T. P. Flanagan

Commentary


Life
1929-2011 [Thomas Patrick; fam. ‘Terry’;] b. Enniskillen, where he was raised by two aunts; ed. Presentation Brother’s at St. Michael’s Grammar School, Enniskillen, and afterwards at Enniskillen Tech. College, Fermanagh; spent time in Sligo with an aunt who ran a needlework school; first painted under influence of Kathleen Bridle, an Enniskillen teacher; proceeding to Belfast College of Art, 1949-53 [1948], with Basil Blackshaw, et al.;
 
taught at St. Mary’s College of Education, Belfast; gave first solo exhibition in 1958; showed at Hendrix Gallery in Dublin, and afterwards at the Taylor Gallery, and at the Caldwell Gallery, Belfast; appt. Head of Dept., 1965; winner of Oireachtas Award, 1974; Royal Ulster Academy Gold Medal, 1977; exhibited in Rosc ’71 and Rosc 80 (‘Irish Art, 1943-1973’); held retrospective exhibitions in 1977 and 1995 (Ulster Museum);
 
he is the dedicatee of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Bogland”, the concluding piece in Door into the Dark (1969), and likewise of “Traditions” in Wintering Out (1972); Heaney has written catalogue notes for his exhibition; a signal works from the Ulster Museum to National Gallery, Dublin, highly praised by Aidan Dunne (Irish Times, 1007); an Irish Times obituary appeared on 26 Feb. 2011. MIL

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Criticism
S. B. Kennedy, T. P. Flanagan, foreword by Seamus Heaney (Dublin: Four Courts 1995), 96pp. [published in conjunction with Ulster Museum].

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Commentary
Seamus Heaney, Foreword to S. B. Kennedy, T. P. Flanagan (Dublin: Four Courts 1995): ‘ The pictures are the afterlife of experience. They advance and retire along the brink of the actual, sometimes close enough to be tinged with the bolder presences of colour, sometimes haunting the canvas like luminous mists. Occasionally the manifestations are dramatic and yearn openly back towards their local habitation, more often it is the name that reminds us that the ghosted forms once possessed the lineaments of place.’ (Quoted in Brian O’Doherty, ed., [Rosc Exhibition Catalogue] The Irish Imagination 1959-1971, 1971, p.58).

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Aidan Dunne: ‘He was without question the pre-eminent Irish watercolourist of the latter half of the 20th century. His command of the medium was exceptional by any standard and his signature style, with compositions of great elegance and poise built from flurries of fast, calligraphic brushstrokes was exceptional.’ (Quoted in T. P. Flanagan obituary, in The Irish Times, 26 Feb. 2011 - as infra.)

Seamus Heaney: ‘He has been faithful to the ancient artistic impulse which is to bear witness to the wonder of the world and give glory to it, to make it firm by giving it form. His vision of the landscapes of Fermanagh and Sligo is as unmistakably his own as Paul Henry’s vision of Connemara, and his paintings of west Donegal have a stark lyric power and deep personal significance for me.“ (Remarks at ceremony in Belfast to mark Flanagan’s contribution to the arts, 2010; quoted The Irish Times, 26 Feb. 2011 - as infra.)

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Irish Times Obituary (26 Feb. 2011): ‘[...] The distinctive landscapes of Fermanagh, Sligo and Donegal became the core of his subject matter as a painter. He developed a technique and manner that were particularly fitted to capturing the soft, atmospheric light of Ireland’s western seaboard. As a younger painter he concerned himself with the physical structure of the landscape, often examining small areas of the terrain. Later, in composite, non-representational pictures, he explored perceptions of the landscape and ideas of how “place” becomes important to people. Later still, however, the mood and atmosphere of the scene, rendered in representational terms, came to hold his attention. He was uncomfortable with his work being termed “abstract” or “representational”. “I never consciously say I’m going to paint an abstract picture’. You spend a certain period arranging the motifs and managing shapes. If you take a sense of narrative and content out, you get abstractions. But there’s no such thing as a totally abstract or totally narrative painting.”’ (For full text, see attached.)

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