Múscraí artist leaves farm and works to community

'Complex Simplicity' exhibition opens in Baile Mhúirne to raise funds to protect legacy


Múscraí art lovers will have a unique opportunity from this weekend to own a work by a local self taught artist whose reputation has continued to grow after his passing last year.

And if they do invest in one of the 16 works to go on display at 'Complex Simplicity' at the Ionad Cultúrtha in Baile Mhúirne from Saturday, they will know that the proceeds will go towards protecting the farm and artworks Tadhg McSweeney bequeathed to his home community in Cill na Martra.

Curator and art historian Camille Lynch, a friend of the McSweeney family, was tasked with selecting a representative range of the artist's works from several hundred which he left behind to put on display in the forthcoming exhibition.

"Tadhg was a quite, reserved character who didn't promote himself too much but people in the art world knew him and his work," said Camille.

"There was an awful lot more to his work than meets the eye," she added.

Of the sixteen works to go on display this weekend, a number of them will be selling at €2,000 while smaller original works will be available at €1500. Framed prints are for sale at €350 while the unframed prints can be purchased for €250.

The decision by the artist to leave his farm and artworks to the local community took locals by surprise and they were naturally delighted.

"It was an extraordinary thing for him to do," said Gearóid Ó hÉalaithe, one of a committee of trustees appointed to look after the estate and principal of the local national school, Scoil Lactaín Naofa.

"Now our priority is to make sure more people see the art of Tadhg McSweeney and to raise funds to look after his house and property until we decide what to do next."

Born in 1936, Tadhg spent a year in the National College of Art and Design in 1959/60 but was mostly self taught.

At first glance his work appears simple featuring flowers and animals and rural scenes but on deeper examination they reveal hidden complexities.

"Tadhg was fascinated by the theory of fractals, which are ever recurring geometric designs, of the Austrian Mandelbrot," said Camille.

Around ten years ago, shortly after Mandelbrot's death, he produced a series of paintings of apple trees which were heavily influenced by this theory.

"I have included a number of these paintings in the exhibition so people can get a better understanding of the depth and scope of his work," said Camille.

In Tadhg's own words: "Painting is saying something you can't say any other way.

Saturday evening's exhibition, which gets underway at 7pm, will be opened by Vivienne Dick, a friend of Tadhg's and a globally recognised artist and film-maker in her own right.

Shortly before his death in August last year Tadhg was recognised as one of the 'heroes' of Féile na Laoch/Festival of Heroes, a festival which is organised every seven years in nearby Cúil Aodha and a brainchild of Peadar Ó Riada. Tadhg was awarded his medal by Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins.