At the core of art that is destined to endure is the artist’s orientation with their world. Before the blank canvas is not a time for doubt, though unquestionably it exists, and the artist is thrown headlong repeatedly into the mystery of why they do what they do in the first place.
When he was younger, Co. Wexford artist Liam O’Rourke’s landscapes were knowledgeably representational: the subject was before him, and he painted it accordingly. He was fresh out of college – Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Dublin Institute of Technology – and the lure of the traditional Irish landscape was intoxicating.
For 42-year-old O’Rourke, it still is. He does not see it any differently, but his concept of it has altered, and altered radically. His subjects are the fields and skies of Glynn, the seasonal metamorphosis, the tonal adjustment of light which is plentiful in the summer and scarce in the winter.
From a studio on the cusp of a gorgeous vista at the rear of the family home, O’Rourke has been busy over the years capturing the essence of the moveable feast laid out before him, and the result of his labours will finally be seen in Wexford.
Though his paintings have won prizes in group shows at the Greenacres Art Gallery, and his name is a whisper on the lips of artists in the county, not too much is known about the breadth of his work.
Spectrum in Selskar in Wexford will address this deficit by hosting only his second solo show at its Pigyard Gallery, with an official opening on Friday, September 19th.
O’Rourke’s colours take the natural world as a primer: once unfolded in broad sweeps, they reflect how he utilises his sub conscious like a prism: the response, particularly on the large canvases, is of an epic scale on a par with Sidney Nolan, though O’Rourke’s influences are late William Crozier, to whom he is compared, and one or two German expressionists.
Look deeper and beneath the veneer of the less accessible paintings and O’Rourke reminds you that irrespective of abstraction, shapes must have a likeness: there is too the small matter of spirit, which flows from O’Rourke’s brush in abundance. He gives nature’s harmony a visual alphabet.
O’Rourke’s oeuvre is a celebration of his enduring source – nature – a gift which keeps giving. We may ask why Cezanne so often depicted Mont Sainte-Victoire, and the only answer is George Mallory’s : because it’s there. So it is with Liam O’Rourke and the undulating fields of his native Glynn.