On Not Pinning the Jellyfish To The Wall
Julie Aldrich, artist and art therapist, in conversation with the artist
Julie: I don’t know what to say. The universe’s intention is to get us so that we can’t say anything anymore. These are your ‘Songs of Silence’, they have achieved their object, and they have already had their effect. They are quite meditative.
Tim: Then I think it might be better to start with ‘The Floating World’.
Julie: I do too. ‘Floating World’ feels very much about organic life. It feels nearer to our evolution. It feels nearer to now. In fact it feels very present when you look at them; they are quite embracing. You know that I have this experience when I look at them that they pulse. That’s very curious and very engaging to the viewer because of that kind of breathing experience that I have when I look at the colours, but I know from the people that have seen them that they evoke so many different responses and reactions that I don’t really want to pin this jellyfish to the wall.
They do seem to have this sense of microcosm/ macrocosm, this paradoxical feeling. They feel very familiar and yet so surreal. It’s a strange mixture of the unknown and familiarity almost at a cellular level. So that sense of them being on a cellular level, basic level seems to me that they have some kind affinity with the ideas of quantum physics, the dynamics of organic life, the real underpinnings of existence in some ways, That is what they evoke for me. The thing about quantum physics is this uncertainty aspect where you don’t know whether you are looking at a wave or a particle. And so there is something of that experience when I look at them. I don’t know if I am looking at something which is breathing in or breathing out, or whether it is small or very large, or whether I’m very small because it’s very large or whether it’s very small and I’m very large. There is this wonderful ambiguity and paradoxical aspect to these and they actually feel very gentle presences.
Although they are very engaging, they are not graphic. In a way they command attention but they don’t demand attention. They only command attention if you are willing to give them that time. Because they have gentle colours they could be bypassed if you didn’t have the wish to engage and attend to them. I like that subtlety.
Tim: Someone suggested they are quite feminine.
Julie: I feel they are very feminine. I find them more accessible initially than the ‘Songs of Silence’. Also they are more accessible because they feel nearer to me in evolutionary terms. There is something about the colour, the softness and the breathing, pulsing, very lifelike energy, that they have that feels very akin to the feminine sensibility. This isn’t to suggest anything more than that. When I say feminine I don’t really mean a gender thing I mean more to do with a quality of experience. They feel more yin.
The aspect of light is another thing that comes across. The sense of energy through their lightness is very compelling. Then again they go beyond the bounds of the edge of the canvas because of this expansion and contraction; they go beyond the manifest boundary almost into your own aura. That makes the viewer feel boundless. Then there is an expansion experience that happens which feels almost as if one can breathe out into the cosmos. There is something cosmic, that sounds too sixties, but there is something cosmic about this experience where you feel your own edges no longer have the same boundary. That’s very liberating if you like that experience, which I do.
I’m sure people will have all kinds of associations with them. The one I am looking at now almost looks like a retina. There’s something about the organ of the eye, to do with the sense of light and delicacy they have that makes me think of the eyes, our eyes. It’s like seeing and being seen.
These others are richer, the actual pattern of the jellyfish is more present, they are stronger in a design way and ‘Floating World’ does describe them very well. These ones are asymmetrical and seem to be moving in a particular direction. Mostly they appear to be floating to the right. The stronger design ones seem to be moving to the right. They look like they are enjoying themselves whatever they are doing. They look like they are having a really nice time! (Laughter) That seems to amuse you?
Tim: Well, the artist was having a really nice time.
Julie: That’s good to know. Something of that enjoyment and pleasure comes through.
Tim: I suppose the basic premise of this show was to attempt to create a very light experience where a fading of personhood and separateness, which is inculcated in us from a very early age, could give way to the fact that we are part of the one thing. Not us going through life, but life going through us.
Julie: It feels like you go behind personal evolution to something cellular.
Tim: The background.
Julie: The background, the unmanifest. So they come out of the unmanifest which is why they are so liberating; they don’t have the trappings of desire, personality. They are manifesting but they feel as if they have only just emerged from the unmanifest.
Tim: There was a painting that inspired me many years ago by Morris Graves, whom I met once here in Ireland, called ‘Consciousness achieving the form of a Crane’. It was a bird appearing out of the nothing, the void.
Julie: This sense in Quantum Physics, as far as I understand it, is the line of least resistance. The evolution in nature is achieved through the most elegant line of least resistance of all the manifold possibilities, which is very much what humans tend not to do. When we become individual personalities we struggle and strain and push.
Tim: Resistance is pain
Julie: Yes, resistance is pain and pushing through is pain. It’s so much part of the human experience and yet we are part of nature and nature most elegantly evolves through the line of least resistance. And this is what we might learn from observing nature.
Tim: On the way over I was thinking of the separateness that we assign to ourselves, to what is in essence our concocted selves, whilst we are in fact inseparable.
Julie: Everybody is doing what they are. Yet if you weren’t a human with a sense of individual consciousness you couldn’t have produced these paintings either. So this is the paradox. The faster you try to divest yourselves of those identifications, the faster you do that, the more you come to something feeling actually quite essential and you could almost use that ‘E’ word. The Ego is here in that these forms do have a centre and they do have a sense of themselves. And in some ways because it’s such essential sense then it doesn’t have the same challenge and resistance of that term as we use it normally. So they do have order, there is something ordering their existence. But the existence of these things isn’t prescribed, its just being shown for how it is.
Shall we move on to the ‘Songs of Silence’?
I am less familiar with these paintings. The big one reminded me and my partner Jim of aboriginal songlines; the idea of music which isn’t making an outer noise but images which seem to have a rhythm and seem to have an inner sound , they have an inner expression which is evocative of an outer sensory experience, so that’s very very strange. To get music into non auditory form is pretty amazing and I know other people have tried to do that, for instance Mondrian and Paul Klee. In a way artists have played with that idea at certain times. These, again, do have an energy and some of them are more dissolved and some of them are more resolved in a way to the visual phenomena of the fissures in quartz. But the beauty of the transparency of those and the translucent qualities is as though the rock is being partly dissolved or the harshness of the rock.
Tim: It’s a slower breathing.
Julie: It is slower, yes. It’s very mineral; it’s still living but living at a slower pace. It’s not pulsing with the same rhythm but it’s more of a holding energy. So then when something does happen it’s more marked. This first one (‘Songs of Silence 1’) that looks like a flash of lightning reminds me of those phenomena we were telling you about this morning; the gamma ray bursts. All the time in the universe there are these gamma ray bursts which scientists only knew about since the sixties and still don’t understand how that energy is released and it’s as though when you have something like rock which is holding energy every so often something does move it’s very spectacular. ‘Songs of Silence 1’ feels like a gamma ray burst.
Some of the other images are quieter as though the rock is going about its own quiet business. Again, busy being itself. That’s something we can hopefully assimilate. Without the yang side without the minerals there would be no world for the creatures to float in. So they are the holding energy, the stilling energy, although they are not completely still. As paintings they are extremely interesting because to me they are slightly alien, they are very attractive. Again, some of them have a boundary they have a centre. This one (‘Songs of Silence 4 ’) has an actual horizon, a kind of meeting place within the frame. In a way these might be more attractive to people who need that sense ‘this is where the edge is’. They have a bit more definition that might be a source of comfort or pleasure as well. This green/pink one (‘Songs of Silence 3 ’) is the closest to the Floating World. It seems to be midway between the one and the other. I love it because it is diffuse. It’s so suggestive because it’s diffuse. I love the colour balance in it; the tension between the pink and the green. I’ve always been drawn to the tension between opposite colours and that one has that subtle tension which makes it move just very gently.
Tim: It’s very quiet.
Julie: It’s very quiet but it does have an inner rhythm and it’s transparent so you can partly see through and partly not. I like paintings that invite us to go in, but we can only go in so far because of course it’s an illusion anyway!
Tim: Of course. Paintings are only touches on canvas as music is sounds on the air and writing marks on paper.
Julie: So where does that leave us? We don’t want to be in the literalist tradition, we don’t want to pin the jellyfish to the wall.
FIRST EDITION / IRELAND’S OWN. ~ Tim Goulding 2004
Tim Goulding is a painter and musician (Dr Strangely Strange) living in West Cork for the last 40 years. First solo show in Dublin for 12 years is at The Taylor Galleries, Kildare Street, Dublin on September 4th. Visit www.timgoulding.com. He was asked to make a list of his 12 ‘firsts’.
First Day at School: Sent by mail boat, ‘The Queen Maud’, to an alien land with a wooden tuck box full of sweets to meet fellow spindly youths in grey flannel short- trousered suits who were equally scared shitless.
First Best Friend: A very neurotic youth who was prone to ‘fits’ and with whom I planned archaeological investigations into a parallel universe which was dominated by espionage. It turned out he lived in a stately home with a mother who wrapped herself in cold wet sheets when ill (regularly) and a Canelletto hanging in the breakfast room.
First Bicycle: I seem to have been born on a bike and spent my first dozen years atop or beneath one.
First Party: Hideous mind-numbing embarrassment in a big draughty house playing party games which were all won by the hostess’s daughter.
First Pet: A massive droopy eyed St Bernard called Monty, followed by a succession of boxers who slobbered and farted their way through life.
First Hobby: At a very early age I had a box of fabric remnants and buttons etc with which I planned to make clothes. These were thrown in the fire as punishment for insubordination or was it that the management was fearful of a possible sexual orientation.
First Holiday: Camping in a cowshed near Renvyle, Connemara. The smell of turf, the primordial windswept terrain and the ambrosial breezes from the Atlantic laid the foundation for a life in the country.
First Sibling (baby sister or brother, if applicable): My poor brother Ham who was innocently led into all sorts of mischief by his experimental brother. He went on to a truly experimental activity flying a vast assortment of aeroplanes in many parts of the world with a combination of expertise and panache.
First Date: This depends on the definition; first grope was in a broom cupboard with a horsey girl and first evening out was with a silent one with whom the mode of communication was finally agreed to be through the medium of Japanese poetry. First evening in was another story.
First Interview: I’ve never been for an interview in my life.
First Job: Working in The Central Remedial Clinic in Goatstown in the sheltered workshop.
First Concert (to attend): Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Symphony Orchestra with Maura Lympany playing Greig’s 1st Piano Concerto at the Albert Hall.
First Record or CD (to buy): ‘Long Tall Sally’ by Little Richard, “the man who put funk in rock and Roll”
First Car: The indomitable Mickey Minor.
First Flight: Dublin to Northolt in a DC3 Dakota. My brother spilt a whole cup of coffee on his lap and sparks flew out of the back of the engines.
First Home (after childhood home): A flat in central Stockholm. Across the courtyard was a brothel but I was the one in trouble with the janitor for holding séances.
First Child: Camille, the current Miss Trinity no less, whose wit, sang froid, joie de vivre and serene demeanour hide an old soul’s wisdom that still astonishes. Needless to say, she is the apple of my eye.
First Exhibition: First Solo exhibition was at The David Hendriks Gallery (note the spelling) on St Stephen’s Green. It was to have been at the Dawson Gallery but Leo Smith the proprietor baulked at homemade leaves on the floor, Indian music, incense and Lassi for the drinks. David Hendriks accepted all this and took the consequences; a girl fresh from the fountain in the park, bare feet and a couple in his bed upstairs. What the Hey! It was 1969.
First Sale (work of art!): In 1964 I sold a painting based on a Sam Beckett poem, Dieppe, in a group show at the Municipal Gallery, Mountjoy Square.
First Band: The psychedelic lounge band Dr Strangely Strange with whom I made four albums. Two were made at the end of the sixties, one in 1997 and our latest ‘Halcyon Days’ on Hux Records was released in 2007 but recorded in 1969/70 with three new tracks recorded here at my studio, Shotgun Studio, last year.
First Original Song: ‘Riding on the West Cork Hack’ which appears on ‘Kip of the Serenes’.
First Music Release: Was ‘Kip of the Serenes’ by Dr Strangely Strange on Island Records 1969.
First Award or prize: Winchester College art award.
First Radio Interview: Probably one of the John Peel sessions.
First TV Appearance: Either ‘Like Now’, with Status Quo! Or The Late Late Show.
First Honour: The Carroll Awards ‘Honourable Mention’, (otherwise known as the honourable kick up the arse) at the 1968 Irish Exhibition of Living Art.
First Magazine Cover (or feature): Several features come to mind from way back but the first cover picture was from the Cork Examiner Downtown Supplement 10th August 2000 showing myself with two members of my 7-piece band ‘The Cooks’. We were touring Ireland to promote my solo album ‘Midnight Fry’ available at www.timgoulding.com.
INTERVIEW WITH TIM GOULDING, 2009. 'The Artist and Place'.
How long have you lived in the Beara Peninsula?
TG: Since 1968-forty years. I came here from Wicklow, near Enniskerry. I came first to visit a friend who had bought a house here. I just took one look at the place and I fell in love with it. Plus I was looking to buy a house at the time. I came from a very wooded landscape in Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland. This is the complete opposite in some ways
What was it about the Beara Peninsula that attracted you?
TG: I love the wide open skies, the wide open space and the sea of course; rock and sea. The winter time is fantastic. Everyone loves the summer but I love the winter because of the light you get in the winter, the beams of light coming down onto the sea is just amazing, changing all the time.
Describe your life in Beara?
TG: For me, in 1968, this was like Ireland in the 1920’s almost. It seemed almost forty or fifty years behind where I grew up, on the east coast. There was no electricity or mains water where I lived to start with. It had a real close knit community here. There were no outside people at all. So I was really a stranger in a strange land.
What is so enduring about the place?
TG: For me, again it was the quietness. I started out in the Dublin art ghetto. I never went to art school but I was quite involved in the art scene. I’d go to all the openings and I knew a lot of the painters. My father was an art collector so I met a lot of artists at that time. I grew up in that sort of milieu. But I needed to step away from that to find my own position.
Is your work inspired by the Beara Peninsula?
TG: To start with, very directly. It changed my painting-coming here. I was more of an abstract painter when I came here. I started off in an abstract way. And then when I came here I started to teach myself how to paint by sitting outside. My studio was the outside for a long time and I tended to paint outside. I taught myself about colour and land and light. Slowly after that it evolved into other ways, slightly more subtle reactions to the landscape because after a while I got fed up. I called that knitting, doing those really detailed landscapes. It’s quite meditational and it’s a wonderful thing to do but I wanted to go a bit further and put a bit more emotion and more reaction in, rather than just description. I wanted to put some reaction to the description.
Could you see yourself painting anywhere else?
TG: Yes, I think so. I find more recently that I’m not painting really directly from the landscape but things that I might see in the landscape. Myself and my wife travelled around the world about four years ago and going to all these different cultures and places was incredibly inspiring and several of those places I could easily go and live in for a year or two.
Do you feel that you could be as productive or as imaginative anywhere else?
TG: I think so yes, because you always see something. There’s always something. Painting, for me, is usually triggered by some…usually by an accident. You are walking along a beach and you see a jellyfish for instance and that started out a whole series of paintings or when I was in Mexico, I was looking at the crumbling walls or buildings and I did a whole series of paintings based on crumbling walls.
Your Jellyfish series-is there anything in them that connects them to Beara?
TG: No, they’re not particularly Beara. I think for a very long time my work was very entwined with Beara, very much rooted with the particular landscape and light and these colours. I did a series based on finding beauty in ugliness or finding beauty in things that are not normally looked at, in use things and worn things. As a result of that I did some paintings of barbed wire which people don’t usually look at aesthetically. In fact, they usually think that its ugly or aggressive or it’s violent or something. But I started to do some paintings based on barbed wire, rusty barbed wire. You would be amazed at what you see if you keep your eyes open.
What is your main source of inspiration?
TG: It is fluid and it’s changing all the time. I couldn’t out it into one thing because a lot of artists tend to create a product or a style and stay with that for their whole lives whereas for me, painting is a moving thing. It is like your life which is moving. It is like say a poem that I wrote when I was eighteen would be acutely embarrassing now that I’m sixty three and I would hope that I wouldn’t write like that anymore. It’s a flowing thing. Life is a flowing thing and your reaction to life is a flowing thing-fluid, so it’s always changing. And that’s why my last show was called “Floating World”. But there’s always some things, because of my limitations as an artist, that remain the same-my sense of colour, texture and things like that.
You are also a musician. Does music inspire you to paint?
TG: I have been looking for a connection because I would love to find some. I did do one album that was based on two paintings by a friend of mine, two abstract paintings called “Big Red” and “Old Yellow”. Big red was a huge red abstract painting and I tried to put into some musical terms, and the same with the yellow one. I recorded bees because I thought it would create that ‘zinging’ effect. But I haven’t really managed to find a cross over point. I mean there have been a lot of artists that have done that. And I also find it very hard to move from the one to the other. I think I have to be either concentrating on music or on painting.
I love doing it. It’s almost like a play. Ultimately it starts with seeing and it ends with playing. Ideally I would like to be not there when the painting happens. As musicians- they often say when they are really playing well, the person isn’t there, that the music plays the person or the painting plays the person, or paints the person so to speak. So transparency I suppose would be the word. That’s what I aspire to. When things are going well I’m transparent so I’m a vehicle, I’m a funnel or a channel. I think it’s true. It sounds a bit strange but I think it happens in nearly everything; like a good tennis player-when they are really in the flow, they’re not thinking about their game, it’s just happening. And that’s how I see the whole of life now, more and more. It is something that’s happening and I think what causes problems in life is ownership or thinking it’s happening to me or it’s happening to that person. When all that ownership is gone, life happens like a miracle. It just happens and that is when I feel most free.
Do you feel that you can express yourself in both?
TG: Yes you can. That happens sort of naturally. I tend to hang out more with musicians than with painters. I tend to be more on the wavelength of musicians than I am with other painters. I tend to be more at ease. Although obviously having that said, I have a lot of really good friends who are painters.
What has fostered your love of the area?
TG: First of all it was the physical terrain, the flora and the fauna and the wildlife, the birds and the actual fabric of the place, the terrain and it’s changing coat through the seasons; and colour because colour for me is almost like a physical thing. Sometime I feel a physical need for colour. Someone said 'colour is the mother tongue of the unconscious', which was a great quote I think. So sometimes you actually feel the need for blue or red or green or whatever. This place offers a wonderful palette. Outside of that I love the sense of humour of the people down here. It is absolutely hilarious. You could write books about this place. I think it has also retained a sense of community, which is dying a small bit from when I came here first. There was a very strong sense of community, which is probably less so now I think.
I am an outsider of course, in a way. I’m very much accepted I’m sure by local people. I’ve been living here longer than most of the local people because I’m older than most of them (laughs). But at the same time, I am from a different culture originally, the east coast and I was educated in England, which makes me an outsider in some sense anyway. That said, I love the sense of community here. I feel very at ease here, don’t get me wrong. But I’m still obviously a blow-in, in terms of culture. But I feel I fit in here, I have my place here.
How do you interpret the Beara Peninsula for your work?
TG: I’m not trying to make a statement about the Beara Peninsula. Mainly when I was painting the landscape directly I was describing it rather than interpreting it. They were very literal and hopefully very accurate. Then when I started to move away from absolutely depicting it I was using the colours and shapes in a more emotional sort of way. For instance, I did a whole series of night paintings. I painted some of these in Miami by remembering the Beara at night, walking along the road and the son and the moon glinting across the sea. And then I did a whole series of bog fire paintings, maybe two or three hundred of them, of when the bogs are burnt off at night. It’s really dramatic. I end to work in series like that. The person you are is always changing-very little remains apart from memories and experiences and all that.
What does the word ‘place’ mean to you?
TG: It used to mean an awful lot. I think for a very long time, up until quite recently, place was very important for my work. It was to do with identity. I think most people form their identity around their place. They say I’m an Irishman or I’m a Meath man or I’m a Cork man and they build up this identity and that becomes really important. In fact, people fight and kill each other over identity. And only very recently have I woken up to the fact that that’s a completely false idea-the idea of being identified with a place. So I don’t feel that anymore at all. And now it feels much nicer, I just love to be here. I love the place but I’m not basing my identity in the place; which takes the entire sting out of it. It means that hopefully, I could be anywhere, in theory anyway. So this is my Place-I love to live here but I don’t invest my identity in being here.
What connection do you see between place and art?
TG: Yes, I think a lot of artists have built their art around where they live. And that is very natural; because what is in front of you hopefully is going to come out of your pen or your flute or whatever way you express it. Some people have been so good at that. An example would be Hopper, the American painter. I went to a show of his in 1980 in New York. He painted in the thirties and the Forties-New York scenes and scenes up the coast like Cape Cod. But when I came out of that show and walked into New York, I felt like I was walking into a Hopper painting. That can happen, if there’s an artist living in a place like that.
And your paintings do the same?
TG: My earlier paintings yes. People did say to me when they came down here in the seventies that they thought they were driving into a Tim Goulding painting (laughs). So some artists reflect the place that they are in.
Your music has been described as being “drenched in atmospheres and a sense of place”. Is this sense of place also portrayed in your art?
TG: I suppose it is, because the triggers for my painting come from this landscape and often it is a trigger. Like you see a rusty barn or you see a jellyfish on the beach, or a stone or a piece of barbed wire and I like to think of them as triggers. I like to think of the thinks you see outside of yourself as the tune and then you come home to do an improvisation of the tune, which is the paintings or the artwork. Before, I used to just describe the tune and now I’m more interested in bringing it a step further, bringing it for a walk so to speak (laughs).
What place/places engage your imagination most intensely and most consistently?
TG: Well there is one or two places that I have based a whole show on and one of them is just down the road from my home here. Locally, we call it the Arches, natural arches. I did a whole series of paintings based on sea caves, based on those arches because it’s a very dramatic place. It’s a very beautiful and powerful place. And then I did another whole show based on a couple of wreathes growing out if a ditch just down the road.
What aspects of that place appeal to you and impress you most?
TG: It just has a very powerful vibration when you go down there with these enormous slabs of rock that the see has broken through over millions of years. It’s just got a sort of primordial feeling like the birth of creation. It is quite an empowering sort of place.
Do you feel that a sense of place or a sense of belonging is intrinsic to your work?
TG: Yes. As I said I did very much but not so much anymore.
Is your sense of place or your experiences with place portrayed in your art?
TG: I think very much so. Even the smell. Sometimes if I walk into someone’s house and see a painting that I did thirty years ago and I’d have completely forgotten. But when I see it, it brings me right back to that spot and that time and that place. It’s really funny-to go and see something that you did years ago.
What exactly are you trying to express when you are painting?
TG: I love doing it. It’s almost like a play. Ultimately it starts with seeing and it ends with playing. Ideally I would like to be not there when the painting happens. As musicians- they often say when they are really playing well, the person isn’t there, that the music plays the person or the painting plays the person, or paints the person so to speak. So transparency I suppose would be the word. That’s what I aspire to. When things are going well I’m transparent so I’m a vehicle, I’m a funnel or a channel. I think it’s true. It sounds a bit strange but I think it happens in nearly everything; like a good tennis player-when they are really in the flow, they’re not thinking about their game, it’s just happening. And that’s how I see the whole of life now, more and more. It is something that’s happening and I think what causes problems in life is ownership or thinking it’s happening to me or it’s happening to that person. When all that ownership is gone, life happens like a miracle. It just happens and that is when I feel most free.
Are there any specific aspects of your own place that you dislike?
TG: I don’t like seeing trees being cut down because there are so few of them. I don’t like seeing rubbish on the beach very much. Although sometimes I actually like the bits of rubbish and I take them home or photograph them but usually not. I don’t like seeing the environment disrespected.
I understand that you travel a lot. Do you feel that the Beara Peninsula offers you a stronger source of inspiration than other parts of the world?
TG: Probably not. But I must say, I have been living here for forty years and I have never run out of inspiration. There’s always something new, that’s the incredible thing. I’ve travelled to some amazing places and there probably isn’t anywhere that I’d prefer to live than here. I have been in the South Seas and the most remote islands on earth. I have been on the middle of the desert in Australia and to India- all sorts of places but this place for me is what I’m most comfortable with.
When did you first know you wanted to paint? What was it that first evoked this urge?
TG: I started off thinking I would be a poet when I was about twelve. I was a very serious poetic type in my teens-writing poetry and up all night talking about poetry with friends. And I think it was only when I was about fifteen or sixteen, I remember the very moment-driving up near the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wicklow and seeing a field in sunlight and thinking to myself that I would just love to paint that, to get that feeling across. And I think that was the actual moment I decided that I was going to be a painter, something really simple like that. I didn’t go to Art College. At that point, I somehow didn’t want to be contaminated by the orthodoxy of art school. I wanted to find my own way and I felt that anything you learn for yourself, you learn ten times more. But nowadays I’ve modified my view a bit- I’m not anti-art school at all. But I just know that was something I wanted to do. It was a very organic thing for me. Also, in a way, my art school was growing up in my father’s house and seeing all those paintings there and meeting all the other artists coming through. So that was my art college really.
Have you been influenced by any other artists?
TG: Loads, loads of artists. But because my work moves and travels, at different times it would be different artists. At one point, I was mad about Seurat’s paintings. He painted in dots. So his work was really influential for me and I spent a whole year painting in dots. But then throughout my career there have been different artists that have inspired me. There’s a phrase that I think is good that says ‘mediocre artists borrow, great artists steal’ (laughs). I’m not saying I’m a great artists but I have stolen an awful lot (laughs). I think we only see further than our ancestors because we stand on their shoulders. We take what knowledge is there and carry the batten forward expand on it a bit.
Do your paintings offer a source of memory-of your own place or experiences with place?
TG: They do…but I’m not that interested in the past. Generally, even as a person, I’m not that interested in the past. If anything I’m more interested in the future or more interested in where I can bring something now, rather than what I have done. And often when I’m finished a painting, it loses its intensity. When you’re working on something, you’re eating, drinking and sleeping that painting and how it’s going to evolve and resolve. But then when it’s done it’s almost cast aside. It suddenly loses its urgency and you’re interested in the next because one painting inspires the next one. That’s nearly always the way it is. They are stepping stones.
Do you feel like you losing something when you sell a painting?
TG: No. I’m quite used to selling paintings. People often say oh don’t you miss it. Some artists don’t want to part with their work but I don’t because I want to see what’s coming next.
I know you work in series so your themes continually change but are there any themes that resound through your work?
TG: Well I suppose the main thing is colour. The main thing with me is definitely colour. I just love colour so that’s the one thing that’s constant. As we’ve said there has been so many different themes, there’s loads of them.
Do you ever bring people or relationships with people into your art?
TG: No, I don’t. And I think that might be because I didn’t go to art school and I never studied life drawings at all. I have done one or two self portraits. I had to do a self portrait once for the National Self Portrait Collection in Limerick. I have a painting there but it’s pretty bad to be honest (laughs). So very rarely- I’m not that inspired by people for some reason, as objects for a painting. But I don’t know whether that’s because I’m not good at doing them. I don’t know really; it could happen in the future.
Many would argue that artists have a heightened sense of awareness of the world around them, and this awareness is then expressed in their art. Do you think that your own ‘artist’s eye’ allows you to see much more than the average person? (In the landscape of the Beara region for example).
TG: I think Cezanne was asked something like that once. Like someone said to him when you paint an orange you see it in a certain way that we don’t. But it’s only when you’re looking at it like that, that you see that an orange isn’t actually orange at all for a start. You can’t help it sometimes. There is a whole load of different colours-the shadows that might be green maybe. When you really look at something to paint it realistically, when you look at it in a certain way, you see a whole load of stuff you wouldn’t normally see. In a funny sort of way, the trigger for me for painting, is often when you do see something in a slightly different way to your normal way. You might pass by a rusty bucket on the road a hundred times but the hundred and first time it might suddenly have a glow to it or something that rivets you.
It’s probably what you are interested in as well?
TG: Yes I think it probably is. I came up with something the other day. Someone was talking about love and I said actually the best expression of love is attention, attention is love. Really attending to something, giving your all to it, to really observe it, in terms of painting.
Your work has been described as “notable because of its evolution from a predominantly land based inspiration to the current abstract colours of your home”. Do you agree? What triggered that change?
TG: I think exploration. I think it started by describing as clearly and precisely as I could, the landscape. That’s what I was interested in when I came here first. Because I was just so fascinated by it and I wanted to depict it as it was, or as it is. And then I wanted to play with it. I think it’s like the artist Paul Klee said drawing was like talking a line for a walk, which I think is a nice phrase and in a way this is like talking the landscape for a walk.
Are your more abstract paintings are still landscape based in some way?
TG: They are in a sense. I had a show in Glengarriff about two years ago and it was based on old fields. It was called ‘Fieldtrips’. It’s based on the little patterns of fields, different greens and colours. But it is abstract, but rooted in landscape.
How would you describe your art?
TG: Well nowadays I tend to say I’m an abstract painter because if I start saying I’m a landscape painter people start saying that they don’t see the land in them. A nature based painter maybe. I suppose if I had to be more precise I would say it would be a more natural painter or nature based painter. The inspiration usually comes from nature rather than thought. Most contemporary art nowadays is based on sociological things, theoretical things, relationship based- issue driven art it would be called. Mine isn’t like that at all, it’s very visual.
So do you prefer being considered an abstract painter rather than the traditional painter that you were before?
TG: Well I do at the moment but I couldn’t root it because, who knows, I might be painting portraits next year.
Do the themes and techniques vary from one painting to the next?
TG: They do with me, very much. I think I even re-invent techniques. I make a new technique for a new theme. When I painted the Fieldtrip paintings, I was using a lot of very thick paint. They were based on land divisions so I used a lot of texture for that series-layer upon layer built up. The inspiration for that were the land divisions around here that you see and the little houses.
What techniques do you employ in your art? Are there any specific techniques that you feel would portray your own place (the Beara Peninsula) in your art? -textures, colour, patterns?
TG: Very much so yes.
Everyone has a particular story to tell. Do you think you can tell your story through your paintings?
TG: I think so. I always say that my art is my diary. That’s the way I describe my art. It’s where I am at. Hopefully this comes out through my art and painting. There was a period in my life when I went through a very dark time and my paintings reflected that. A lot of them became very dark. That’s a rather simplistic way of putting it but they became very dark. The colours became very sombre-luminous darks is what I was going for. And then there was a period when they became really light and bright so I think they do reflect where you are at- at that time.
Has your technique of painting evolved over the years? / Over your time it the Beara Peninsula?
TG: Yes very much so. When I came here first I was painting very thinly-lots of thin transparent coats, and over the years I have evolved into using a lot of texture. But now, at this stage of my life, there’s a synthesis between all the different techniques that I have used over the years. I use a bit of everything now.
I find that a lot of artists in Beara use texture and layers as a technique in their paintings. Does this texture reflect the texture and layers of the landscape?
TG: It probably does yes, when you look at those rocks and things. But then the other side of that is the sly and the light effects and the clouds, are all very ethereal.
Have the place depicted in your paintings changed over the years?
TG: When I came here first I met an old man who lived up the mountain and he said that this is the last place God made and he took his tools with him (laughs) and it’s that quality to the land that I love, that it looks like it hasn’t changed for hundreds of thousands of years, apart from the man-made structures. It still has the feeling that the ice age has just finished. It’s powerful. Some people come down here and they can’t stand it. They find it really scary or barren. But a lot of the beauty of this place, apart from being in its vastness, is its minuteness. Like the primroses and the violets in the spring and the tiny little flowers and the small things. It is unspoilt here in a way.
What feelings do your paintings evoke?
TG: I would like people to feel calm or I would like them to feel balance, harmony, even serenity. I would like them to feel balance and harmony and maybe beauty, which I feel is a much harder road or field to plough. Most art of the twentieth century and the twenty first century so far is to do with depicting violence and inhumanity and crises and destruction. Those are very easy things to describe. There is a big audience for that but I think to try and make beauty is a much harder thing. And also I think pain often inspires art. Say someone is getting over a broken love affair, they write a poem or they suddenly listen to music about loss. If you look at the history of art. Suffering and pain has inspired so many artists whereas beauty and harmony and peace and serenity are much harder to articulate. And usually if you are feeling any of those things you don’t really feel like you want to do anything anyway.
Do you want people to get a feeling of what Beara is like and to appreciate the area?
TG: Yes, definitely, I hope they do.