These watercolours are the result of what Thomas Ryan has referred to as a two year ‘examination’ of Dublin and its outlying areas. The choice of medium was in part practical; the equipment is minimal, making it easy to carry what is needed and quick to set up, while the working painter is almost impossible to spot.
As for the subject matter, the reason for the choice was simple: ‘I love my Dublin’, Ryan has declared, ‘its streets, squares, the colour of its brick Georgian terraces, the leaden river, the massive grandeur of the dome of the Four Courts, and all the nooks, crannies, short cuts, canal bridges, and a thousand other views that stick in my memory. I lived in Dublin for years, now I live outside it. But the glow of the city lights up the night sky beyond my bedroom window, I might as well be back in Phibsboro.’
Drawing on a tradition that stretches at least as far back as James Malton, Ryan’s subjects in this exhibition range from the architectural set-pieces of the city – its grand eighteenth century buildings, its cathedrals and churches, the streets and squares of its Georgian core – to what the artist refers to as ‘the wayward and the commonplace’.
My concentration has been on local identity, a church, a coastal view, a half-hidden yard. But Dublin is now a well-spread urban landscape and I have tried to note the things that caught my eye in the many separate villages of the Capital. For me, under the allowance of the title ‘Dublin and thereabouts’, there is a wide prospect up and down the coast and inland too, from The Naul, not too far from Balbriggan, to Bray and on, in a painterly indulgence, to Glendalough in County Wicklow. All of these areas, though outside the jurisdiction of Dublin Corporation are in the Pale of the City. I live in the Pale, in Ashbourne, Co. Meath, as do others in Kildare and Wicklow. Though spread up and down and around, Dublin is the magnet that links the parts. However, I have stretched things a bit by including Glendalough in the Dublin ambiance. Dublin may be the country’s administrative centre but Glendalough is something else, a holy place. The city dwellers, as well as the locals, must needs say their prayers once in a while and where better than in Glendalough? The place is prettier than the top of Croagh Patrick and less burdensome to get to than the distant spires of Compostela. So, I put it in my album of Dublin and around and the viewer can go there to see if I’m right…
All the watercolours were painted on site, mostly in one sitting. Individually they capture their particular subjects with clarity and a rare perception. Cumulatively, they amount to a singular celebration of Dublin and its environs.