Art in Focus: Donald Teskey – Valley Walk II

This river landscape is a story of light and shade and a creek’s shimmering, mobile glint

Donald Teskey, ‘Valley walk II, 2017’, Acrylic on paper 56x77cm, Oliver Sears Gallery

Donald Teskey, ‘Valley walk II, 2017’, Acrylic on paper 56x77cm, Oliver Sears Gallery

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What is it?
Valley Walk II is a river landscape by Donald Teskey. It’s one of a series of paintings made during a residency at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, during the autumn of 2017. During his residency, he explored his surroundings at Swarthmore and was surprised to find a sense of wilderness, as Crum Creek negotiates its way through the nearby woodlands. His accounts of the terrain are stories of light and shade and the shimmering, mobile glint of the creek – slow moving, as he said of it, but always moving, and always reflective the light in shifting, unpredictable ways.

How was it done?
Painted in acrylic on paper, it is a vivid, immediate response to the artist’s surroundings. Teskey’s method is instinctive and gestural. Rather than slavish, detailed descriptions, information is imparted via touch, but never in an expressionist vein, always trying to be true to what is in front of him, while being as fast and accurate as possible. In the Crum Creek paintings, it’s as if he echoes the romanticism of 19th-century American landscape painting, as artists brought a European sensibility to bear on the epic vistas of the United States. At the same time, his perspective is comfortably more local and intimate.

Where can I see it?
Valley Walk II is included in One River, One Creek at the Oliver Sears Gallery, Molesworth St, Dublin (until March 15th). Crum Creek accounts for one half of the show, and the River Dodder, which flows by his Dublin city studio, is the subject of the other. His Dodder studies were made during the summer of 2017, prior to his departure for the US. He sees them both as semi-domesticated waterways, but both still stubbornly, thankfully wild.

Is it a typical work by the artist?
In its gestural immediacy it is typical. Teskey, one of the most collected Irish artists in the recent past, is someone who is both led by and drawn to his subject matter. Born in Co Limerick, he attended Limerick School of Art and Design. Early on he attracted attention for his skills as a draughtsman with desolate depictions of marginal urban spaces infused with a slightly uncanny, mysterious air. When he moved to Dublin, he made tense, charged images of acrobats soaring through space, and equally dramatic views of the Dodder Valley urban landscape (at a location near enough to his more recent work). He maintained this sense of drama as he explored Dublin’s tangled topography. It always seemed that he had a sense of the geography beneath the urban fabric, no matter how imposing and monumental the streets, walls and roadways might be. Then he ventured to the coast; not Dublin but the Southwest and, in time, North Mayo, when he went to paint at Ballycastle on a Ballinglen residency. The coast, and in particular the endless, driving energy of the tides, seemed to license him to use paint with a freedom and confidence that have led him from strength to strength. With One River, One Creek, he returns to calmer waters.

Valley Walk II is part of One River, One Creek, at the Oliver Sears Gallery, Molesworth Street, Dublin, until March 15th; oliversearsgallery.com

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