In 2009 Sally McGuire, the wife of the artist Edward McGuire (1932-1986), donated 130 key items from the studio contents of Edward McGuire to the National Collection at IMMA. Reminiscent of a Renaissance Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, McGuire’s studio objects reflect an esoteric interest in natural history such as the glass-cased and mounted specimens of taxidermied birds, shells, a sheep’s skull, a mummified cat. His method was organised and scientific: sitters recall a sense of the laboratory as the artist regarded them from beneath his green visor.
In considering how to curate these biographical objects and what it might mean to exhibit them alongside McGuire’s paintings and to avoid a detached, museological approach, IMMA invited Nick Miller to be the eyes and sensibility that respond to the older artist’s studio and practice, to create a ‘portrait’ of McGuire in absentia.
Miller has always held the older artist in high esteem. As part of the process, earlier this year Miller spent some weeks in residency in an IMMA studio, amid a selection of McGuire’s studio items. A number of McGuire’s former sitters were invited to sit for a ‘meeting’ as Miller terms it, with ‘their recollections of McGuire as a starting point for a connection’. Miller worked on his still life paintings while listening to McGuire’s jazz collection.
Alongside contents from the Edward McGuire studio this exhibition includes a number of portraits, by both artists, of sitters such as Anthony Cronin, Garech de Brún and Tresa Browne, for example. Other sitters included Wanda Ryan – Smolin who sat for McGuire when she was a child, his first official commission and Paul Durcan who memorialised McGuire in a poem Portrait of the Painter as a creature of Paintstaking Courtesy.
Irish painter Edward McGuire studied art in Italy before attending the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Best known for his studies of dead birds and portraits of writers and poets, McGuire’s paintings have a surreal, static quality which defies the realist precision with which they are executed. McGuire exhibited widely during his lifetime. He was elected a member of the RHA in 1978 and a member of Aosdána in 1984.View Artist
Self-taught painter Nick Miller moved from London to Ireland in 1984. Miller’s work is figurative and concerned with memory and subjective experience. His studies of friends and family members, often from very close range, parallel landscapes painted from a mobile studio devised to minimise the separation between artist and subject. Miller has exhibited internationally since the 1980s. His work is represented in many public and private collections. Miller was elected a member of Aosdána in 2001.View Artist
Curators Lunchtime Talk – Drop in
Friday 4 March, 1.15pm – 2pm, Meeting Point Main Reception
Join curator Johanne Mullan, Collections, IMMA, for an insightful walkthrough of this exhibition. No booking required.
Originally broadcast in 1977 Folio: Edward Maguire is a fascinating RTE documentary kindly made available by RTE on the RTE player for the duration of this exhibition. A portrait of Edward McGuire, the documentary also features Anthony Cronin, sitting for a portrait which is included in the current exhibition a IMMA.
Read the exhibition guide (pdf) for Nick Miller and the studio of Edward McGuire.
Video introduction featuring Christina Kennedy, Head of Collections and artist Nick Miller.
Review in the Irish Times An artistic inheritance that pays off: Visual art round-up by Aidan Dunne.
The exhibition was on the Frieze Blog as part of Gemma Tipton’s Critic’s Guide of Dublin.
Video by Nick Miller showcasing Edward McGuire’s Colour Dictionary.