Michael Canning

26 Sep — 20 Oct 2017 at Waterhouse & Dodd Gallery in London, United Kingdom

14 SEPTEMBER 2017
Michael Canning. Courtesy of Waterhouse & Dodd
Michael Canning. Courtesy of Waterhouse & Dodd

This will be our 6th solo exhibition of Michael’s work over an 11 year period. Each show has been marked by a subtle development. Jamie Anderson, director at Waterhouse & Dodd, notes: “Each new exhibition we mount brings a wider audience to Michael’s work and his paintings have proved enduringly popular. I think people respond to the timelessness of the imagery and the beauty of the subject matter. The gallery becomes a rather contemplative space in the presence of his work.”

Each unique work by Michael Canning presents a sprawling landscape overlaid with wild plant species selected from the hedgerows of the artist’s native Limerick. Although the landscapes themselves are not topographically accurate, the plant specimens are rendered from direct observation in Michael’s studio in the West of Ireland. As such, the artist demonstrates the inheritance of Flemish and Netherlandish painting in his technical acuity. Nevertheless, Michael’s work remains concerned with challenging traditional Northern European painting genres; enigmatic in their disregard for conventional categories, the works can be described as neither landscape nor still life. Moreover, pressing iconographical interpretations conventionally associated with plant forms - questions of growth, life, death and cyclical processes - here seem to avoid the more instinctive, lived quality of a body of work which belies academic analysis.

Nicholas Usherwood has spoken of Canning’s work being imbued with ‘a strong sense of geography and history, memory and belief, poetry and metaphor’, attributes which derive not only from the paintings’ content but their method. Using oil paint and wax, Michael builds each work up in layers; a consuming process which seeks to emphasise the painting’s existence as object as opposed to mere surface design. Canning takes a particular interest in beeswax for its varying degrees of opacity when combined with pigment. The work’s surface thus achieves a glass-like appearance, enclosing within it a history of earlier drawings and fragments. Michael’s method, at times methodical, retains a degree of intuition which often insists paintings sit for months or even years before being revisited and altered. The palimpsest which results is both a feat of technical mastery as well as a labour of love.

Born in Limerick in 1971, Michael received his MA in Fine Art from the National College of Art & Design, Dublin in 1999. In 2003 he was awarded the Royal Hibernian Academy's prestigious Hennessy Craig Prize, and in 2006 Michael was the recipient of the Fergus O'Brien Memorial Award. Collections which hold the artist’s work include the Butler Gallery of Kilkenny, Allied Irish Bank and the University of Limerick.