Artist by the sea: the paintings of Mary Lohan

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  • Irish Arts Review

    Artist by the sea: the paintings of Mary LohanAuthor(s): Catherine MarshallSource: Irish Arts Review (2002-), Vol. 29, No. 2 (SUMMER [JUNE - AUGUST 2012]), pp. 58-59Published by: Irish Arts ReviewStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23278181 .Accessed: 10/06/2014 10:34

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  • SUMMER 2012

    EXHIBITION

    Artist by

    the paintings

    the sea:

    of Mary Lohan

    mind Tony O'Malley's description of

    himself; 'I am only the person who

    wants to go down to the King's river

    and make a drawing of the river there

    ....I am only this." Lohan has been

    producing distinctive canvases and

    prints of the Irish coastline, particu

    larly the coasts of Donegal, Mayo and

    Wexford for decades, working always

    within a deliberately restricted the

    matic and an equally restricted

    methodology, yet somehow always

    managing to avoid the formulaic,

    constantly offering a taste of fresh

    experience and a new confrontation

    with the sublime.

    It will come as no surprise then that

    her new work for the Hamilton

    Gallery in Sligo is also about the sea,

    although on this occasion there is a

    marked move in the direction of

    greater figuration. Lest anyone con

    fuse figuration with the human body,

    think again. The figure in Lohan's

    work is the Irish land/seascape, with

    rather more of the land now, and less

    of the sea, than heretofore, but in all

    of her work the human presence, in

    the person of the artist/viewer, is an

    unspoken constant, and the

    land/seascape is the sublime 'other'

    against which the viewer must perpet

    ually define him/herself. In presenting his greatest statement

    of the sublime, Monk by the Sea

    (1809) Caspar David Friedrich offered

    a canvas with three, sweeping,

    roughly horizontal bands; sky, sea and

    sand. The unobservant might miss the

    small figure of the monk, from whom

    the painting gets its title, so insignifi

    cant is he in relation to the forces of

    nature. Robert Rosenblum famously

    identified this painting as a landmark

    along the road to abstraction, and

    Within a deliberately restricted theme, Mary Lohan offers a new

    confrontation with the sublime, writes Catherine Marshall ahead

    of the artist's exhibition at the Hamilton Gallery, Sligo, in June

    Mary

    Lohan is a contempo

    rary artist. She does not

    easily fit the descriptions

    'conceptual', or 'expressionist'; it is

    difficult to describe her as Modernist,

    not to mention a post-modernist. Yet

    she certainly could not with any credi

    bility be described as academic either,

    and to cap it all, she paints the same

    theme with only relatively small varia

    tion over and over again and has done

    so for twenty years now. Yet her work

    is widely admired, even loved by art

    audiences across the whole spectrum

    of gallery-goers and collectors. Her

    concentration on her painting calls to

    58 IRISH ARTS REVIEW I SUMMER 2012

    Artist by the sea:

    the paintings of Mary Lohan

    Catherine Marshall i

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  • 2

    BATHING ALL THE NATURAL ELEMENTS REPRESENTED IN A GLOW OF LIGHT THAT PULLS THEM TOGETHER RATHER THAN DEFINES THEIR DIFFERENCE, SHE PLAYS WITH CONVENTIONS OF COLOUR-FIELD ABSTRACTION

    has, radically, drawn similarities

    between it and the colour-field paint

    ings of Mark Rothko.2 It is not as fan

    ciful as it might seem to look at Mary

    Lohan's paintings with Friedrich and

    Rothko in mind. Although Lohan

    does not insert a human presence to

    represent us in the picture as Friedrich

    1 MARY LOHAN b.1954 SEAFIELDSI 2012 oil on gesso panel A0x50cm

    2 SEAFIELDSIV 2012 oil on canvas 30x30cm

    3 SEAFIELDS V 2012 oil on canvas 30x30cm

    did, her textured surfaces project

    into our space and draw us, directly

    and tangibly, into the picture. By

    blurring the distinctions between the

    different elements in her seascapes,

    or bathing all the natural elements

    represented in a glow of light that

    pulls them together rather than

    defines their difference, she plays

    with conventions of colour-field

    abstraction without ever subscribing

    to it. She goes further with her

    polyptychs, created by painting sepa

    rate stretched canvases as one unit

    and then pulling them apart so that

    her impastoed paint reaches across

    the void from one panel to another,

    presenting a completely new spatial

    dynamic that the viewer must engage

    with, turning the paintings into

    installations that interact with their

    surroundings, making the painting

    the ground for a drama that impli

    cates both viewer and space. Writing

    to Brian Kennedy about Rothko,

    Sean Scully said, 'I'm very attracted

    to his [Rothko's] relationship with

    abstract art. Not the fluid style of his

    abstraction, but its relationship with

    the figurative. Even in his most res

    olutely abstract work the memory of

    the figure is embedded into the sur

    face." In Mary Lohan's paintings, we

    are embedded participants.

    Her canvases are modestly scaled

    but they still point to the sublime.

    The horizon line can be low, so that

    the viewer hovers above it, some

    times it is so high that you are

    sucked right into the muddy,

    encrusted land itself, frequently it is

    blurred so that you can't locate your

    self within it. Lohan never subscribes

    to the Irish tradition of mythologiz

    ing the western coastline either, so

    we can't fall back on that to find our

    feet. Instead no matter which sce

    nario we are presented with, we are

    obliged to deal with the dislocation

    on our own. There are no proxies

    from folklore or history to help us,

    only contemporary painting.

    All images The Artist. Photography Davey Moor.

    Mary Lohan 'New Paintings' Hamilton Gallery, Sligo 7-30 June 2012.

    Catherine Marshall is co-editor of Volume V, five-volume Art and Architecture of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy, forthcoming.

    1 B. Lynch (Ed) Tony O'Malley, 1996 pM. 2 R. Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the

    Northern Romantic Tradition-, Friedrich to

    Rothko, London, 1975, pp .10-11. 3 B. Kennedy, Sean Scully, Body of Light, 2006,

    P 72.

    SUMMER 2012 I IRISH ARTS REVIEW 59

    1 MARY LOHAN b.1954 SEAFIELDSI2012 oil on gesso panel 40x50cm

    2 5EAFIELDSIV 2012 oil on canvas 30x30cm

    3 SEAFIELDS V 2012 oil on canvas 30x30cm

    1 B. Lynch (Ed) Tony O'Malley, 1996 pM. 2 R. Rosenblum, Modern Painting and the

    Northern Romantic Tradition-, Friedrich to

    Rothko, London, 1975, pp .10-11. 3 B. Kennedy, Sean Scully, Body of Light, 2006,

    P 72.

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    Article Contentsp. 58p. 59

    Issue Table of ContentsIrish Arts Review (2002-), Vol. 29, No. 2 (SUMMER [JUNE - AUGUST 2012]), pp. 1-144Front MatterCONTRIBUTORS [pp. 4-4]ART NEWS AND DIARY [pp. 19-24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46]AUCTIONS: UNDER THE HAMMERERNEST HAYES AT WHYTE'S [pp. 48-48]IRISH SILVER DOUBLES IN VALUE AT ADAM'S [pp. 48-48]AUCTION PREVIEW: Mealy's 10-11 July [pp. 50-50]WILLIAM CROZIER AT SOTHEBY'S [pp. 50-50]ROBERT CARVER LANDSCAPE AT MEALY'S [pp. 50, 52]WYSE FAMILY DOCUMENTS AT ADAM'S [pp. 52-52]AUCTION PREVIEW: Bonhams 11 July [pp. 52-52]

    EDITOR'S LETTER [pp. 54-54]Just To Feel Normal [pp. 56-57]Artist by the sea: the paintings of Mary Lohan [pp. 58-59]Far from the madding crowd [pp. 60-67]Fields of vision [pp. 68-73]From Bauhaus to our house [pp. 74-77]Dual perspectives [pp. 78-81]Material translations [pp. 82-85]A study in contrasts [pp. 86-89]Alice Milligan centre stage [pp. 90-93]Henry Allan's Dutch interior [pp. 94-97]Lost to Castletown [pp. 98-103]A Regency idyll [pp. 104-109]In the Footsteps of Augustine Henry [pp. 110-113]Ahead of the curve: Dublin Airport and the Duval Plan [pp. 114-119]Titanic Belfast [pp. 120-123]The Golden Age of Irish glass [pp. 124-127]Chinese odyssey [pp. 128-129]DESIGN PORTFOLIO [pp. 130, 132, 134]REVIEWSBOOKSReview: untitled [pp. 136-137]Review: untitled [pp. 137-137]Review: untitled [pp. 138-138]Review: untitled [pp. 138-139]Review: untitled [pp. 139-140]Review: untitled [pp. 139-139]Review: untitled [pp. 140-140]

    CATALOGUESReview: untitled [pp. 142-142]Review: untitled [pp. 142-142]Review: untitled [pp. 142-142]Review: untitled [pp. 142-142]Review: untitled [pp. 142-142]

    CURATOR'S CHOICEThe Locks at Edenderry [pp. 144-144]

    Back Matter

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