Blackshaw at 80 set to open at McWilliam Gallery

THE F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio, Banbridge will present a major exhibition of work by renowned artist Basil Blackshaw from Saturday 12 May 2012.

The new exhibition, which promises to be one of the artistic highlights of 2012, coincides with Blackshaw’s 80th birthday and features over 40 paintings chosen by the artist from throughout his career.

Born in Antrim in 1932, Blackshaw is recognised as one of Ireland’s greatest artists. From the age of 16, when his precocious talent led him to Belfast College of Art, Blackshaw has been lauded by the art world and his fellow painters.

‘Blackshaw at 80’ presents a diverse range of works from throughout the artist’s long career. Early works including ‘Anna on the Sofa’ are joined by portraits of great men such as Douglas Gageby, Brian Friel, Michael Longley, Ted Hickey and John Hewitt. Pictures of friends – Cherith McKinstry, Mary McGrath, David Hammond and Paddy Falloon – are testament to close personal relationships that have been captured in paint.

Blackshaw’s beloved horses are well represented in paintings as diverse as ‘The Fall’, ‘The Walk of the Horse’ and ‘Niall’s Pony’. Other favourites that Blackshaw has chosen include ‘Big Brown Dog’, ‘The Gawky Cockerel’ and ‘Dolly’.

A number of superb pictures including ‘The First Tractor at Randalstown’, ‘A Dog and Two Men’ and ‘Night Rider’ first seen in Blackshaw’s last major exhibition, curated by S.B. Kennedy for the Ulster Museum in 2002, have also been selected by the artist.

Several more recent works, first exhibited in Cork at the Fenton Gallery in 2005, are also included. ‘Zebra’, ‘Bird Cage’, ‘Pram’ and ‘Six Trees’ are remarkably vital images, scratched out on surfaces that resemble parchment or plaster rather than canvas.

As his friends and admirers confirm one of the attractions of Blackshaw’s paintings is that they are often deeply rooted in Northern Ireland but are also refreshingly free of conflict or sectarian violence.

‘Blackshaw at 80’ runs at the F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio until 13 October 2012 and will travel to the Royal Hibernian Academy Dublin in January 2013. Two smaller exhibitions of Blackshaw’s work are planned for Carrickfergus Borough Council in October 2012 and The Gordon Gallery, L’Derry in March 2013.

The exhibition is accompanied by a hardback catalogue with 40 colour reproductions and includes essays by Colin Davidson, Dr S.B. Kennedy, Dr Fionna Barber and Dr Riann Coulter.

The F.E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio is open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm. From 3 June the gallery will open on Sundays from 1pm to 5pm. Entry is free.