Essay by James Hyman
Exhibition including works by Tony Bevan, Hughie O'Donoghue, William Macilraith, Robert Mason, Terry Setch, Victor Willing
TEXT EXTRACT:he Man, the Form and the Spirit presents six artists, all painters, for whom man and his environment are central: Tony Bevan, William Macllraith, Robert Mason, Hughie O'Donoghue, Terry Setch and Victor Willing. These artists constitute no school, form no group and represent no single generation and yet, despite the differences, certain threads emerge. They share an immersion in the here and now, an engagement with the materiality of existence and a desire to capture this experience as rawly as possible. Victor Willing's heads may serve as portrait-likenesses, but always they are something else, a reminder of the spirit that animates the sitter, Terry Setch incorporates found objects, adding a charge to his exploration of the way man affects the environment.
But such pursuit goes further. It extends beyond an accumulation of visual data. There is a sense of searching and of exploration. Forms may spring from the immediacy of the present, but they are imprinted by history and provide an intimation of the future. Robert Mason excavates his own half-buried memories of childhood to build from such strata. Hughie O'Donoghue reaffirms his commitment to the figure with paintings that draw from mythology. William Macilraith develops from his earlier figure-based drawings, evolving a cell-like or cosmic imagery with a severity that echoes a primitive language of archetypal symbols.
A stress on direct engagement is complemented by the possibility of transcendence. Bevan's work is less a contemporary social commentary than a timeless reminder of man's vulnerability, of life held by a jugular vein. The starting point may be the artist's own physiognomy, with a corporeality that owes much to touch as well as sight, but this experience of the Self is merely the starting point for figures that attain the symbolic stature of Everyman.
The artists of The Man, the Form and the Spirit, like the Old Masters before them, use Man as a central, animating presence. They seek to lift the veils, to probe beneath the surface, to find the Spirit that stirs within the Form. Despite their differences, they come together through a shared anxiety about mortality and a striving after Man's essence. A longing for something deeper is coupled with an acknowledgement of Man's transience. Whilst the timelessness of such matters bestows gravity, the timeliness of these latest enquiries lends a new urgency.
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