Art in Focus: Y6.19 by Charles Tyrrell
Tyrrell’s body of work is in a sense an autobiography, a record of day-by-day activity
Y6.19 (2019) by Charles Tyrrell
How was it done? The painting was made using acrylic pigment on Yupo synthetic paper mounted on birch ply. In the past, Tyrrell has used several supports for his paintings, including canvas, canvas mounted on board, board and aluminium. Yupo presents a very smooth surface that holds a mark very precisely. It is wipeable as you work on it, waterproof and quite tough. Its manufacture does not involve trees. It’s composed of extruded polypropylene pellets and is recyclable.
Where can I see it? Y6.19 is included in Line, en exhibition of recent work by Charles Tyrrell at the Taylor Galleries in Dublin, until June 22nd, taylorgalleries.ie. Taylor Galleries have represented the artist since 1978.
Is it a typical work by the artist? It is typical in that it is a stage in Tyrrell’s progression, which has been remarkably consistent in terms of his pictorial language. He was born and raised in Trim, Co Meath, in 1984 and settled close to Allihies at the tip of the Beara peninsula in Co Cork. He had previously spent some years in Dublin, where he studied at NCAD and established a studio (a recent six-month residency is his first prolonged period working in Dublin since then). It is an unusual pattern of habitation for one of the country’s foremost abstract artists. Conventionally, one might expect an artist to gravitate towards a centre, then perhaps another, larger centre. But the western fringe of Beara is the opposite of that: it is as far out as you can get. That has not detracted from and, who knows, it may have encouraged, the concentrated intensity of Tyrrell’s work, which has rigorously followed a closely argued line of inquiry through abstract painting, drawing and printmaking through the decades.
An underlying, right-angled grid, explicitly or by implication, has been a consistent structural element of that work from early on, together with forms of symmetry, and symmetry-breaking. Both these features come into sharp focus in his current exhibition. Despite what may seem like the theoretical, even conceptual approach implied by the very word “abstract”, rather than being governed by abstract principles, his work is fundamentally rooted in process, in, as Gerhard Richter put it, the daily practice of painting. Tyrrell’s body of work is in a sense an autobiography, a record of day-by-day activity, a succession of responses to life experience, a reflection of thought and feeling. Hence his titles, which locate what he does sequentially in time.
In terms of the immediacy of process, drawing is essential and, while he is probably best known as a painter, his drawings and prints are exceptionally clear statements of his concerns, somewhere between blueprints and trial runs (they are well represented in this show). Such is the case with the recent work. The paintings grew from the ink drawings of grids, grids that are, figuratively speaking, under pressure. Each dynamically poised composition can be seen as an attempt at symmetry conservation in the face of distortions, breaks and gaps.