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Visual Artists Ireland News Sheet, Susan Campbell PhD, September – October 2022,
Critique – ‘Peering Out’ Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray

THE EXHIBITION OF 31 oil and mixed-media paintings in Patrick MacAllister’s show ‘Peering Out’ orchestrates a range of tonal contrasts and rippling variations in scale that draw the visitor in for closer exploration. Projecting a strong material presence within the gallery space, the presented works conjure an immersive art experience that affirms the capacity of paint to surprise.

The order of display departs from the accompanying list, enlivening the viewing process. The chronology of making is also jumbled; recent paintings are interspersed with others dating back as far as 2017. This scatters evidence of the transition MacAllister is making from figurative themes into abstraction.

A similar restless unpredictability is found among the paintings. Intriguingly, the edges of many – already conventionally framed – are further bolstered in paint, so that the action within plays out in constrained spaces. This may be a reference point for the exhibition title, and, intentionally or not, encapsulates the recent impacts on movement with COVID-19.

The first encounter is with The Leavetaking (2017), a small work in oil on paper with a light surface texture that evokes a hot, sunlit scene. Fluid red-earth tones, playing off umber and crimson, drizzle into rivulets to suggest a dissipating heat haze in which figures shim- mer and shift between possible forms. Although the paint is thinly worked, depth is achieved through layering; the fiery hues are applied over a chalk-coloured ground, which in turn obscures dark undertones. The interplay between strata lends mood and substance, while on top are deposited crusty nodes of cadmium orange.

Impasto mark-making, dry or juicy, is a recurring yet versatile element of MacAllister’s visual language. Across the works, it punctuates and emphasises negative spaces – sometimes landing as ‘big soft buffetings’ – and, in later examples, probes abstract relations. Adding animation, contrast and complement, it often catches ambient light, appearing, as the viewer moves around, to change colour. Improvising with a range of implements, the artist also gouges and scores in places, excavating surfaces and countering the force of their more audacious protrusions.

In Bird on a Wire (2018), chunky daubs of white paint, with distinct ridges, stand proud from the surface. Although lending a sculptural dimension they have little anatomical import, coming across, instead, as an exercise in pure painting. The work is a maelstrom of activity in which the eponymous bird appears to land face down, its splayed legs trapped in ominous barbed wire. This movement in Bird on a Wire 2 can be read in either direction, with similar ambiguity found in Dog 2 (2018): right-left scanning reveals a canine subject, left-right manifests a charging bull, head down, kicking up the dirt.

More strongly figurative paintings suggest an interest in socio-political history. Group Portrait (2018), constructed from a patchwork of large square marks, has a mid-twentieth-century feel, and a hint of the backlit luminosity found in the oeuvre of Jack B Yeats. Dominated by angular figures arranged in tiers between teetering buildings, the composition, formality and chaotic elements suggest some landmark event. The historical referencing in Lockout 2 (2018) is more explicit. Drawing on monochrome photographs of police baton charges in O’Connell Street in 1913, its austere, simply rendered figures stand out starkly against a ‘woven’ white background, with hints of umber the warmest element in a cool palette.

While sweeping tram tracks are deployed here to dissolve the general rigidity, dynamism and intimations of detail abound in the loosely rendered The Battle of Cable Street (2017) and in the inky, yet luminous Foot- fall (2019). MacAllister’s range extends also to taut linear markings in Building Site Memories (2020), Skyscrape and Scaffolder’s Load (2021), suggestive of grid- like structures.

Urban gives way to landscape in the atmospheric Inland Sea (2018) and Headland 1 (2019), while the move towards abstraction yields cosmic, spiritual and mythological references. Flanking the entrance to the second gallery are the delectable Light and Weight, Suture and Boneyard, all from 2019, while among the small works within is the jewel-encrusted, Daoism-inspired Watchful, like Men crossing a Stream (2021). From the same year, Painting Collage and Memory Wall (per- haps using elements of past paintings) appear to show progression in the use of collage. Among others, these chart new avenues of exploration for an inventive artist with more to give.

Susan Campbell is a visual arts writer, art historian, and artist.

The Irish Times, Aidan Dunne, 29th of July 2009, Boyle Art Exhibition:
‘If you are a fan of painting, there is a lot of good stuff in Boyle… Many artists show outstanding pieces – David Crone, Marc Reilly, Jack Donovan and Pat Mac Allister included’.

Sunday Times Review, 7th of January, 2001, Catherine Daly.
Review Solo Exhibition, Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin:

In this show, the culmination of a four-year collaboration, artist Pat Mac Allister and poet Mark Granier respond to the Biblical tale of the Tower of Babel. Mac Allister’s interpretations are far from literal, however. Of the twelve oil paintings on show, only ‘Shadow’ and ‘Lintel’ feature a strong tower-like form. The other works explore the idea of the surface of the tower through richly applied paint that is often scraped away to reveal thick layers of rich but subdued colour. ‘Traffic’, one of the earliest works in the series, recalls the linguistic elements of the tale through the presence of calligraphic elements, while ‘Flat Earth’, an abstract landscape, seems to offer a bird’s eye view from the Tower. The painstaking attention to texture and the layering of muted but atmospheric colours, dominated by blue-grey, gives these paintings the quality of contemporary frescoes with an intriguing history.

Exhibition ‘9 Paintings’. A selection by Charles Tyrrell  at the West Cork Arts Centre, July 1998.
(Including: Patrick Collins, Michael Cullen, Gerard Dillon, Ciaran Lennon, Pat Mac Allister, Nano Reid, Patrick Scott, Michael Sheehan and Charles Tyrrell).

Text written by Charles Tyrrell:
‘The youngest painter here, Pat Mac Allister, is for me a natural. As an Art student in Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology in the late 1970’s, when I taught there, Pat’s understanding, love, and total absorption in modern painting, impressed and inspired me and most importantly, like the others here, he really knows and trusts the stuff of paint’.

The Sunday Tribune, 6th of Febuary, 1994, Aidan Dunne.
Review of my first solo show, Pantheon Gallery, Dublin.

‘Pat Mac Allister’s first one person exhibition at the Pantheon Gallery is a memorable one. His paintings are representational but made with great feeling for texture and a strong sense of abstract design. They have gritty involving surfaces. The work in this show covers a span of some three years or so, so there is quite a degree of variation. The most recent are brightly coloured blocky grid-like images inspired by his experiences on building sites. For most of the time, the sheer verve with which they are made wins out over the painter’s inclination to pre-define them.

In fact this holds true of earlier work as well. His instincts are sound, and he should go with them – not to say that he doesn’t, and what gives his best work its edge is that he is not afraid to take chances, to make paintings that break rules. He paints from his own immediate experience and surroundings: self portraits, views of the city, a mountainous landscape, an eerie nighttime procession. It’s more than a promising debut: he delivers’.