I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized No Sad Imperialist of the Aesthetic Self

No Sad Imperialist of the Aesthetic Self

Ciarán Benson
His has been a remarkable life’s work. Born in 1928 in Ballaghadereen, Co Roscommon, reared and educated in Dublin and for over fifty years a resident of New York, Brian O’Doherty has been a doctor, a student of psychology, an art critic, an educator, a filmmaker, an arts policy director, a novelist and, for all that time, an artist. To layer this career even more, his work has issued under the guise of various alter egos, mostly male but, in the critical persona of Mary Josephson, female. Like other voluntary exiles from a culturally bereft mid-twentieth century Ireland, O’Doherty brought many dimensions of Ireland with him and alchemised them in the crucible of the minimalist and conceptual art movements of New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Among Irish artists these are rare ingredients for an artistic identity and they make for a highly distinctive life’s work. The late Noel Sheridan would have shared some of these influences with him as, to some extent, would Michael Craig Martin. At a time of life when a summing up seems appropriate O’Doherty continues to energetically work and engage. The complexity of this oeuvre in both genre and authorship has meant that for many an interested reader and spectator a certain puzzlement, born of partial acquaintance with him and his concerns, is a significant element of how they might assess his contributions. Recent major exhibitions in Ireland have helped to resolve this puzzlement – which had arisen partly because of unfamiliarity with the range of his work – as have a series of high quality publications. The Sirius Project in Cork in 1996 allowed O’Doherty/Ireland to show, in a satisfyingly complete way, how for instance the Ogham script dynamically underpinned his thinking as he transformed a particularly congenial space. The newly revamped Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane was an especially welcoming venue for his striking 2006 Retrospective, which was also accompanied by a highly informative catalogue. The interment of O’Doherty’s most significant alter ego, Patrick Ireland, in the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2008 reunited in the public mind the identity of Brian O’Doherty (erstwhile artist, novelist, critic) and Patrick Ireland (artist from 1972-2008), and removed the confusion for many as to who precisely was who. After the murder of innocent protesters in Derry by out-of-control members of the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday in 1972, O’Doherty – with Robert Ballagh as witness…

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