Michael Wann: Irish Times Review

by chief critic Aidan Dunne (May 2016)


Visual art: Three different ways to pass the Francis Bacon test


A talented trio focus on plants, backwoods scenes and crumbling facades

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Michael Canning 
Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin
May 5th-June 16th, 


Michael Wann 
Cross Gallery, Dublin
Until May 7th, 


John Doherty 
Taylor Galleries, Dublin
Until May 21st, 


Francis Bacon said that you need three things to be an artist. Briefly: technical ability, a subject matter that fascinates you and a knowledge of art history. Michael Canning, Michael Wann and John Doherty meet all three criteria, even as each employs a different, distinctive representational strategy in response to their immediate environments.


Sidestepping the picturesque

Wann makes images of rural Ireland in which he sidesteps the picturesque. His is an Ireland – he is based in Co Sligo – of dereliction and rain-sodden decay. That may sound grim, but, as with the melancholy edge in Canning’s paintings, Wann seems to relish the neglected backwoods and crumbling dwellings, and he has found an audience that shares his feeling for this faded world. He works more in grey than black-and-white, building up densely worked, textural charcoal and wash images. They can veer towards appearing photographic, but he is not interested in photographic effects or methods: he is very hands-on, becoming physically immersed in the surfaces, which have a painterly quality despite the absence of colour.


Woodland holds a particular interest for him. Not just the grand broadleaf expanses around Lissadell, but also isolated specimens and forestry plantations, and common hedgerows and scrubland. He is attentive to the personality and detail of the land, relishing tangled heaps of branches, the unkempt and anomalous, rutted overgrown tracks, the broken patterns of light. It amounts to a distinctive, downbeat, unsentimental take on a subject that could easily be sentimentalised.



May 16, 2016