Sidestepping the picturesque

Wann makes images of rural Ireland in which he sidesteps the picturesque. His is an Ireland – he is based in Co Sligo – of dereliction and rain-sodden decay. That may sound grim, but, as with the melancholy edge in Canning’s paintings, Wann seems to relish the neglected backwoods and crumbling dwellings, and he has found an audience that shares his feeling for this faded world. He works more in grey than black-and-white, building up densely worked, textural charcoal and wash images. They can veer towards appearing photographic, but he is not interested in photographic effects or methods: he is very hands-on, becoming physically immersed in the surfaces, which have a painterly quality despite the absence of colour.

Woodland holds a particular interest for him. Not just the grand broadleaf expanses around Lissadell, but also isolated specimens and forestry plantations, and common hedgerows and scrubland. He is attentive to the personality and detail of the land, relishing tangled heaps of branches, the unkempt and anomalous, rutted overgrown tracks, the broken patterns of light. It amounts to a distinctive, downbeat, unsentimental take on a subject that could easily be sentimentalised.

 

Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times

11:15 am on May 5th, 2016