John Coyle’s exhibition What will survive of us is love at the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery presents a rare occasion to see a body of work by an artist, who though seen frequently in group exhibitions, will have his first solo show since the 1980s.
John Coyle’s exhibition focuses on a selection taken from his recent paintings and in these works, John Coyle continues with the ideas that have always remained central to his practice, namely a concern, for the spatial organisation of his compositions and to paint what is ‘under his nose’. In these new works it is Dun Laoghaire that is closely observed from behind the window of his second floor studio in Clarinda Park, presenting views over rooftops, into back gardens, a cropped-off tennis court or the driveway leading up to the side of a Victorian house. These are deliberately off-centre compositions and from this perspective (his studio window) a geometric linear order is captured in cut off angles, oblique views and even the axonometric. The structured order of the paintings are further imbued with light and atmosphere is created through the use of loose brushstrokes – defining trees, greenery and skies – which combine to create a mood of tranquility and calm (present in all of his works), lending to his paintings a sense of timelessness.(These parts of Dun Laoghaire, away from the sea, have hardly changed at all, it seems). However, it is the kind of tranquility too that appears to border on the edges of loneliness, – empty streets, quiet interiors, and if people are included they are generally alone ( and their own thoughts) or anonymous. ‘It is not the subject that counts but how you feel about it’, is how Edward Hopper described his relationship to the everyday world that stirred him to paint. For John Coyle the references might be to Wordsworth’s idea of , ’emotion recollected in tranquility’. For it is through recollection that Coyle finds orderliness in the world he inhabits – what he observes and what has stirred him. His paintings present dual positions, one capturing the immediacy of a time and place, the other, informed by a more distant stance, of abstraction observed in nature.
What will survive of us is love is the last line in Philip Larkin’s poem An Arundel Tomb – the poem can be read as a consideration on time, mortality and the limits of earthy love. It is an apt title for this exhibition. John Coyle has remained over his life constantly committed to his art and to a relationship ( a love affair, one might say) with his home place – Dun Laoghaire and his studio in Clarinda park, which is such a part of his work.
– Cliodhna Shaffrey