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Cracking paint

Abstract paintings and wire sculptures by Danny Mooney at Gill Gallery

The clue, really, is in the title… Danny’s paintings, which have walked alongside Australian Aboriginal art and come out the other side, sit next to wire sculptures in box frames and the two combine to create a delightfully intimate exhibition. HOT reporter Cathy Simpson visited the show and talked to Danny about the inspiration and motivation behind his work.

Danny is unapologetic about his debt to Aboriginal artwork, both in concept and execution, but there the resemblance ends. As he put it: ‘The Aboriginal paintings weave stories; they’re a lot more than just patterns. I weave stories, too, but not like the Aboriginals. I want people to come in here, look at the work and weave their own stories’.

The intriguing titles, apparently, are song lines. Not in an Aboriginal sense, but the lyrics to songs which were playing in the background as he worked. Danny listens to music constantly while he’s painting, and often a line would seem particularly appropriate to a piece of work, capturing a mood and a moment in time. The paintings themselves have more in common with low-relief wall-mounted sculpture than pictures in frames, and the structures themselves appear more and more intriguing, the longer you look. He explained that he starts with the concept of the painting as an object first and foremost. They are a combination of bought and treated canvases and found objects, often with the two in the same piece, and the paint both emphasises and disguises the forms. Danny clearly enjoys the sensuality of paint, as layer upon layer is applied to create texture and pattern. The warm earth colours add to the feeling of sensuality.

Sometimes the titles are joyously descriptive, as in Splash, which references David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash but entirely reinterprets it, the only compromise being the stroke of ultramarine just below dead centre. It takes a little while to realise that this is not a canvas with a curiously fashioned frame, but a metal tray which has been treated and embellished.

Splash (Oil on metal, 30.5 x 38 cm)

Splash (Oil on metal, 30.5 x 38 cm)

Other titles are intriguing, as in the mixed media piece: Fear is a man’s best friend. 

Fear Is A Man's Best Friend (Mixed media 17.5 x 17cm)

Fear Is A Man's Best Friend (Mixed media 17.5 x 17cm)

This work really is best viewed ‘in the flesh’;  no photograph could properly convey the richness of texture and structure of a piece which is actually quite small – but would work dramatically if it were to occupy an entire wall.

The wire sculptures are totally different in concept and execution, but really complement the paintings. Danny draws with the wire; often more than one figure in the same piece, and the shadow is then cast on the back of the box frame which houses the piece, the shadow becoming a significant part of the work. Apparently this was a serendipitous discovery, as the original concept was to treat these as free-standing sculptures. An interesting idea and one which would have led to work with a totally different feel.

Apparently Danny had amassed books full of very quick observational sketches, and the early wire sculptures were an attempt to follow the lines of the drawings. As many of them were figurative in content, he quickly became fascinated by the rendering of faces, recognised the limitations of the wire as a drawing medium – and branched off into portraiture as a separate art form!

Yet it is interesting to look at the expressive possibilities of the wire, as shown here in Xav and James.

Xav and James (Iron and bronze wire 35.5 x 35.5cm)

Xav and James (Iron and bronze wire 35.5 x 35.5cm)

The line quality is simple; it would be difficult to make it otherwise, but the amount of information it conveys is astonishing. The viewer gets a sense of the personalities of these characters, the relationship between them and their body language.  The sensual line and the shadow even combine to create a sense of movement.

The juxtaposition of these very refined pieces with the primeval earthiness of the abstract paintings is a telling one, too.  Each emphasises the contrasting qualities of the other;  they are all of a similar(ish) size and sit easily together with no attempt to group them according to type – and a very effective display it is.

Danny is a fantastically versatile, prolific artist and it has been an effort to confine this discussion to the work on display.  It really is a lovely snapshot of this artist’s work, however, and I highly recommend it. It is also affordable! More can be seen on his website.

Gill Gallery also has a wide range of cards, prints and gifts, and offers a picture framing service.

Abstract paintings and wire sculptures is on display until 16 March 2013.
Gill Gallery
55  Kings Road
St. Leonards-On-Sea
TN37 6DY

Tel: 01424 446882

Opening hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 10.00am – 4.00pm
Wednesday & Saturday: 10.00am – 1.00pm

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Posted 08:33 Monday, Feb 18, 2013 In: Visual Arts

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