Galway exhibition : Lorcan and JB Vallely

Lorcan Vallely and his father JB Vallely will be exhibiting a two man show with Gormley’s.  Launching on Thursday 2nd June, the exhibition will be displayed in Gormley’s Galway city gallery, until the 20th June.  View the full exhibition on Gormley’s website.Galway exhibition image

A foreword to the exhibition, written by Royal Ulster Academy President Dr Denise Ferran, is featured on Gormley’s website and is re-published below:

JB Valley and Lorcan Vallely Exhibition Foreword

J.B.Vallely, Brian, to his family and friends, is one of Ireland’s foremost painters in the tradition of Jack Yeats or Sean McSweeney, both of whose work he admires. After studying at Belfast College of Art he progressed to Edinburgh College of Art where Sir Robin Philipson was Head of the School of Drawing and Painting. These influences developed a more open approach in Valley’s work. He uses paint in a thick, visceral painterly manner, defining his frequently evoked subject matter of pipers, fiddlers and gaelic football and hurling players, all emanating from current Irish culture. As an accomplished piper, he depicts groups of musicians with the eye of an expert, knowing the stance of a knee resting on a footstool to support the pipes with the right elbow firmly pumping the bag while both hands nimbly play the notes on the chanter. In most of his paintings, the lone figure or group of musicians are highlighted in thick brushstrokes or palette knife applications, which define the forms against a background of textured paint in a monochrome of pale ochres and soft greys. Nothing detracts from the main focus in the foreground; the background acts as an atmospheric blanket surrounding the subject. There are echoes of Nicholas de Stael in works such as ‘Fishermen and their nets’ 1988 and again in his football players but Vallely is steeped in the richness and knowledge of his local culture, especially the influences of Armagh, the place of his birth and to where he returned after his years at Belfast College of Art followed by Edinburgh College of Art. The traditions of Armagh and its surrounding county are exemplified in his depiction of ‘The Armagh Bullet Thrower’, a traditional game played along the country roads when traffic was light and cars were few. His love of sport and his early prowess as a runner still remains and he has been responsible in organising youth groups in the National Athletic and Cycling (NACA) clubs, in cross-country running and in the ‘Armagh Pipers Club’, which possibly explains the energy and enthusiasm he maintains today on reaching his 75th birthday. His love of playing an instrument extends from initially playing the flute, the tin whistle and then the Ullian pipes but also in teaching instrumental skills to younger generations. His paintings of accordion players captures the figure of the player with his upper body wrapped round his instrument and he almost adds a third dimension in capturing the traditional tunes which emanate.

JB Vallely’s son, Lorcan, was born into this highly musical, artistic family in 1979 and seemed destined from a young age to progress to Belfast College of Art and then on to study Fine Art at Bath School of Art & Design, followed by a post-graduate year at Chelsea College of Art, London in 2004. He further studied drawing and painting in Oxford as a member of the artist-run Magdalen Road Studios before returning to Belfast to work at the Print Workshop. This experience in print making is evident in his work, with emphasis on outlines which are mainly depicted in black. He works mainly in charcoal on canvas but also uses oil and acrylic and print with a combination of several of these media together. His work is more detailed, more urban than his fathers but then the world he grew up in was more urbanised than when JB was growing up and when he attended the rural primary school where his father taught. His subject matter includes whistle and flute players and pipers with his father captured as one of the group of players. Lorcan enjoys working in charcoal on canvas, building up layers of tone with a greater depth and texture than working on paper provides him. Occasionally he adds a splash of colour but he is not the colourist JB now is but then JB’s earlier work, a ‘View from the Circle, Crumlin Road Jail’ 1970 shows his dexterity in using pen and conte crayon on paper, to depict the tonal recesses of the jail from prison bars, steel girders and metal staircases. Lorcan’s work in the RHA 2016 exhibition depicts a mother and her two children, reminiscent of a Joan Eardley depiction of children in the Glasgow Gorbals but without her use of impastoed paint. His capturing of ‘The Armagh Rhymers’ depicts the straw men who carry on this local tradition, one of which is his uncle Dara. Other works represent street scenes, men talking and smoking in front of local shops, back alleys, all depicted in a much more realistic, graphic style than his father, JB Valley’s more mystical, Celtic imagery which the Valleys have steadfastly nurtured.

Dr Denise Ferran, May 2016