PRINTMAKER turned painter Ivan Daly has spent the past six years exploring the rugged coastline of Co Clare and honing his craft as a landscape artist, working primarily in oils.
The paintings are rooted in the topography of of Doonmacfelim, close to Doolin, an area Daly and his wife first started visiting six years ago, when they got a campervan.
“If you spend a lot of time in one place, it gets burned into your memory,” Daly says . “How the place felt, and moved, and how the wind was pushing against your coat.”
Daly grew up near the sea in Clonea, in his native Waterford, and has always been drawn to coastlines as places imbued with drama and conflict. The striking rock formations of Doonmacfelim were particularly exciting to him.
“The first thing that really hits you is the wind, and then the sound of the sea,” he says. “It’s very wild there. I’ve been up there on sunny days and the sea is still crashing in onto the rocks. I don’t think I would be able to paint something placid; it wouldn’t hold my interest for long enough.”
Daly, who competed in the televised Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year in 2015, specialised in printmaking in college, but painting formed a part of his process; he would ‘block in’ areas of his prints using primary colours direct from the tube.
Daly found himself increasingly drawn to the challenges of painting in oils. “I just had a renewed desire to learn painting, how to portray colours accurately and mix paint properly and just to learn the process myself. There’s just something about oils: it’s a temperamental kind of medium and that makes you want to learn it.”
To capture the essence of those constantly shifting landscapes while working at home in his studio in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Daly used moving images as well as sketches and photographs. “I would drive to the site in the summer and take a sketch book and a camera and take pictures and shoot video as well,” he says. “Photographs can be limiting; once you have a still image you don’t get the subtle variation in tones that you would if you were standing on the coastline. Video helps with that, because you pick up a bit more and there’s movement.”
It seems that the art of landscape painting suffers lapses into suburban acceptability, only to be revived cyclically by the work of painters like Maurice Desmond or Donald Teskey.
But Daly is keen to keep pushing the boundaries. A graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design, he refers to the Impressionists and predecessors like Turner, and an era when landscape painters had the power to provoke controversy, in his discussion of the relevance of landscapes against a backdrop of modern, conceptual art.
“When you take the scientific aspect of what they were doing, in just breaking colour up, there’s a certain amount of participation from the viewer to be able to look at their work and make sense of it,” he says. “It’s not presented to you in this very clean way, as a photograph would, so there’s human intervention at play.”
“But I was always aware that if I was going to present a body of work that was exclusively landscapes, that it would run the risk of being not challenging enough for viewers. That’s why I was cautious about representing it in a very honest way. I didn’t want to make it picturesque, or ‘beautiful,’ as such.”
- An exhibition of Daly’s work, entitled Doonmacfelim, is at Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, until March 19