Belfast-born Sarah Longley will open the Peppercanister Gallery programme for 2009 with a series of Italian paintings. Her work ranges from intimate domestic interiors, still tiles with flowers and fabrics to portraits of friends, family and self-portraits. A sense of place is the central theme in this exhibition, which is her fifth one-person show at the gallery. Sarah Longley: January - February
MY FAVOURITE SHARE/ Ib Jorgensen THE collapse of the global share market since the disasters of September 11 has focused a new interest in the art market as an alternative investment area.
The art market has, over the last 20 years, proven to be an extremely successful sector in which to invest. With the right understanding, the 'eye', to select, or with the right advice from a reputed gallery, art can be a very advantageous and profitable investment.
The Irish art market in the last 15 years has gone through huge changes. Firstly, the vibrant economy has encouraged many Irish buyers to collect and invest in art. Secondly, the Irish collector has gained a good understanding of the value and the merits of a painting and is therefore more comfortable with his selection.
As a working gallery-owner I have observed in the last 11 years that great capital gains have been achieved in the buying and selling of paintings, watercolours, drawings and sculpture.
Many clients have achieved very sound returns over a relatively short time. To give an example, a client purchased a Louis le Brocquy from me six years ago for £5,000 and has recently sold the same painting for ?23,000. This is a good example of how buying with knowledge and a facility to 'read' a painting can give a very profitable return on the investment.
For the keen collector I would like to recommend a handful of artists, equally for pleasure but also, this being the point of the article, for investment. Look for good works by Liam Belton, Tony O'Malley, John Shinnors, Nora McGuinness, Neil Shawcross, Evie Hone, Mainie Jellett, Colin Middleton, Patrick Pye, Conor Walton and Mike Fitzharris, amongst others.
In sculpture I would suggest that you cast an eye over the works of John Behan, Carolyn Mulholland, Conor Fallon, Elizabeth le Jeune and Olivia Musgrave. In order to offer a more objective overview of the choice out there I approached a number of the leading Dublin galleries for their suggestions as to the artists who represent a sound investment.
Jimmy Gorry, of the Gorry Gallery, stresses how important it is to look for quality in a painting and points out that although some 19th-century artists may be considered unpopular now, it is still advisable to collect James and Francis Danby, sons of Thomas; James Arthur O'Connor and George Barrett should also be sought out.
David Britton at the Frederick Gallery went for Mark O'Neill , Blaise Smith and Niccolo Caracciolo, whilst Josephine at The Rubicon recommends Hughie O'Donoghue, Eithne Jordan and Nick Miller.
Sarah Longley, Breon O'Casey and Makiko Nakamura were Antoinette Murphy's choice at The Peppercanister Gallery, whilst over at The Solomon Gallery Suzanne Macdougald suggested Martin Mooney, Hector McDonnell, Brian Ballard and Ronan Gillespie. The Hallward's Mary Tuohy selects Robert Clarke , Michael Canning, David King, Cormac O'Leary and Sarah Walker.
The secret of good buying lies in seeking out quality.
Sarah Longley is a young representational artist whose subject matter is thoroughly conventional, even conservative. She shows still lifes, views of gardens, self-portraits and nude figure studies, making drawings and paintings with pencil, charcoal and oil. Yet there is nothing calculated or ingratiating about her choice of subject or the nature of her work. It comes across as truthful, direct and exploratory.
Technically, there is no slickness to her approach. The surfaces of both drawings and paintings are worked and worried over, built up piecemeal from lots of small, provisional marks rather than from, say, the brisk, confident lines and bold swathes of colour exemplified by Matisse or Dufy.
Temperamentally, Longley is closer to Bonnard, though she is a northern European Bonnard, at home with sullen winter light and the northern sensibility. Her images, with their uneasy surfaces, their refusal of facile effects, have a kind of moody truculence about them.
In her flower studies, particularly, she explores colour. Here, her handling of oil paint, in thin, fluid, translucent layers, almost as though it is watercolour, owes something to Neil Shawcross, but where he goes for pure, vivid colour, she is invariably inclined to bring it down several tones. She is, in fact, a predominantly tonal painter, not quite at ease with intense colour, and her drawings are also tonal: hardly linear at all.
Hence her liking for shadows. In her almost invariably contre-jour figure drawings, her subject, usually sprawling and relaxed, is built up in expanses of soft grey charcoal shadows (she is noticeably more comfortable on a large scale in her drawings than in her paintings). Head, torso, hips and thighs are dark, concentrated masses, accentuated by folded or extended limbs. These subdued, intimate studies impart a sense of melancholy isolation typical of the work as a whole.
It is there, for example, in her fine, understated self-portrait studies and garden compositions. These, she mentions in a catalogue note, are based largely on views of the Royal Botanic Garden from the windows of her Edinburgh studio.
They are the most spatially complex things in the show, their interlocking patterns of light and shade setting up labyrinthine pathways for our eyes to negotiate. Often, there is a tiny figure or two tucked away in the composition, and the scenes are charged with a slight unease, a sense of vague foreboding.
All this is achieved by virtue of Longley's patient application of a careful, descriptive method as she traces the precise shape of spidery tree limbs or, indeed, depicts each species of tree as a distinct individual. The strength of her work rests not only on her assiduous attention to the demands of each area of subject matter, but also, very much, on the consistency of her dark-edged vision. It will be interesting to see which direction her work takes in the future.