Peering Out

In Peering Out, Patrick Mac Allister presents new and recent paintings. Shifting between abstraction and figuration, the work reflects many of the themes that have concerned him over the last four decades – from socio-political history and protest, as expressed in The Battle of Cable Street and Lockout (the largest work in the show), to landscapes – both urban, as mined from his experiences as an architectural student in Dublin and a builder’s labourer in London; and rural, provoked by his memories of working on oil rigs in the Shetland and Orkney Islands. The exhibition also includes work inspired by his fascination with the mysterious Bog Bodies, and, more recently, his explorations of the figure in the landscape, as experienced in two distinctive ways: via CCTV security footage, and, as in the case of Headland, from the artist’s own perspective, as a sea-swimmer, looking toward shore.

This last recalls the exhibition’s title, an apt and comprehensive description of the work presented. Peering Out. The idea of perspective, or ways of seeing. The notion of something – ourselves, even – emerging from somewhere, surfacing, arriving into view.

Though Mac Allister’s process has always been fascinating, throughout the pandemic it has evolved significantly. One new method is the use of old palettes as surfaces off which to create new paintings, the recycling of the old layers allowing him to enjoy/connect with the previous work. Another is the use of cut-up squares of earlier, unsuccessful, paintings, in order to create new ones. Both methods allow him to explore and examine how deeply, and unpredictably, the past can shape the present. Also significant is his fluent and varied use of materials. From pure pigment and impasto, to the soakages of linseed and turpentine loosened paint; from the visceral incisions he makes in the canvas, to the stitching together of lines within the works.

Poetry, film and music, jazz in particular, resonate deeply with Mac Allister, their processes closely reflecting his own, with freedom co-existing with exactitude to create dynamic, stirring, ambitious results.


Aoife Ruane,
Director, Highlanes Gallery, 2022