Born Dublin in 1957 Eamon Colman studied at Trinity Art Workshop and National College of Art and Design, Dublin, beginning a professional careerin 1979. Having created over forty solo exhibitionspresented nationally and internationally he is considered one of Ireland’s most important painters. In recognition of his significant contribution to Irish culture, he was elected a member of Aosdána (Academy of The Arts) in 2007. In 1997, he held a major mid-term retrospective exhibition at The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin entitled Post Cards Home, accompanied by a monograph by Brian Mc Avera entitled Dreams from The Lions Head, The Work of Eamon Colman, Four Fields Press. A 25 year retrospective of his work is featured in Profile 25 – Eamon Colman, Gandon Editions (2006). In 1989, he won First Prize Painting Award in EVA International; 2001 First Prize Painting Award in Eigse; in 2002, he was the first Irish artist to be awarded Full Fellowship Award from The Vermont Studio Centre USA.
Question: Derek Culley (Art & Museum – A&M)
“Aesthetics’ is a branch of philosophy that examines the nature of art and our experience of it. It emerged during the 18th century in Europe and developed in England as philosophers came together in suchfields as poetry, sculpture, music, and dance. They classified all the arts into one category and called them Les beaux arts or the fine arts. Immanuel Kant interpreted aesthetics as a field giving priority to form over function.”(“Art and Aesthetics in Action”; commentary by Prof. Severyn T.Bruyn). As acontemporary artist, is your approach to new works intuitive or intellectually determined?
Answer: Eamon Colman (EC)
Literature has played a considerable part in my work. Writers such as Seamus Heaney, Dermot Healy and Leland Bardwellsit alongside the 18th-century writer Xavier de Maistre - whowrote A Journey Around My Room. In this, he describes being confined to a small room for 42 days. This becomesa microcosm of his world, enabling him to slow down his observations, allowing him time for contemplation, fantasyand creativity. I adopt the same principles in my work. Rather than attempt to represent (pictorially) what I see, I paint aspects of that encounter with/in nature that stimulated my desire to paint it. I paint what resonates in my memory, this is intuitive. Yet, what I see and feel when I garden, walk or mix paint affects my imagination - engaging thought. I question human/nature relations and our place in the world - this engages philosophy. For me, intuition and intellectual engagement are not exclusive of each other.
The Contemporary Art market is open to greater “freedoms”in approach and applications than Modern Art of the 20th century. A classically focused approach underpins your practice; both in researching your subject, through to your pigment preparation by hand. Does this approach differentiate you plus highlight an element of your practice which is largely omitted by today’s contemporary fine artists?
The Great Masters have taught us how to mix paint and prepare canvases, about Chiaroscuro (light and shade),composition and the golden rule, the legacy of whichremains strong today. Even though, in my work, this may not be clearly depicted through representation - I don’t think I am differentiated in any way, albeit my traditional methods are somewhat invisible. I research my subject directly by engaging with my surrounds; this process is both external and internal – taking place in the landscape and in my studio. While I experience nature through walking and gardening - all the elements are thrown at you as experiencing it through the senses, I do not, however, paint in the outdoors like the 18th Century Plein Air Painters. In my studio, I prepare my paint using raw pigments, I make primer and hone my substrate several times and through this rudimentary ‘doing’ I am distilling conceptually that ‘outdoor’ experience.My method of painting is similar to that developedby the old masters - even though I break with that tradition by using collage. However, I am not so ‘rigid’ in thought or discipline so as not to allow the expressive act of painting to play a part.
How independent has your practice been?Fashions, styles, cultural movements are amongst the dynamics which the marketplace creates coupled with the descriptors which are driven bythe dealers/curators. Please discuss your personal journey regardless of the market dynamics.
My father Seamus O’Colmáin was a painter and so I was ‘exposed’ to his influences from an early age. I regard myself as coming from a landscape tradition, mainly influenced by the work by British contemporary ‘landscape’ painters such as Ivon Hitchens and Howard Hodgkin. When I started, I used spray paints and stencils – depicting stories from Celtic mythology. Later these stories developed from encounters in India when I walked to the source of the River Ganges, in Vermont when the maple trees were tapped for syrup, orwhen I white water rafted along the Colorado River meeting with a Native American Indian named Talking With Rain. These human/nature encounters fuel my imagination and are expressed through paint.