Irish Art Review Winter 2017 – Volume 34. David Lilburn
Good Morning Mister Turner – Niall Naessens
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
Good Morning Mr Turner
Separated by time, but united in their inspiration, Niall Naessens shows his work at this season’s annual display of the Turner Collection, reports David Lilburn.
Affirming the view that the best readings of art are art, and that art is also art criticism, the National Gallery of Ireland, to compliment the next annual display of the Henry Vaughan Bequest of works by Joseph Mallord William Turner in January 2018, has invited Irish master printmaker Niall Naessens to mount an exhibition. Showing no evidence of being overshadowed by his great exemplar, Naessens sets out to welcome and engage with his hero in his exhibition Good Morning Mr Turner. ‘My work for this show’ he writes ‘is an homage to Turner. As an artist who works in the realm of landscape imagery I constantly revisit Turner’s work and take note each time I do, he is the measure, the standard.’ A theme running through the show is that of conversation; conversations between two artists and between an artist and the landscape. With Brandon Head as a backdrop, Naessens and Turner can be seen conversing in the etching ‘Artists Discussing Burkes Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of Sublime and Beautiful’, referring to a treatise so influential to Turner and the Romantic movement (Fig 3). In many of the images, an artist, probably Mr Turner, possibly Mr Naessens – book under his arm, wearing a distinctive hat – prowls through the landscapes on the lookout for images and experiences.
In his exhibition there are many enjoyable ‘quotes’ and references to works by Turner, for example, the figure of Napoleon standing on a local Kerry beach before a blood red morning sky in ‘Figures from a History Painting’ and the octagonal image space in Artist Observing Dawn, Sunrise over Caherconree, (Fig 1). Both bring to mind Turner’s War. The Exile and the Rock Limpit (Tate Britain).
Many artists who have developed a distinctive personal ‘voice’, started off making work ‘after’ their hero before ending up becoming more like themselves. In his show Naessens does not make ‘Turners’, he makes ‘Naessenses’. The standard curatorial device of juxtaposition of these two exhibitions highlights just how different the two bodies of work are: in technique, in imagery, in temperament – unsurprisingly as the artists are from different places and from a different time.
But it also underlines a significant similarity – the works are landscapes which are imbued with a sense of presence, and in describing a view or an event express the experience of ‘being there’.
Naessens’ exhibition comprises drawings, coloured etchings and a charming ‘artist’s book’ or ‘box set’ of thirteen small etchings entitled Good Morning Mr Turner with the subtitle Indeed Sublime, a reference to Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry. The coloured etchings are made by printing up to four plates, each containing drawn elements, in different colours in layers on the one piece of paper and then through a labour intensive process, persistently modifying the plates and proofing, over a period of time (days, weeks, even months) until the final resonant image is eventually brought into being.
The large airy drawings in the show are built up in a manner that is informed by the rigorous processes of printmaking: ruled horizontal graphite lines of varying weights, are overlaid with a layer of translucent etching ink and then over painted in gouache.
In the work Naessens employs a number of artistic devices and constraints; all the images are in a square format, viewpoints are stretched, scale is distorted, props added and moved around and he frequently uses events or marks representing for example rain, vegetation or insects and apertures of one sort or another in the foreground to interrupt and frame the scene.
To make a landscape it is important to continually re-look at the landscape and Naessens brings an impressive battery of
THE WORKS ARE LANDSCAPES WHICH ARE IMBUED WITH A SENSE OF PRESENCE, AND IN DESCRIBING A VIEW OR AN EVENT EXPRESS THE EXPERIENCE OF ‘BEING THERE’
stored information and skill to the task: drawings, photographs, memory, experience, spatial sensitivity, invention, a wariness of the literal. Simply looking out the window and assimilating what is there (he lives with his family in Lios na Caolbhai on the slopes of Mount Brandon, facing east) can contribute to the final composition and atmosphere of the work. He is concerned to avoid instant ‘snapshot’ souvenir images and as a result of his individual, but patient practice, he succeeds. His images resonate with a sense of space and time and light.
In the end, the making of memorable images comes down to the individual artist’s unique way of looking, seeing and engaging with the world. Like Turner, who was obsessed with his work being kept and seen together, the better to validate his unique experience, Niall Naessens has created a coherent body of work; pictures that compliment each other, can be cross-referenced and which, when seen together, gain in meaning, and bear witness to his practice as an artist printmaker.
Niall Naessens ‘ Good Morning Mr Turner’ NGI, Dublin 1-31 January 2018.
David Lilburn is an artist, printmaker, designer and occasional publisher living in Limerick.
Sunday Times January 21 2018 – Cristin Leach
Art: Good Morning Mister Turner
This year the annual Turner outing at the National Gallery of Ireland is enlivened by the inspired pairing of the 19th-century watercolours with new works on paper by Irish master printmaker Niall Naessens. In this context, unexpected Turners shine, including The Fall of the River Velino near Terni, in which two figures are dwarfed by an Italian landscape of waterfall and steep crags. Sunset over Petworth Park and Ostend Harbour chime with the colours in Naessens’s vibrant etchings. Naessens borrows mood and feeling from Turner and applies them to depictions of landscape in his own style and location, such as Brandon on the West Kerry coast. He also brings humour to his Turner-mode depictions of an artist figure enthralled by nature. The show includes large-scale drawings, the standouts being Caherconree Snow Covered and a Shower of Hail, and Brandon Ridge, Landscape with Hares and Crows. Both artists capture a sense of contented aloneness outdoors, in ever-changing weather and shifting light. There’s one week left to catch this uplifting meeting of minds, two centuries apart.
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
The Gloss Magazine January 17, 2018. Penny McCormick
Artistic License with Niall Naessens
Get to know artist NIALL NAESSENS …
Irish Times 17 March 2015. Aiden Dunne
L12121 Picture Panoply – Niall Naessens
Graphic Studio Gallery, Dublin
As a printmaker, Niall Naessens is an exemplary technician. That can be a bad thing. It is an occupational hazard among printmakers that obsessive attention to technique can stifle or corral creativity. But Naessens seems to be aware of that, and has always been at pains to look outwards, beyond the confines of the well-ordered print studio with its ironclad routine. Never more so than since he moved to rural Co Kerry, looking over the sea. L12121 is, apparently, the code for the Lios na Caolbhaí Road near Brandon, where he lives and works.
Not that he has embraced disorder. He is a classicist. That is, he is one of those artists who takes on the unruly chaos of the world and makes an orderly, illuminating and beautiful representation of it, and the pleasure we take from his work stems from that process and the abilities that go into it. His use of line is superb, and his penchant for heightened or idiosyncratic colour, which might give you pause, is actually pretty sound.
The etchings and monoprint/drawings (in other words, each is unique) in the show make up an exploration of his immediate environment, from inside to out, and close-up details – such as moths against the window – to distant vistas. He excels at conveying the layering of phenomena and vision, and stillness and movement are nicely counterpointed.
In daily life, there’s lots of movement built into what we see, and he manages to catch that incredibly well: leaves, sycamore seeds and litter scattering across a landscape, the acrobatics of swallows, a shower of hail flung by the wind. He’s equally good on stillness, when it comes to the night sky, for example, as in the superb Ursa Major. Until March 28th, graphicstudiodublin.com