Belgrave St Ives - Modern & Contemporary Art

Padraig Mac Miadhachain

Padraig Mac Miadhachain (1929-2017)

Born: Downpatrick, Co Down, N Ireland

Died: Wareham, Dorset, 2017

Education: Belfast College of Art, Belfast, N Ireland 1947-1949
National College of Art, Dublin, Rep of Ireland 1950
Akademia Sztuk Pieknych, Krakow, Poland 1960-1961

Winner / LAING Regional Painting Competition Winchester 1993
Winner / Daler-Rowney Award, RWA 1992
Winner / LAING National Painting Competition 1991
British Council Scholarship to Poland sponsored by the Polish Government 1960
Dublin-Moscow Scholarship sponsored by the Soviet government 1957

Selected One, Two and Three Person Exhibitions

A Life of Painting, Belgrave St Ives, Cornwall

Belgrave Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall, England

Mullan Gallery, Belfast, N Ireland

Lena Boyle Fine Art, London
(two exhibitions with Mary Fedden, including Fedden's Choice)

Molesworth Gallery, Dublin (four exhibitions)

New Millennium Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall, England

Salt House Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall, England

New Academy Gallery, London (ten exhibitions)

Canning House Gallery, London

Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery, Vancouver, Canada

Sala Cairasco, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain

Heals Gallery, London

Liberty's Gallery, London

Old Town Hall, Reigate, England

Akademia Sztuk Pieknych, Krakow, Poland

Queens University, Belfast, N Ireland

Woodstock Gallery, London

New Vision Centre, London

Robinson & Cleaver Gallery, Belfast, N Ireland

Instituto de Cultura Hispanica, Madrid, Spain

Capitol Theatre Gallery, Dublin, Rep of Ireland

Donegall Place Gallery, Belfast, N Ireland

Selected Mixed Exhibitions 1951-2017

Royal Ulster Academy of Arts, Belfast, N Ireland, 1951, 1952, 1957, 1958
(selected artist in 2006 for the 125th Annual Exhibition)

Ulster Group 63 (1963), Belfast and London

Irish Exhibition of Living Art, (1963-1965), Dublin, Rep of Ireland

Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Rep of Ireland
(invited artist in 2002, 2003 and 2004)

Royal Academy of Art, London (exhibited 20 times in the Summer Exhibition)

Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Glasgow, Scotland

Royal West of England Gallery, Bristol

Southampton Gallery of Modern Art, Southampton, 1958

Russell-Cotes Museum, Bournemouth, Dorset, 2004

Salon International de L'Art Libre, Paris, 1958

Gorky Park Galleries, Moscow, USSR, 1957

Open Painting Competition, Arts Council, Belfast, 1962

Discerning Eye (1992/1997*/2003), London
(*selected by HRH Prince of Wales)

C.A.S. 1992/93/94/95/96, London

Hunting Prize Exhibition, London

Art 1995/96/97/98, London

Boyle Arts Festival, Boyle, Co Roscommon 2010

Additions, 2005, The National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland,
University of Limerick

Currents, an exhibition of recent acquisitions from the
Department of Finance, N Ireland, in association with
the Office of Public Works, Rep of Ireland, 2004

The Space Between, an exhibition of selected works from
the Department of Finance, N Ireland, in association with
the Office of Public Works, Rep of Ireland, 2017-2018

The Design Centre, London
New Art Centre, London
Tom Caldwell Galleries, Belfast & London
Art Gallery & Museum, Brighton
On Line Gallery, Southampton
The Guildhall Gallery, Winchester
New Academy Gallery, London
Gordon Hepworth Gallery, Newton St Cyres, Devon
New Craftsman, St Ives, Cornwall
Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn, Cornwall
Belgrave St Ives, St Ives, Cornwall
Cadogan Contemporary, London
Adam Gallery, Bath
Crane Kalman, London
Beaux Arts, Bath
Thompson's The City Gallery, London / Cornish Exhibition 2002/2004
Mullan Gallery, Belfast, N Ireland
Ulster Group 63 / 40th Anniversary Show 2003, Mullan Gallery, Belfast
Selected Collections
The National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland
The Arts Council of Ireland
Boyle Civic Art Collection
David Whitehead 'Living Art' Collection
Office of Public Works, Ireland
Department of Finance, N Ireland
Hertford College, Oxford
Sussex University
Caja Insular de Ahorros de Gran Canaria
Escuela de Bellas Artes (Las Palmas), Gran Canaria
Irish Allied Bank
The Bank of China
SG Warburg
Kobe Steel
Sun Oil International, US

Pádraig Mac Miadhacháin / A Life of Painting

For an artist working from the second half of 20th Century onwards, the act of painting has come to represent, according to temperament and inclination, either a huge dilemma or an unrivalled opportunity. On the one hand there is the overriding sense that, at this point in history, everything that could possibly be done through paint has already long been done what more of interest and relevance, quite simply, is there to be said through such an 'old' medium, and hence also, the periodic Painting is dead cry that has gone up at regular intervals since the early 1950s. On the other hand there is the exhilarating realisation that a painter is the heir to a rich inheritance of styles and techniques and that with everything from figuration to abstraction, expressionism to minimalism to take from, not to mention the whole canon of world art now as well, painting has never, in its whole history, offered quite so many possibilities and, by definition almost, so many crucial, and often difficult, decisions.

All this by way of understanding the full and very particular achievement of Irish-born painter Pádraig Mac Miadhacháin that this retrospective and sadly, since his death last year, memorial exhibition, celebrates. For, if ever there was an artist who revelled in, and made the very most of, the painterly choices to hand, here he was, his seven decades of work encompassing an astonishing and mercurial variety of styles and subject matter from the sparely abstract to the exuberantly naïve, the sombrely expressive to the carefree lyrical but always, as he once so engagingly put it the landscape or whatever I am standing in front of.not, and never has been, quite so easy to achieve as that makes it all sound, of course. Mac Miadhacháin's mature style initially the outcome of a solid apprenticeship in late 1940s/early 50s Irish art-schools, first at Belfast (purely drawing ...academic training) and then at the National College of Art in Dublin where, studying under the iconic figure of romantic-realist painter Sean Keating, he focussed on portraiture. It was a good solid training in technique and one that was to prove of huge underlying significance when his interest in much more contemporary art began to grow in the early 60s, following the winning of a Polish Government Scholarship to Krakow in 1960 and the resulting friendship with the landscape painter Piotr Potworowski, an artist with close links to the St Ives School. As Vivienne Light has noted, Mac Miadhacháin admired Potworowski's natural feeling for the landscape, the way he abstracted it and his gorgeous colour and texture and from this point on landscape rather than the figure became the undisputed central motif of his artistic career, in particular the landscape around Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck where he had first settled in 1953. That early academic training quite simply allowed him to look at the Modernists most notably fellow Northern Irishman William Scott, Roger Hilton, Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson and then work out for himself what he felt he needed in order to evolve his own personal style without, at the same time, getting swamped by the sheer variety at hand. It was an experimental shift of direction almost certainly confirmed by the shows he had alongside such distinguished Irish contemporary painters as Louis LeBrocquy, Camille Souter and Gerard Dillon in the Irish Exhibitions of Living Art at around the same time.

He had, in short, arrived at a settled style and the paintings then poured out of him in vivid and joyous profusion for the next half-century or more. The pictorial 'conversations' with other artists continued to develop, increasingly enriching the work, with Roger Hilton's loose-knit abstractions (Summer with One Boat 1988) and Alan Davie's colourful symbolism (Pyramids in the Orange Sky, Yucatan, Mexico 1979) and Nicholson's spare, cool abstractions (The Harbour 2002) among the most animated of them. But this is to simplify more than a little what was in practice a much more subtle and complex process of observation and assimilation, the only aim and intention of which was to find the colours and forms and textures that accorded precisely with his sensuous experience and joy in the physical world. His pleasure, ours too!

Nicholas Usherwood
March 2018