I think that the very lovely change from this (referring to an earlier
painting) to this freshening of the palette and more clearly defined
edges, is a neat transition. This (the trip) prepared you for that
Yes. It was heading that way in a way, wasn't it?
When you do the textures do you use a medium to fatten up your paint?
TG: Yes, I use an acrylic texture paint.
These are all acrylic. I was using oil up until very recently.
You get a nice non-plasticky colour.
Well, the black is a bit plasticky in this one. One of the things
I'm doing is to wet an area and then float very thin paint on top.
KB: Let me ask you about the colour palette. Am I right in thinking
that it was your travels that led you to open up your colour palette.
Were there specific influences you were looking for, or is it a
synthesis of everything you saw?
These are actually only baby steps on everything I saw. I went out
like a whale with its mouth open and sucked in a huge amount of
ocean to eat a few little pieces of plankton. So I just let it all
So it was more a process of osmosis, of absorbing everything you
Are there any specific items that influenced you strongly like clothing
or natural elements?
It's funny you should say clothing because I've done one or two
paintings inspired by the inside of an Indian tailor shop where
there are these wonderful bolts of cloth. There were wonderful bolts
of cloth, silks and satins and tweeds. Wonderful, wonderful colours.
It was a complete experience just looking at them on shelves.
It's such a shame that we are so devoid of colour here. I remember
when we were in Italy, in Turin I think. We were walking about the
city and my daughter noticed a fabric shop. It was a revelation
to her that there should be a place with such a range of colour..
We live in a part of the world with a muted colour range. But going
back to your trip. Were there moments of epiphany that you can remember?
We could talk about it so much. I think instantly of the flowers,
the flowering trees all over, especially in the South Seas. The
bark of the palm trees - I want to do a whole series on it. Then
in the rain forests, some of the wonderful drippings of colour there.
Also in the Marquesa Islands, massive flowering trees. I've never
seen such wonderful exotic flowers in the wild.
I want to ask you about these new paintings that we are looking
at here. Are they specific of certain countries that you visited?
Yes. I haven't approached the South Sea Islands yet (and that's
probably my next step), but four or five of these are based on being
in the Red Center of Australia, around Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.
So these colours would be evocative of these areas?
Yes very much so.
And the shapes, did you draw the influence from Aboriginal paintings.
Very subconsciously. I just woke up one morning in the rain forest
and did some small gouaches.
You documented your trip with photographs. No doubt you have a treasure
trove of several thousand digital images - your treasure trove for
Yes. I also documented the trip on my web blog (http://winterpoodle.blogspot.com/).
I've been reading some of it: wry, irreverent, and very humourous.
Can I ask you about pink poodles?
Pink became one of our things. I started wearing pink a lot and
seeing more and more of it, the way you see your car everywhere
when you buy one. When you start concentrating on pink, you see
pink everywhere. And the epiphany was in a shop in New Zealand,
I think, where I saw some soaps that were made in the shapes of
poodles. One was black and one was pink.
I saw that picture on your blog. Where did you start your trip?
We started in Thailand.
Is there a reason why you started your new work based in Australian
Well, we spent two months there in a place called Bellingen which
is on the edge of the rain forest. At the end of that time we went
into the Red Center into Alice Springs. And I had been looking at
Aboriginal art in Melbourne and the National Museum of Art in Sydney
which is a real treasure.
You have been doing flat work for some time, and this is such a
fresh approach, the way you are dividing the picture frame. It's
very exciting. One thinks, how much more can be said about dividing
a flat picture plane? And there you are coming up with a fresh approach.
The element of the arc that we see in three of the paintings, is
this an influence from Aboriginal method. Is there a kind of unconscious
use of gesture in Aboriginal art?
I don't know enough about it. I've been reading about it. It's very
structured and original. The basis for Aboriginal art is not the
same as western contemporary art. It's very much in a tradition
with a highly-defined language. Dots, lines and half-circles all
have specific meanings.
serves a purpose of storytelling and is highly spiritual?
much so. And each artist has a particular story to tell. I look
at the work and appreciate from a western non-figurative point of
view. But they are looking at it in a completely different way.
You know I'm looking at a field of ragwort down below and feasting
on the colour of it while the farmer looks at it and sees a field
of dead horses. Two people looking at the one thing from a completely
This arc that appears in your paintings reminds me of Ayers Rock.
Was that conscious?
Actually no, but now that you mention it...Uluru is the aboriginal
name. It's considered better now to call it by the aboriginal name.
Ayers Rock was the white person's name. Another influence in these
new paintings comes from Mexico.
In the division of the picture plane and texture?
Yes edges of buildings, lines on buildings, crumbling textures,
geometric shapes and scratchings.
You don't need to go to Mexico to find that. You can find it right
No you don't! I found it on Dursey Island. But the colour and light
in Mexico, ahh... I walked into Oaxaca and said "Here is my
next show!" I just have to do the painting.
Are you planning a trip again?
Not in the immediate future. I have about 3 years work stacked up.
If you were to go back, is there one place you would choose to go
more than any other?
I would like go to the Marquesa Islands again. And get a studio
there in one of the little villages and spend a year watching the
seasons. That was the most extreme place I've ever been to.
Where is it?
TG: It's in the north of the South Pacific, right below the equator.
They are the most remote islands from any land mass. They're right
between Asia and Africa. It's a chain of islands in French Polynesia
with mountains up to 4,000 feet high, and relatively untouched.
So we shouldn't mention it to prevent if from becoming spoiled!
Well, they're so hard to get to and it's so expensive to stay there
that I don't think there's any worry about that. My other choice
would be Mexico. We both agreed that it was the most inspiring place
we visited. I mean, it has everything going against it: it's polluted,
there is abject poverty, terrible corruption, racial discrimination
are a musician as well. Do you listen to music while you are painting?
I do, nearly all the time.
Do you make specific choices in the music you listen to?
Well, I've always been really interested in trying to tie the two
together, like a lot of musicians and artists, trying to find a
meeting point between the two. I haven't really found it. I'd love
to. I think the only person who's really tied the two together successfully
is Brian Eno. I saw an exhibition of his paintings that were moving.
Laurie Anderson would be another artist trying to meld the visual
and musical. There was an exhibition of her work this past year
at IMMA. Personally I find that music distracts my visual concentration
Yes. But I also find that the stimulus of music can serve to free
Speaking of blurring lines, do you orient your paintings in a specific
I do, yes. But I turn them upside down a lot. I've always maintained
that a good painting will work any way around.
Do you work both flat and upright?
Yes. Quite a lot on the flat, because I like to be able to pour
things onto the canvas. I have noticed with these new paintings
that they have a resonance with Paul Klee who was also a misician.
A lot of his work was directly related to music.
I feel that Klee is a real painter's artist. But because he was
so diverse and not easily categorized, art critics have never been
able to get an exact fix on him.
Well, that's been one of the albatrosses that I've dragged around.
People say "Oh, he's always changing his style", or "He's
looking for a style", which is ridiculous. Standing water turns
to poison as they say and you know, hopefully your life moves.
Do you find that your art dealers and galleries are upset when you
change your style?
Some do and some don't. The good dealers that I've worked with have
always been open to what I'm doing next. A good dealer should, hopefully,
believe in their artist and support them in what they do. There
is a great tendency to say for instance "That's a Jack B. Yeats
and it will always look like that and we can instantly recognize
it." That's when it becomes an investment and I've done it
myself. Occasionally, I have got stuck in a rut. But I move on as
well. It's very important to me. It reflects how I am in my life.
But there is a financial consideration of course in finding a style
that has resonance with the buying public. Do you find that it is
difficult then to move on, or are you compelled to do so?
I have to do it. For instance, the Scar paintings, based on wounds
and scars, were very cathartic for me. I had to do them. I did them
for about 6 months and I knew they wouldn't be popular. Most people
don't want a bleeding or sewn-up scar hanging over their fireplace.
The gallery that your new show is in (OS|B)- is this a gallery that
you regularly show in?
No. It's a new gallery, which goes along with the title of the show
"Koompartoo" (the aboriginal word for "new beginning").
The gallery has been in Enniskerry for several years, but the new
owners have only been involved for about a year. And the funny thing
about it is that I grew up on the edge of Enniskerry. Two years
ago circumstances required that I move from West Cork to Wicklow.
Now there is a new phase beginning in my life and the lovely thing
is that I am having a show in my home town.
This has been a very turbulent year globally. Personally, we feel
that we are at the beginning of something new as well,
The beginning of the end. (laughter)
HK: Come on now! Why in yesterday's paper it was claimed that women's
life expectancy in the UK has extended to 100 years. Get yourself
organized with lots to do.
One of the unfortunate aspects of human life is that it is too short.
Each generation seems condemned to repeat the mistakes of previous
ones. Maybe we are reaching a point where life can be extended and
that will help us find a solution to the continuing problems facing
TG: It's nice to think that you do
gather knowledge and wisdom. But sometimes we see that that is not
the case. I've always said that painting is an old man's game. And
I used to say that I hope to be doing my best paintings when I am
60. And this years I turned 60, and I feel like I'm beginning to
get into the..
Fantastic! You look like your 40!