Review - Ronan Walsh at Miriam Schiell Gallery, Toronto
Ronan Walsh is that rare occurrence in contemporary art, a Romantic painter working in the midst of an era dominated by conceptual, performance and Scatological art. Like Eugene Delacroix, Walsh has often devoted himself to the more closely to the rich impasto tradition of Roderick O’Conner, Jack Yeats and Francis Bacon than to the more tempered techniques of William Scott and Louis le Brocquy.
During the past decade Walsh has emerged as a prominent figure in Irish and Canadian art. As early as 1995 he was painting such commanding works as The Atlantic Galway a virtual masterpiece in its stark condensed composition. Few painters today create with the alla prima brava exhibited in this and other canvasses created by Ronan. The intensity of his style is basically expressionist, recalling the early works of Emile Nodle and Alexa von Jewelsky.
For the past four years horses have dominated Walsh’s compositions. In painting horses, Walsh is in distinguished company. Equestrian subjects have attracted a long succession of great painters. Leonardo DaVinci, Ucello, Rembrant, Delecroix, Gericult, Stubbs, Degas, Franz Marc and Mario Marini are few who included horses within their masterpieces.
Walsh’s horse canvasses reveal the breadth of his stylistic approaches to painting, from representational to near abstraction. His invocations of equine movement range from the crisp closely observed White Horse with Foal and Woman to such tempestuous compositions as Yellow Horses by the Straits of Florida wherein lush pigments and horses appear to merge into incandescent forms reminiscent of Celtic imagery. In an era when so much is arid in concept and presentation, it is welcome to discover an artist who has passion for paint and its physical possibilities.
- Paul Duval, 2006