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Anne Madden at IMMA
A major retrospective of the work of the acclaimed Irish artist Anne Madden opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 27 June 2007. Spanning the artist’s entire career, Anne Madden: A Retrospective comprises some 60 works from the 1950s to date, including a number direct from the artist’s studio. The exhibition features some of Madden’s most important paintings, including early works inspired by the Burren and her series of Megaliths, Monoliths and Doorways, from the 1970s. The exhibition also presents early sculptural works, paintings from her Elegy, Pompeii, Odyssey and Garden series and new paintings from her Aurora Borealis series. The exhibition will be opened by the distinguished Irish artist and writer Brian O’Doherty (Patrick Ireland) at 6.00pm on Tuesday 26 June.
Although the exhibition covers Madden’s entire oeuvre, it was this new body of work – the Aurora Borealis paintings – which prompted IMMA Director, Enrique Juncosa, to stage the exhibition, the latest in a long line by leading Irish artists at the Museum, at this time. In the catalogue essay he describes the works, inspired by the glowing atmospheric phenomenon seen in the northern night sky, as “ambitious in scale, spectacular in their depiction of chromatic contrasts and highly accomplished in their technique”.
This assured technique is already evident in the very earliest painting in the show, the serene and confident Self Portrait, 1950. Perhaps more indicative of what was to follow, however, are Madden’s abstract landscapes from the late 1950s, the result of long periods spent in the strange and eerie landscape of the Burren in Co Clare. In Burren Land, 1960, for example, we see the beginning of that engagement with conceptual space which would become a constant feature of her work. Also being shown are some fine examples of a body of experimental work from the 1960s created by pouring paint over a horizontal canvas. The result, in works such as Mountain Sequence Red Quadripartite, 1967, seems to echo the chance nature of geographical formations.
By the 1980s Madden’s focus had moved to a series of window forms. These and her paintings of doors from the same period are in Madden’s words “thresholds between interior and exterior space, a reconciliation of opposites”. They include a beautiful series of paintings made in response to the frescos in the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii. She describes how Pompeii seized hold of her imagination “because of its apocalyptic destruction it was both a memory and a mirror, a condensation of our possible destruction by a nuclear holocaust. People and dogs were held and seized in their everyday gestures, a whole city snuffed out as it went about its business.”
The exhibition also presents some striking examples of Madden’s paintings of the sea and of nocturnal gardens, and of her 2001-02 series The Garden of Love inspired by lines from William Blake’s poem of the same name: “I went to the garden of love … and I saw it was filled with graves”. Described by Enrique Juncosa as “shimmering, dynamic and sumptuous spaces, filled with gold, silver, violet or red”, they, like Madden’s entire body of work, provide eloquent testimony to her understanding of art as “spiritual in its impulse and mysterious in its force … an essential … part of human experience”.
Anne Madden is particularly well known in both Ireland and France where she has divided her time for the past forty years. Of Irish and Anglo-Chilean origin, she spent her first years in Chile. The family then moved to Europe, where they lived in both Ireland and London, where Madden attended the Chelsea School of Arts and Crafts. In 1958 she married the Irish painter Louis Le Brocquy and moved to the south of France. In the 1980s Madden stopped painting for a time and devoted herself to drawing, this resulted in a series of large works in graphite and oil paint on paper. Madden then returned to painting on canvas and has continued to develop and produce a large body of work. She has exhibited widely in both solo and group exhibitions and her work is represented in many public collections. In 1965 she represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale and exhibited at ROSC ’84. Solo exhibitions include RHA Gallagher
The exhibition is curated by Enrique Juncosa, Director, IMMA.
Anne Madden: Painter and Muse, the widely-praised documentary film produced by Mind the Gap Films in 2006 and shown as part of RTE Television’s prestigious Arts Lives series, will be screened in the Lecture Room at IMMA at 11.00am and 4.00pm from 27 June to 10 July (excluding Mondays).
Anne Madden will give the annual Winter Lecture at IMMA in December 2007.
A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition and features essays by Enrique Juncosa and the poet Derek Mahon; a poem by Derek Mahon and a short text by Marcelin Pleynet; Anne Madden’s important essay A quest: some reflections on being a painter; and a comprehensive illustrated chronology compiled by Karen Sweeney. It is published by the Irish Museum of Modern Art in association with Scala.
Anne Madden: A Retrospective continues until 30 September 2007. Admission is free.
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