aberystwyth."

Rural filling stations, barns, outbuildings, sheds are his subject matter. He's interested in "vernacular architecture and the dying of humble buildings".

Sketching outdoors, "feeling the elements, the sounds, smells, as well as the sights, all feed into the work in some way". A limited palette, "usually sienna, umber with blues but the occasional foray into something more daring such as fluorescent green" are his signature, green-gold, his favourite colour.

This large work, Due West, is based on a place in Wales called Ynyslas (Blue Island in Welsh). Monaghan believes his best works are "the ones where the viewer has to work slightly to 'see' the image. There will be a slightly jolted or discombobulated image that the eye has to work at to solve".

Artist and now viewer look out over boggy marshland at distant houses and sea beyond. "You are looking due west, straight at the Irish Sea across the water to Ireland."

'Passed Places', new work by Pete Monaghan at The Doorway Gallery until September 26.

Sunday Independent

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