Fermanagh-born artist Gerard McGourty is self-taught and specialises in painting. Currently based in Blackrock, Dublin he has had numerous solo exhibitions and is represented in major private collections in Ireland, Italy and the USA. During this year's Fermanagh Live Arts Festival's (FLive) Visual Arts Trail, Gerard showed his exhibition 'Transition and Place' at the Devenish Gallery in Enniskillen. Here he speaks to The Impartial Reporter about his artistic background, painting in his Belcoo home place and what his art means to him.

JC: What is your artistic background?

GMcC: This was a circuitous route, a journey of discovery of those versatile all important tools, the hands, and while digging potatoes or gathering firewood or helping my father on some home building project in rural Fermanagh doesn’t seem an art, it was part of the early training .

After my academic studies and working and travelling in Europe a chance glimpse of a small advert in a London evening newspaper for a summer job in the picture framing department of an art gallery could be said to be a pivotal point in the world of art and self-employment.

Realising that a nine to five existence would not have been fulfilling, I established a small picture framing business in Dublin,which evolved into making bespoke furniture for interior designer clients. This evolved into painting and an art gallery some 25 years ago.

This description of a series of experiences and memory is the inspiration of my art. The challenge of standing in front of a blank canvas with the goal of doing something new is also a journey into an undiscovered landscape and with that may come failure or success. This process is described by a writer on my paintings, “Gerard McGourty is a self-taught artist. A self-taught artist is not an un-taught artist. A self-taught artist has the advantage of the eye and the experience of every artist who has gone before and who have shared his vision. There is more teaching in the eye than ever could be imparted in the formality of a teaching institution, and though the grant fed runions might mutter, 'Oh! but what about technique', I would say there are other ways of acquiring the secrets of the painters trade, without being bound an apprentice, for this is only the beginning, and after the mixing and scraping and the stretching, the heart of the matter is the eye and the eye and the heart must always proceed hand in hand."

JC: Who/what are your biggest influences?

GMcC: We live in a time where at every turn there is some expert waiting to deliver their instant panacea, in what ever area is required. The fact is that our inspirational parents are our biggest influence in forming the bedrock on which everything else is built. While the study for A-Levels in St. Michael's, Enniskillen in the 1970s geared you to a more academic type career, the library had interesting books and the 'Lives of Artists' was an inspiration, the reality of another existence, the depiction of another world would have opened up a new horizon for any angst ridden teen.

What I found most interesting was, while their art hung in palaces, their lives were often more mundane and

lived far from palaces. Rembrandt struggling with the austere authorities of the time, in the midst of debt and family tragedy describes that experience for us in his self portraits.

Van Gogh, Cezanne, or Gauguin realised the need to escape the stifling atmosphere of a bourgeois existence and took their own path. Goya in 1792 in a message to artists “there are no rules in painting” would have been noted by the impressionists who followed about a century later. He continues - “The tyranny that obliges everyone,as if they were slaves, to study in the same way or to follow the same method is a great impediment to the young who practice this very difficult art, which comes closer to the divine than any other,since it makes known what God has created. Even those who have gone furthest in the matter can give few rules about the deep play of understanding that is needed,or say how it comes about that they were sometimes more successful in a work executed with less care than in one which they had spent most time.What a profound and impenetrable mystery is locked up in the imitation of divine nature, without which there is nothing good.”

JC: Is there a specific place that you do your work?

GMcC: At my residence and studio in Dublin I have developed a roof garden where I can work out ideas and experiment with new techniques and materials.

From the 'Artists Handbook' there are instructions on how to make paint. I will sometimes make paint, where control of the drying time, liquidity, transparency are important factors, for painting broad stroke expressionist or gestural movements. This method of drawing and painting at the same time can give interesting results.

I also paint at my Belcoo home place, mainly outdoor and more suited to the summer months, but this is also a time to walk through those woods or along Lough MacNean, which from an adult's perspective may be a mere few fields with the topography from the last ice age, but from childhood or youth an eternal landscape filled with birdsong and nature silently at work.

JC: What does your art mean to you?

GMcC: For me art is a journey, an evolution to a reality, to lift one out of the mundane, if only temporarily, to a place

devoid of social medias, the narcissism, and merchantilism of modern times.

This journey frequently involves retracing your steps and taking a different route, but the satisfaction at the end makes it worth it.

Characters emerge on the canvas who appear to be from different eras. The painting 'Weekend break' reflects a modern condition, where a couple’s early optimism devolves into a general sense of ennui. In 'Diggers' we see three figures frozen in time, spades in hand, against an evening sun. ‘Fields at midday' is a painting of a landscape and describes a pastoral scene with a tiny hamlet and in the foreground people temporarily stilled. This recalls an earlier life when the sound of a far off bell brought a respectful minutes silence.

It is this creative process I find most rewarding.With art we have an invitation to turn away from the constant stream of media images afflicting our senses, enough to suppress our Attention Deficit Syndrome to an experience which is enriching and inspirational.

JC: Do you exhibit your work anywhere?

GMcC: My paintings are on show in the Millrace Gallery Blackrock Dublin. In the US they are part of the inaugural show at the Rowan Fine Art Gallery East Hampton New York USA.

They will also be on show with the Rowan gallery at Art Fairs in December, and February 2020 in Palm Beach and Naples Florida USA. I hope in 2020 as in previous years to exhibit at art fairs in the UK and Europe.

I have shown some of the works with frames. Framing is itself an art and a subtle process, as it allows the viewer to engage with the painting.

These frames shown are all made by hand from the raw wood and finished to the distressed gilded or painted finish.