Oliver Comerford’s work has been described both as social realism and romantic realism. Though seemingly paradoxical, both can be true, but only with a revision of what we understand by these terms.
Social realism is a term steeped in ideological determination. It refers, not
to the social reality, but to the promotion of what that reality should be. Comerford’s realism attempts to capture the ‘unconscious mood’ of his era; that mood being determined by the many variants that constitute contemporary life, and their effect upon the tradition of landscape painting. Fintan O’Toole, in his essay in this publication, sites one of the most pertinent contributors to the formation of our life today being the constant moving between destinations, the ‘road’ itself becoming the subject. Comerford’s images derive from this experience, from the gas stations, highways and airports of our itinerant life. And it is in these subjects, painted in the light of the night or early morning, that Comerford comes to the second assignation attached to him, a romantic realist. Historically, Romanticism as a genre depended on the awesomeness
of nature overwhelming the human position. But, in a time where we tend our wilderness in national parks, such hierarchy no longer pertains. Comerford’s romanticism is like a blue note of melancholy that derives from the loss of such order. Overlying this discussion of subject, Oliver Comerford’s paintings crackle with the dynamics of the relationship between painting and photography.
The work throughout is infused with subtext; Comerford’s images are as stark as they are complex. The Royal Hibernian Academy would like to thank Fintan O’Toole and Declan Long for their insightful essays, and to the artist himself for his commitment to the project. We wish to acknowledge the role of Kevin Kavanagh in the making of this publication. Our gratitude, also, to all of the owners of the work who have generously lent to the exhibition.
Patrick T. Murphy
Royal Hibernian Academy