Drawing on the spirit of its space

Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, February 28, 2007

Charles Tyrrell, paintings and drawings, Taylor Galleries.

The Taylor Gallery is quite a big place, just how big you realise if you visit Charles Tyrrell's solo exhibition there at the moment. It is on the scale of a small museum show, yet doesn't feel cramped. It also consists of several distinct bodies of work: larger paintings on canvas, a sequence of smaller paintings on aluminium plates, a series of drawings on paper and one site-specific wall drawing. A great deal of thought has gone into just about everything.

For example, Tyrrell was obviously not content to just recreate one of his existing drawings, writ larger, on the wall. Instead, he has made a highly distinctive piece that is substantially shaped by the architectural context.

In fact, the drawing somehow captures the spirit of the gallery itself, so that it reads almost as an affectionate acknowledgement of the artist's long association with the Taylor. One of the most rigorous and exacting of painters, Tyrrell never rests on his laurels. There is always the feeling that what remains, what we see, has come through wave after wave of intense scrutiny. He has used aluminium panels before and seems to like them, not least for the way the surface has a ruthlessness about it. Canvas is forgiving and cumulative as a support, accumulating a history of a painting's making in a layered, physical, almost geological way.

With aluminium, a certain precariousness creeps into the process. There's a jittery awareness that the slate might be wiped clean at any moment, and that the glassy surface will retain no cumulative record. Hence there's a more unstable, precarious quality to the aluminium panels. Remarkably, in every case you get the impression that Tyrrell is starting from scratch, taking nothing for granted, never settling for a solution he's found before.

The larger paintings in the show are also exceptionally good, but perhaps the most exciting development is what is effectively the drawing room, containing the small, intricately worked drawings made during residencies at the Ballinglen Foundation in North Mayo. The experience allowed Tyrrell to step back and reconsider fundamental approaches, and chances are that ideas introduced in these finely worked pieces will find their way into paintings in the future. 

© Aidan Dunne