Samuel Walsh studied art at Limerick School of Art and Design and at Mary Immaculate College, where he studied philosophy. He took his MFA at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. Closely associated with the beginnings of EV+a, he later founded Quadrant, an annual exhibition for young artists held in Limerick from 1993 until 2007. An ardent promoter of contemporary drawing, he created in 1987 with support from friends, the National Collection of Contemporary Drawing which he later gifted to Limerick City Gallery of Art. A member of Aosdána, he has been selected for many international artist residencies, most recently in Germany and Spain.
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 25 cm
Family has as many de?nitions as there are words in a dictionary. As a student I ful?lled the requirement of a Pictorial Design exam by painting two large trees and two small trees when asked for a poster on family planning! A nuclear, nature family? The image of family is apt to verge on the side of cliché. The ‘Holy Family’ tends to cliché, in particular, simply because it is made up of the same three people.
I am not inclined to simply imitate or reproduce typical images of this family. I have to cling to the integrity of my work like someone on a cliff edge. Making a work that re?ects my approach to translating information and experience is what is required and what is offered here.
The linear parts of my drawings and paintings are linked to action or movement. In this work everything has slowed down and the line indicates shape and form rather than movement. A typical Holy Family has two persons next to each other, both adoring a third between them. Mine overlap, creating a dynamic so that each colour has its own value and strength, neither colour overpowering the other.
It does follow a classic structure but I have changed the emphasis, challenging the audience’s assumptions. The choice of colours was emotional but with a nod to tradition, signalled by the intro-duction of yellow against gold: working on gold was too tempting. The gold also added a necessary highlight. Complementing it with the other colours made a worthwhile composition. The red lines indicate future events and overlap all other colours.
Encre de chine on paper mounted on canvas
25 x 30 cm
My grandfather Samuel and great uncle Teddy worked as carpenters in Limerick in the 1930s. Jim Kemmy once told me that he intended writing about my grandfather and myself: he wanted to make a connection between two artists in a Church of Ireland family. I didn’t quite believe him as I really couldn’t see my grandfather as an artist. Later, I understood what he meant: a better description would be creative.
This drawing of my grandfather (cross-legged, front centre) and uncle (back row, second left) as they sat for a staff photograph of Ranks Newtown Pery Mill in 1935 brings three artists together: my process as an artist and my two relations as creative carpenters. The piece is linked to the material from Ranks in the collections of Limerick Museum.
In some dictionaries the Latin for carpenters is Fabros. I like the metaphorical implications of the alternative, Arti?ces Lignorum which gives the work its title. In the theory of forms Plato argues that there are ideal forms in a realm of perfection, which we translate only in imitation. In this context the human creator makes imitations of ideals, so the word arti?ce as applied to a carpenter or for that matter an artist is not that obscure. The ?rst three letters of the word arti?ce spell the word ‘art’!
In my own work, I never aspire to the perfect or the original as it is a waste of energy: perfection is for the gods. I do what I do and I leave perfection and originality to the de?nition and scrutiny of future generations.