Patrick Pye


WITH a virtual retrospective of his work mounted by the RHA Gallagher Gallery, this exhibition shows Patrick Pye in his more intimate aspects. Though predictably there are many works on religious themes, his range is illustrated by still life pictures, some landscapes, even a large pastel of a woman, (clothed, not nude) reclining on a bed or sofa. There is also a strange apocalyptic landscape entitled An Habitation In Spain, in which a single diminutive figure with a stick or staff (a pilgrim, a peasant, a herdsman?)" strides along in the shadow of red rocky hills.

Pye sometimes seems as if he were making a deliberate decision to exclude most of the sensuous qualities from his work and to make it as ascetic and spare - you might even say "dry" - as is possible without confining himself entirely to black and white. Luckily he does not exclude them altogether, since in his way he is a fine colourist with an ability to manipulate flat, angular forms without the picture becoming one dimensional. Though his paint quite often has a chalky, brittle quality, it fulfils what he wants it to do, and there are few, if any, Irish painters with a better or more economical sense of placing objects in space.

Yet perhaps the most individual work on view is the large drawing Soldier And Cross, which in fact is a Deposition in the traditional sense, except that the soldier in the foreground, his back to the viewer, is wearing a modern field helmet instead of a medieval one and shows "official" epaulettes. It is vertical in format, with a vertiginous effect produced largely by a succession of falling curves.

The various graphic works mostly cover familiar ground, and this side of Pye's work has been seen in the Graphic Studio Gallery and elsewhere in recent years. Like its big brother in Ely Place, this exhibition will confirm Pye's very special place in contemporary art - as a self made original and, at his best, a genuine visionary.