Oil on board 2016
The current exhibition focuses on the collaborative work of artist Sarah Longley with her father, the poet Michael Longley.
Sarah Longley trained at Edinburgh College of Art, where she graduated with First Class Honours in Drawing and Painting. She has exhibited her work widely, in both group and solo shows throughout Ireland, the UK and France. Her work is held in private and public collections, including in the Crawford Municipal Gallery in Cork, Ireland.
Sarah’s father, Michael Longley, is one of Northern Ireland’s foremost contemporary poets. Angel Hill (Cape Poetry) is his 11th collection and Ghetto his most recent (2019). His collection Gorse Fires won the Whitbread Poetry Award. His poetry has won numerous awards, including the TS Eliot Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, the International Griffin Prize, the PEN Pinter Prize and the Wilfred Owen Award. He is the recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry and in 2010 was appointed CBE. He was Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2007-2010. In 2015 he was made a Freeman of the City of Belfast. A selection of his prose writing, Sidelines, was published in 2017.
The exhibition includes Sarah’s original illustrations for three of her father’s poetry collections.
Following her visit to the Bonnard exhibition at the Tate, Sarah sent three of her colour oil on board works to the gallery, of which this is one. Of her visit to the exhibition, Sarah wrote,
‘This felt like a pilgrimage as I have always worshipped Bonnard. I adore his glorious, shining paintings which seem like pure heaven to me. He’s a painter who, unlike Vuillard (who I also love), got better and better, who kept on searching and pushing through to the ethereal, untouchable, to what it is to be alive. This is the first major Bonnard exhibition for twenty years. I couldn’t miss it so I made it a Birthday treat, travelling overnight on the Sleeper from Inverness. Economy class I should add: see! I am a pilgrim!
‘The Tate show is called ‘The Colour of Memory’ and is a wonderful celebration, chronologically, of Bonnard’s range, right through to his final painting, which I found almost unbearably moving – ‘Almond Tree in Blossom’. There were some familiar and much loved paintings: the beautiful, tender nudes and his sumptuous interiors (the whole universe revealed in a single white tablecloth), but also some new and surprising pictures which caught my breath. In ‘The Garden Seen from the Terrace’ we glimpse a little girl in red dashing through a lush garden. Her redness in perfect opposition to the harmonious abstract tapestry of green, yellow and blue which envelopes her. Schindler’s List of course comes to mind. Also a small, strange painting of orange bathers bobbing about in the sea, with an odd poignancy: they look so vulnerable. There is often a tension in the paintings, an unease that is hard to pin down. I don’t agree with the criticism that he was overly decadent and sealed off from the horrors of human experience. His self-portraits for instance are full of strange fragility and pain.
‘Bonnard’s surfaces are a wonder to me. I gazed at them trying to work out just how he applied the paint and in what order, the colour fields he creates are nothing short of miraculous. Picasso was very critical of Bonnard saying his paintings were a ‘potpourri of indecision’, but surely Bonnard’s blues couldn’t possibly be more emphatically blue? They vibrate with underpainting and sparks of other hues but I think the result is even more intensely blue. And the playful positioning of one colour to the next (blue to orange, mauve to green) are so delightful that the colours burst forth with even firmer insistence. I think to myself, I must get out the colour wheel when I get back and talk to the children about these timeless colour relationships. Colour. Having gone through a long black and white phase, Bonnard is luring me back to colour. As he says ‘Colour has a logic as severe as form’. ‘