Emergence Of Colour by Sam McCready: exhibition at ArtisAnn Gallery, Belfast, April 3, 2019
By Conor O’Neill
Photography by ArtisAnn Arts
February 10th was a sad day for Northern Irish, and indeed, the world of theatre. Sam McCready’s name was and is celebrated the globe over. Mostly in the circles of writing, acting and directing.
All those talents deserve to be recognised. Not quite well known is McCready’s vigour and love of the paint brush. April 3rd welcomed his latest exhibition titled ‘Emergence of Colour’ to Belfast’s ArtisAnn Gallery.
Having studied art at Stranmillis College and then at night classes in the 1960s, Sam immersed himself back to his early love of art late in his career.
2018 saw his first Irish solo exhibition ‘Six Colours of Black’, which leant heavily on his appreciation of the Chinese style of Shan Shui. 2019’s offerings still hold some of that discipline, but as he suggested last year, he was moving more towards the use of colour.
And if colour was intended, colour was achieved.
As with 2018’s exhibition, Lancashire born, multiple award-winning artist Neil Shawcross gave an introductory speech on the merits of Sam’s art and love of life. Shawcross moved to Northern Ireland in 1962 and was awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to art in Northern Ireland. Shawcross was quickly introduced to McCready and The Lyric Players’ Theatre group soon after his arrival. Mary O’Malley, co-founder of the company asked Shawcross to develop a set for a play. A friendship was born.
Most widely known for his portrait work, Shawcross spoke of Sam and with mirth recounted how he loved to paint him as his favourite subject is ‘Hats and beards’.
McCready for decades had a beard. Just throw a hat on and Shawcross is a happy man.
What a collection of people to have in a small yet vibrant gallery: actors, poets, writers, directors, fellow painters and friends from over five or more decades all brought together.
Joan McCready, who Sam married in 1962, spoke for a few minutes. One line in particular comes to mind; when showing a friend the cover of the exhibition’s program, he simply said: “It’s poetry without words.”
As for the art, walking around the gallery, and later looking at the program, one can see a linear movement of thought and process. With titles such as ‘Winter Snow’ through to ‘Thawing’,‘ Victory Over Winter’, ‘Imitations of Spring’, ‘Spirit of the Mountain’, ‘Bluebird and Sprite’, ‘Awash With Colour’ to name just a few, the eye and mind focus on the big picture. McCready, in most of the 18 pieces on show then through insets stresses his love of nature and detail.
There is still some of the rigidity of 2018’s Shan Shui inspired ‘Six Colours of Black, but this collection has greater fluidity, more life and against the stark white walls of ArtisAnn’s upstairs gallery, the viewer cannot but look closer, imagine the effort, technique and hours spent on each piece.
To requote Sam and Joan’s mutual friend: “Poetry without words.”
Emergence Of Colour exhibits until April 27th. ArtinAnn Gallery is on the Bloomfield Road, number 70. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 11am – 6pm and Saturdays 12pm – 5pm.