Making Faces | Katherine Boucher Beug & Mags Geaney

16 May – 08 June 2024. Opening reception Thursday 16 May 5.30-7.30pm 

Artists in conversation with Brian Mac Domhnaill, Saturday 25 May, 12pm 

This exhibition brings together two artists who create images of people whilst resisting traditional portraiture through the erasure or disregarding of identities. Real people are their source material rather than their subjects.  

From an early age Katherine Boucher Beug’s first interest was portraiture and years later whilst studying in Hamburg, Germany this was merged with Bauhaus colour study. Influences at the time included Paula Modersohn Becker, Max Beckman and Emil Nolde as well as Albrecht Dürer, whilst much of the artist’s drawing took place on the train, her fellow passengers becoming nameless faces in her sketchbook. Upon moving to Cork in 1971 Boucher Beug set up in the Mardyke Antique Hall as a ‘portraitist’ and charged a pound to draw the sons and daughters of Cork and from 1972 onwards taught life drawing. A few years later she drew the people in an old people’s home in Kinsale, exhibiting them in Cork in 1976. Ever since the artist has drawn people, wherever they can be observed, such as in cafés, restaurants, trains, subways, airports and theatres. Paintings of people have gone through distinct phases, and the search for a way to portray people in paint is on-going, ranging from accurate, recognisable portrayals to more expressionistic colour or mood-based ‘rants’ about the human condition and collaged canvases featuring obscured faces. Her current series of small ‘portraits’ are influenced by the work of 15th Century German-Flemish painter Hans Memling and 20th Century American painter Richard Diebenkorn. The artist sees all this work as a kind of autobiography or more specifically an account of her ever-changing relationship with people.  

 

Mags Geaney collects images from mass media, most notably from fashion and celebrity culture, and is attracted by expressions and compositions rather than specific identities. She makes these images her own through her painting process but also by imbuing them with her own story, reflecting her past, present and future. Beginning with an appropriated composition, the individual depicted can quickly become obscured by mark making of some kind, the artist’s presence quickly supplanting that of the original subject. The expressions arrived at through this process are very particular and personal and not easily found through the alternative process of drawing in 3D from life. The dead-eyed flatness and detachment of the fashion models in Vogue spoke to the artist when grieving her mother’s unexpected death. She created portraits with exquisite clothing yet obscured the face. ‘Unfinished’ portraits feature the flesh but the eyes are an empty shell, a void, the loss that is grief. She searched for her mother and herself in these faces without reward. These portraits are multilayered and very dark, painted with a somber palette of blues, greys and blacks with staring eyes, looking out from the canvas, the figures almost melting into the ground. The artist also painted with a lighter palette of beige, grey and taupe, her mother’s favoured wardrobe colours, using that palette in the face and hair, creating bleak and empty portraits but still beautiful in their acknowledgement of a life lived. Post- bereavement, the artist was drawn to painting male faces for the first time particularly faces that directly engaged with the camera and the viewer. The face has always haunted the artist, dating back to her time making art in primary school.  Being adopted meant Geaney always had difficulty with her reflection. Not looking like a single other person in her life proved very disconcerting. There was a slippage between a connection, a likeness that was missing, a sense of being part of the human race yet apart simultaneously. As such all the artist’s ‘portraits’ yearn to be seen.  

 

Images: (L) Katherine Boucher Beug, E, 2023, Acrylic on paper, Image credit: Stefan Syrowatka, (R) Mags Geaney, I am. I am. I am., 2024, Acrylic and pencil on gesso board, Image courtesy of the artist

 

Katherine Boucher Beug, originally from Princeton, New Jersey has been working from her studio in West Cork since 1971. She completed a BA in English and Fine Art from Northwestern University in 1969 before going on to study two more years in Hamburg, Germany. The foundations of her work were established early; a thorough study of Joseph Alber’s ‘Interaction of Colour,’ a passionate dedication to drawing and consistent experimentation in private journals through writing, drawing, and collage. She often shows her journals as part of her solo shows, valuing the ‘raw,’ (the work behind the work) at least as much as the ‘cooked.’ A love of Artist Books led to her publishing ‘Flowers: the Book’ in 2021. The artist subsequently received an Agility Award from the Arts Council to produce the book ‘People’, which will be published in late 2024.  

Mags Geaney was born in Cork. She studied Fine Art painting at the Limerick College of Art and Design and was awarded an MA by Research in Fine Art by the Crawford College of Art and Design (2010). Solo exhibition’s include Penumbra, Sternview Gallery (2019), Tu Me Manques, CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery, Cork (2015), Fall, Backwater Studios Gallery (2011), Lucky video projection Culture night at Wandesford Quay courtyard (2010). Selected group exhibitions include the upcoming 194th RHA Annual, RHA Gallery, Dublin, the 193rd RHA Annual, SAMPLELYSIUM  Elysian Gallery, Swansea (2024), Summer Exhibition, Lavit Gallery, Cork (2023), Do You Remember Where The Window Was, STAMP Festival, The Counting House Beamish & Crawford (2023), Sample Studios Summer Exhibition (2023),  Crossings King House, Boyle (2021),  This Is A Painting Show Sternview Gallery, Cork (2020). In 2023 three of her paintings from her solo exhibition Penumbra  were acquired by Crawford Art Gallery as part of The National Collection. She has work in the Bank of Ireland Collection, Lithuania Art Museum and many private collections in Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and USA. She is the recipient of many awards including the Arts Council Agility Award in 2023, creating opportunities for residencies at the International Plein Air in Lithuania and in Berlin. She worked as Education officer at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast and implemented the Education Programme at Crawford Gallery with the artist Una Quigley. Various public commissions include The Discovery Centre, Neurological Paediatric Research at UCC/ CUH, The Lifetime Lab, Cork City Waterworks for Cork City Council, North Monastery Primary School & St. Marie’s Of The Isle Primary School.