A Flying Visitation by Sheena Vallely

A Flying Visitation

Portrait of Tadhg McSweeney

oil on wood

120 x 100cm. 2018


To purchase this painting, contact [email protected]

Tadhg Mc Sweeney died a couple of years before the first Covid outbreak and it was during the first lockdown that I finished this portrait of this exceptional artist. Tadhg painted landscapes, still lifes of flowers and the vegetables he and his organic farming pioneering sister Brid grew at their childhood homestead, tools, familiar objects and wildlife of the countries he lived in and visited over his life. Imbued with light and colour and clarity, his paintings lift the spirit. From my teenage years up until his death he was and remains an inspiration. I have letters from Tadhg and in one I recall, he filled a page about the colour yellow.

In this painting there are elements of Tadhg’s own painting subject matter, wildflowers, references to his appreciation of and affinity with nature, the hills and the mountains he looked out on from his infamous Scandanavian view studio in the hills of Cork, street markings, and a reference to the colossal dove he sculpted and which still adorns the hearth at Kilnamartyra, in the wings he sports in the painting and which gave me the title for the painting… a play on a flying visit and in Tadhg’s case, a visitation from his otherworld to this one where all is quite surreal and unsettled and a bit confusing >> or maybe he is in his head with his paintings and nature.

It’s full of other references too including the fairy tree from The Hill at my home in Drumsill, two blackbirds occupy it, a steam iron from one of Tadhg’s paintings exhales while the heat indicator light remains on although it’s unplugged, a pigeon / dove at Tadhg’s feet and a crow creature in the stream, and from which Tadhg’s marsh marigolds grow, overlooked by spectral-like sheep forms, the crow ever his companion at the back door of his house or is a familiar sight in so many of Tadhg’s paintings. He grasps his paintbrush dripping a little red, and a colour, a detail I recall from my last visit with him in hospital when he was attached to the tubes that appeared to be draining his life away, (the same tubes of which were draped on the floor at Tadhg’s bedside, and which unbeknownst to us at the time, that Brun, my border terrier pup in idleness, had begun to gnaw…) and so making one reference a little macabre but he needed something in his hand and a biro wasn’t going to do it. Although this said, Tadhg out of thrift and practicality filled many spiral bound notebooks with sketches and ideas over time in biro. In the foreground the yarrow or achillea with its powerful healing properties is my spell-token for Tadhg and an excuse to draw and paint its distinctive and familiar and enjoyable miniature flower crowns.

And last but not least although Tadhg’s portrait is loosely based on a photo I took of him outside his last and extensive solo exhibition at the Tea Company warehouse near London Bridge in his beloved London, I couldn’t help adding the little scorch mark mandala on his woolly hat which happened once he told me, when it caught a little too much heat drying off by the fire.

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