herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Owner Of Lonely Art

Oliver Comerford’s work is a wake-up call to how precious solitude is today, writes Sue Conley

Oliver comerford's world does not suffer from the threat of overpopulation, and, in fact, acts as a melancholy antidote to this global issue. Not that his work takes this as its thesis, but, rather, he has found pockets of isolation that only serve to point up what a precious commodity solitude is.

His landscapes are viewed in the wee hours, either right before or just after dawn, when our planet can be found in as close to its primordial state as is possible in the 21st century. We view the world as if through the window of a moving vehicle, either through the windscreen or in the rear-view mirror, or from a distance, as if one has paused, mid-journey, to peer upon something private.

The sum of these perspectives is a pervasive feeling of voluptuous loneliness, an indulgence of beauty wedded with the inability to truly inhabit, or remain in, these sometimes vast spaces.

The work is hung at heart level, which is somewhat lower than may be usual, causing us to believe that, if we wanted to, we could just walk straight into the depicted wood; on to that painted road. We can't, and this serves to taunt our desire to enter fully and be fully embraced by the solitariness of his world. This is cruel, but just: we can only feel from a distance, which is a large part of what Comerford's work conveys.

Not that the pieces aren't peopled: the use of the glow of electric light via the tail-lights of a car, the streetlamps on a highway in the distance illuminating a dwelling, tell us that someone is lucky, or as the case may be, unlucky enough to live here. There are signs of life, but they are out of our reach.

Comerford's use of oil paints in what appear to be thin layers, and his deft brushwork, give an immediacy to the images that underscores the swiftness with which they inspire emotions.

He has taken the pastoral landscape, translated it through contemporary eyes and given us a dreamscape in which to tell ourselves stories of the desolation and promise of the waking world. HHHHH

Oliver Comerford: Paintings, 1994-2010 runs 'til May 2nd at the Royal Hibernian Academy

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