Monday, July 16, 2012

ARTIST - Art works and words by Michael O’Leary

Michael O'Leary has just published a book of his art work over the last 40 years.
 It has an introduction by Greg O'Brien and will be launched at John Quilter's Bookshop, Ghuznee Street, Wellington on Saturday 21st July at 2pm.

Here is part of Greg O'Brien's excellent introduction to the book (there is no wording on either back or front covers just the title and my name on the spine):

O'Leary's Orchard
When Charles Barr wrote that 'all criticism involves distortion,' he
probably wasn't thinking of the kind of distortion Jimi Hendrix
utilised in 'Voodoo Chile' or 'Star Spangled Banner'. Forget about the
small metal box on the stage floor, equidistant between the Fender
Stratocaster and the Marshall Stack. Barr was talking of the ngarly,
misshapen kind of criticism against which Charles Baudelaire railed
over a century earlier. In his 1846 review of the Paris Salon, the
father of modern art-writing laid it on the line:
‘I sincerely believe that the best criticism is that which is amusing
and poetic; not that cold and algebraic kind which, under the pretext
of explaining everything, displays neither hate nor love...’ Thus the best account of a painting can well be a sonnet or an elegy.
Of similar mind, the American painter Fairfield Porter put it another
way: 'Aesthetics should be, or I think I prefer to say, is, a
collection of personal remarks, avoiding systems and
            In attempting a critical introduction to this sampling of Michael
O'Leary's diverse visual/verbal output, I would—channeling the
benevolent spirits of Baudelaire and Porter—embrace and celebrate the
effects and distortions of the work but without, I hope, distorting
the work further. Instead I would offer the reader/viewer a few vistas
from the periphery of this munificent orchard, and corral a few
thoughts appropriate to such a zone of carefully considered moves and
virtuosic mishaps ('what is the life of the mind but a history of
interesting mistakes,' wrote Hugh Kenner) so that we might follow
Michael O'Leary on his 'eccentric orbit', to borrow an astrological
term well-suited to his artistic progress, his trajectory through the
inner and outer world of things.
            Needless to say, Michael is on the side of the makers rather than the
annotators, elaboraters and explainers. He places himself firmly in
the grand tradition of artists who invent their own tradition. That
said, he has inherited an assortment of character traits from
Romanticism. Like Rimbaud or Mallarme, he is capable of the ecstacies
of artistic creation and a euphoric immersion in nature or human
company or music (the Beatles, Kurt Cobain...). Like Yayoi Kusama,
from time to time he finds himself 'obliterated in the dancing swarm
of fireflies'. When the need arises, an inner need, he can also rally
the troops, shake the battlements, blow the trumpet—just like Ken
Bolton: 'Unemployed at last!' Or, again, like Kusama: 'Love Forever
Girls! Adolescence is on the way!' Or Mallarme: 'A lovely drunkenness
enlists me to raise, though the vessel lists, this toast on high and
without fear. / Solitude, rocky shoal, bright star...'

Publisher - Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop


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