Ian McAllister • Ireland
It might seem incongruous that Ian McAllister’s realism has developed alongside an enduring interest in surrealism, but Surrealism is not antagonistic to realism; it is not about the unreal. If science questions the distinction between seeing and imagining, we can speculate that imagination might be as fully exercised in painting realistic pictures from life is in painting “imaginary” subjects.
Ian McAllister (1966) was born in Newtownards, Co Down. He studied fine art at the University of Ulster. As a young painter his abilities were recognised by the Eakin Gallery, Belfast, where he was invited to show his work in the early 1990’s. Although he works from a range of subjects including landscape, McAllister’s main preoccupation is still life. “I love still life,” he has said “It is a form capable of satisfying the appetite for landscape and portraiture in a subtle and unexpected way. Poetic even.” Amongst the early influences on him were the seventeenth century Spanish painter Zurburan and later the surrealists Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. The Dutch painters of the ‘golden age’ are also important to him.
McAllister paints directly from his subject matter, no preparatory drawing being made. He arranges the objects that comprise the picture in the studio and, in his own words, “four or five lines are made to mark significant elements of the composition.” He works over a red iron oxide ground which allows him the better to establish tonal relationships. The drawing element of the composition is then brushed directly in paint. The finished surface, however, is built up in a series of glazes each increasingly laden in medium.
In his pictures McAllister seeks, and attains, a high degree of realism. His approach to still life is that of an observer, that is, as things seem momentarily before the eye moves on rather than as moments frozen in time. Thus his work confronts the viewer actively, with “presence”, rather than passively, so that one is drawn into the creative process. He is highly articulate, delighting in the existential act of painting in which he is adept at both impressing us with his dexterity and, on occasion through the depiction of a self-portrait in the reflection, say, of a bottle or glass, in teasing us with his powers of observation. In short McAllister is one of the most interesting still life painters working in Ireland today.
Dr. S.B. Kennedy, Ulster Museum.
Head of Fine and Applied Art.
Es mag paradox anmuten, dass sich Ian McAllisters Realismus neben einem andauernden Interesse für den Surrealismus entwickelt hat, doch der Surrealismus steht dem Realismus nicht feindlich gegenüber – er beschäftigt sich nicht mit dem Unwirklichen. Wenn die Wissenschaft die Unterscheidung zwischen dem Sehen und dem Sich-etwas-Vorstellen in Frage stellt, können wir vermuten, dass die Vorstellungskraft beim Malen von realistischen, aus dem Leben gegriffenen Bildern vielleicht ebenso umfassend geübt wird wie beim Malen von “imaginären” Themen.