29th Oct to 2nd Dec
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm
Idir Spéir agus Talamh
Between Land & Sea
Welcome to Ian Humphreys’ retrospective exhibition which he describes as a celebration. The work includes still lives, figures, land/seascapes, and abstractions and all the shades between these conventional categories.
The paintings ‘go back’ to 1999 when Ian first moved to the Southwest of Ireland. A celebration is a joyous occasion – and these paintings rejoice in paint, painting, colour, texture, light, sea, land, community, ritual, people, life, and death. As viewers we are invited to find our own moments of joy and Ian would like his work to make people smile.
I have known Ian for a long time but not seen his work in ‘real life’ for many years – this writing comes from memory, imagination, and anticipation. I look forward to seeing the exhibition and the places that inspired it. I am hoping for paintings that surprise me and shift my perspective.
My curiosity is sparked by horizontals, verticals, and edges. Ian describes his exploration of vertical and horizontal movement. There are paintings with discernible horizontal bands of pigment and some with vertical sweeps and gestures. Other surfaces are flooded or immersed with ‘overall’ washes of colour. Ian is clear that he doesn’t depict or represent nature but creates an ‘equivalence’. Sometimes he works directly from observation and sometimes in the studio from experiences and impressions he has absorbed. I read the horizontal bands as the uncertain and interconnected slices of sky, sea, and land that we experience at the coast. I am interested to hear that some of the vertically oriented paintings echo the experience of working at the Josef Albers Foundation surrounded by woods and trees in Connecticut. I am drawn to the paintings that contradict themselves for example, horizontal bands on a vertical (portrait) format.
There are many other instances of ‘opposites’ which clash or balance. Thick and thin, small details and large expanses, light and dark, smooth and harsh, blended and distinct, close up and far away. There are passages of closely related colour values interrupted by contrasts that, according to Ian, allow colour to exist – ‘to be’. On the painting surface relationships take place, identities are formed through similarity, difference, and interconnection.
I am also keen to see the edges, surfaces, and ‘skins’ between things. How do colours meet and layers of paint accumulate? How visible is the process of production? Ian describes how he doesn’t paint to the top edge of the canvas but that there is no margin along the bottom edge as paint slips, slides, and drips floorward.
Ian discusses the conscious, unconscious and meditative aspects of his process. He describes letting things happen as much as making them happen. His work involves bursts of ‘frenzied’ activity followed by periods of contemplation, so that he alternates between making and observing his paintings. When I asked about the relationship between the world of the painting, the external world of nature and society, and his own internal world Ian replied that they are the same – he sees no distinction between these spheres of experience. This is a thought I will take with me when I go to see the exhibition. I am also interested to explore the relationships between the different works. I imagine each as a moment containing both past influences and experiences and future possibilities.
These reflections and anticipations remind me of the potential for art to connect us to new ideas, other times and places, and to each other. Ian wants these paintings to make you smile. I hope they touch you.
Jill Howitt July 2022