IMMA Collection: Nick Miller and the studio of Edward McGuire
19 November 2015 - 2 May 2016
Edward McGuire Studio, Installation view IMMA, IMMA Collection, Donated by Sally Maguire, 1997. Photo: Nick Miller
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.
About Edward McGuire Irish portrait artist and still life painter Edward McGuire (1932-1986), is best known for his study of dead birds and portraits of writers and poets. McGuire's best-known sitters include Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan, Anthony Cronin and Pearse Hutchinson. Many of his portraits have a surreal quality derived from McGuire's love of unusual studio props such as stuffed birds and highly stylised leaf decoration. This feeling is strengthened by the often remote and static pose of the sitter which defies the realist precision with which they are executed. The portrait of the artist Patrick Collins from the IMMA Collection, painted just three years before McGuire's death, is unusual in its avoidance of these devices
About Nick Miller Nick Miller moved from London to Ireland in 1984, and has been based in Co. Sligo since 1992. His work, whatever his subject: a person, an object, or landscape, is concerned with portraiture and with how we experience and meet the world. His paintings and drawings of friends and family members and colleagues, sometimes made from an unusually close range, parallel landscapes painted from a mobile studio devised to minimise the separation between artist and subject. Miller has exhibited in Ireland and internationally since the 1980s. His work is represented in many public and private collections. Miller was elected to Aosdána in 2001.
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 this exhibition.