Artistic License: Donald Teskey - The Gloss Magazine

Artistic License: Donald Teskey

The landscape paintings of Limerick-born Donald Teskey are instantly recognisable. His new exhibition is inspired by what he calls the geo-poetic coastline of north Co Mayo …

Your new exhibition “Strand” comprises 16 paintings completed after your return to Co Mayo after a hiatus. What drew youth this coastline especially?

I’ve been coming here for 25 years, though not on a regular basis. I’ve also worked in locations in Cork and Kerry and completed a number of residencies in the USA and Paris. I realised early on there was something very special about the north coast of Mayo. There’s a peacefulness and almost timelessness to the place that allows for a slower and more careful study of the landscape. As the years go by, I see changes happening, but much more slowly than in other, busier parts of the country. I keep discovering new locations to explore and it is usually to do with the quality of the light which is constantly changing.

What are some of the themes you have brought together in these paintings?

While I was in Mayo during August I noticed the lush broadleaf plants that grow along some of the roadsides, very similar to those I had been painting on the banks of the Dodder during lockdown. I hadn’t noticed them before, in all my time coming to north Mayo. So it very interesting to paint these plants in a very different context. Also, the rock formations by Downpatrick Head remain one of the most inspiring and revisited locations for me. I like to think of the area as “geo-poetic”. There is such a huge variety of tone, colour and texture in the rocks, folded and layered by unimaginable forces into ecstatic rhythmic forms. This exhibition explores themes of landscape, environment, a sense of place, the new and the familiar all immersed in light and atmosphere and a love of paint.

What prompted your decision to exhibit at Claremorris Gallery?

My relationship with Claremorris goes back to when I first showed at the Claremorris Open Exhibition in 1984 and was the overall prizewinner that year. It became an important annual event for Irish artists for many years, often adjudicated by international critics and curators. Patricia Noone was instrumental in establishing that COE annual exhibition back then. Her daughter, Rosemarie is keeping the art alive and thriving with her excellent gallery. It’s not always easy to exhibit outside of my usual schedule so the invitation to bring my work back to Co Mayo was an exciting prospect.

How and where do you work?

When I first started painting, the practice of drawing directly in a sketchbook was essential to the development of my approach to painting. Using the pencil to select unnecessary parts of the scene and just focus on elements essential to the composition was my primary mode of observing, which I would translate into painting in my studio. As I became more interested in the landscape, I plucked up the courage to try plein air painting and found the experience to be hugely informative to my approach to studio painting. There is an urgency and vitality when painting outdoors as it’s often a race against the elements and the changing light. When sketching or plein air painting is not an option, the camera is the next best thing.

How has your work evolved would you say – you were initially a draughtsman and celebrated for urban architectural scenes and now are synonymous with depicting the western seaboard …

I have always been open to taking opportunities when they present themselves, such as invitations to do residencies, visit new regions and other such projects. The evolution of my work has really been determined by my experiences on such residencies and encountering new environments and challenges. For instance, I began looking much more closely at the landscape and subsequently the coastline after a couple of residencies in the west of Ireland. Ten years ago I spent two months exploring the Gearagh, Co Cork and had two exhibitions based on the work I made there. I had two exhibitions of work based on my residency in Connecticut, one of which was about train journeys and the other about living in the woods. I have explored Paris and Venice and created bodies of work from those experiences. So, to make reference to the meaning behind the title of the current show, like the sea and the coastline works, these can be seen as “strands” in the larger fabric of my oeuvre.

Need To Know: “Strands” an exhibition by Donald Teskey, runs until December 20 at Claremorris Gallery, Mount Street, Clare, Claremorris, Co Mayo; www.claremorrisgallery.ie

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