Friday 20 April 2018

What Lies Beneath: Three Lamb Chops by Comhghall Casey

Three Lamb Chops by Comhghall Casey - courtesy Solomon Fine Art

Three Lamb Chops by Comhghall Casey.
Three Lamb Chops by Comhghall Casey.

Niall MacMonagle

Earlier in his career, Donegal-born Comhghall Casey painted windswept golden sand dunes on the Mullet Peninsula or a stretch of sand and restless sea at Ros Beg. But new work, featuring a toy truck, a jug, three onions, nine apples, a toy sailboat, and a leg of lamb contains an extraordinary solid, shimmering stillness.

Objects are painted on a 1:1 scale. "I don't use photographs - there's so much more tonal variety and colour in the real thing" and he hopes, "the paintings amplify and extend the presence of the object". The toy boat was painted in nine sections over nine days - there's a fascinating photographic record - and Casey spent six months on Red Bicycle [a present on his 14th birthday] which won him a Hennessy Craig Scholarship. "The Land Rover was painted left side first day, right side second day; then what was there was unified and balanced over the following weeks."

Though his wife is vegetarian, Casey eats and paints meat. "Meat is lumpy, you can change the shapes you see to the shapes you want. The way the paint lays off the brush on to the canvas feels like flesh. Meat changes rapidly as it begins to decay and painting meat feels visceral." Aware that cuts of meats are cuts of animals, "if you butchered a human I reckon you'd get much the same shapes and colours. Half of me sees the horror in the dismembered body, the other half of me wants to cook and eat it, though by the time the painting is finished the meat tends to be a bit too ripe for that".

He's made almost a thousand paintings, on linen canvas, mainly. "I paint on an easel, sit on a simple height-adjustable swivel chair on castors; paints, brushes on a trolley on castors - everything is mobile to get the best light/angle," says Casey, who is 40 this year. A Retrospective at the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh includes Three Lamb Chops, and his hugely successful recent work is on show at Solomon Fine Art - both until May 28.

A Dublin couple owns Three Lamb Chops: "What's for dinner?" "Not sure. I thought you were looking after it." "But you said you'd pick something up on your way home?" "And I didn't. Sorry about that." But they'll always have their lamb chops. You could make a meal of it.

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