Cormac Boydell:essay by Nicola Gordon Bowe for

“Representing Art in Ireland”,

publ.The Fenton Gallery, 2008, (ISBN 978-0-9544843-8-5).


Regardless of sculpted form, inscribed image, or possible function, each of Cormac Boydell's hand-built clay pieces seems to have emerged from the very core of the Earth, their lustrous or cratered surfaces layered with molten enamelled colour. Boydell's profound knowledge of the potential interaction of selected minerals and silicates when applied to fired earth enables him to orchestrate the rich fusions of the elements which have become unmistakeably recognizable as intrinsic to his art. By galvanizing air, fire, earth and water with a wealth of mineralogical components, he conjures up timeless forms whose treatment is intensely primitivist, smouldering colour, yet lyrical and joyful. His cumulative skills and singular vision of subtle connectedness with nature allow him to be the instrument of this material transformation.

Like the mediaeval painter who selected, gathered and mixed all the materials of his craft, Boydell has consistently kept as close to every stage of the material essence of his work as he did when he first practised as a young geologist. In his wellseasoned hands, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, and cobalt offer sumptuous, unsullied possibilities undreamt of by those who know colours only in tubes. He has written of crocoite as "the most beautiful mineral I know" and gold as "one of the 'Noble Metals' - pure and immutable': Like the Japanese Zen raku tea-bowl masters, he relishes the raw, pitted flux of the vitreous glazes exuded by his pieces in the course of their creation. This he captures in exuberant forms whose cold solidity defies belief. For the thirty or so years that he has been working he has never ceased to maintain an uncompromising closeness to the rugged West Cork landscape which is integral part of every aspect of his life.

Although he admires neolithic vessels, vernacular slipware, prehistoric rock painting, the art of Van Gogh, Matisse, Tapies, Beuys and that of his older Ireland-based contemporaries John ffrench, Oisin Kelly and Grattan Freyer, Boydell's own work appears timeless in its evocative, earth-rooted spontaneity.

© Nicola Gordon Bowe 2005

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