‘Renaissance man’ is a phrase that jumped to mind when I first met up with young, up and coming, artist Alan Fitzpatrick. Not only is Alan a gifted and original artist, but he is also a filmmaker, editing and shooting numerous short films, writer and poet, as well as a web/graphic designer and chef.
Originally from Lenadearg, just outside Banbridge Co Down, Alan moved to Galway just over ten year ago to reassess the career path he was on. He was half way through an English degree in Queen’s University, Belfast and had taken time out to train as a chef. But his heart had always been in the visual world.
On moving to Galway Alan became involved with Brink Theatre Company, a new writing production company based in the Town Hall Theatre, where his first play ‘Brotherly lies, Brotherly ties’ was produced. This ‘tense and menacing drama of sibling rivalry by a young County Down author Alan Fitzpatrick’ was well received by critics and audience alike. Alan the went on to produce Clockwork Theatre Company’s production of Charlie and Nora for the Dublin Fringe Theatre Festival before moving into film, editing, and training as a computer technician.
Alan’s love of art though, is deeply rooted in his genes, coming from a family of talented artists, his brother Phillip, who still lives near Banbridge is superb at sketching, as are many of Alan’s extended family members; but Alan reckons it all started with his Granddad, Hugh Woods, a well know local artist. Growing up in Lenadearg, as a young boy, Alan spent most of his youth fishing in the river Bann, which ran just a short distance from his bedroom window, or visiting his Grandfather; Alan smiles as notes, ‘if you mention Hugh Woods around Banbridge to the older generation, they would have an antidote about him, if not one of his painting hanging on their wall’.
It was these visits that were to have a profound influence on Alan to this day; ‘going into Granddad’s house, the first thing you would smell was the oil paint, the living room was mostly taken up with a large easel and canvas, used tubes of paint sat under the easel and palates sat beside jam jars of cleaned brushes. I remember he never painted when we called to see him, but we used to see the painting grow bit by bit, it was as if by magic. Then, one day, the painting would be finished and framed’.
It is this magic in the creation of art, be it writing, painting, photography or installation that drives Alan’s work; whilst his grandfather preferred oil paints, Alan is quite happy to work with many different mediums and finds inspiration in numerous areas of life, ‘from cooking to living in Galway, with its proximity to the coast, it is hard to escape the destructive force of nature and the fragility of our environment’.
Another Banbridge artist also to have a major influence on Alan’s work is the sculptures of F.E. McWilliam. McWilliam, born in 1909 went on to be one of Northern Ireland’s leading sculptors, his work being represented in many major national collections including the Tate Gallery, London and Museum of Modern Art, New York.
‘It is the simplicity of McWilliam’s work that has influenced me’, Alan explains, ‘the pared back shapes, the flowing lines, which play out through the bean sculptures, the polished surfaces. These simple objects are very effective in demonstrating the basic emotions, love, hate, sadness and happiness’.
The combination of these influences came to fruition in Alan’s first solo show, which took place in The Town Hall Theatre, Galway in 2004. ‘Forms’, Alan’s first fully realised body of work was a critical success and nearly completely sold out. Alan’s pieces appealed to both the domestic and commercial sectors selling to Architect offices, art collectors and colleges. His paintings’ strong colours and deceptively simple shapes fitted perfectly with modern living, and reflected a move towards clean lines and minimal living spaces.
Following on the success of his first show Alan, decided to change direction and after an extended trip to the South of Spain, he mounded a photographic exhibition, combining his love of computer technology and the visual image. Creating stunning images of the Alhambra and Granada, while also taking the time to shoot a short film ‘Dark Movement’, a meditation on shadow and light.
Kevin Whelan, author of ‘Izzy Baia’ and ‘A Wonderful Boy’, speaking at Alan’s exhibition reflected, ‘Alan’s images have an almost abstract minimalism feel to them, sharp edges and looming rectangles. They put me in mind of Bruce Chatwin’s photographs of Morocco, while a photo like “Water” could be the basis of one of David Hockney’s coolly considered California paintings’.
For Alan’s third show, he again chose the medium of photography, but this time, taking it back to basics, he explored everyday images as they appeared through low resolution mobile phone snap shots. These images were both experimental and almost voyeristic with their dark shadows and low lighting.
Alongside his main exhibitions Alan has also exhibited locally in group shows and galleries in his hometown of Banbridge.
Finally I ask Alan where does he see art developing to in the future?
‘My influences today are many. With the use of the internet, we can see a variety of new art forms and styles coming on stream, and it is hard not to be influenced by a new style that attracts your attention, with all these outlets it is hard to say which one artist or movement is my influence. But, for now, my plan is to get a specific studio, which isn’t a back room of my house and allocate more time to doing the thing I love, painting. I also want to work more with video and Installation art, that is one direction that I would love to go in’.
Artistic Genes published NI Homes & Lifestyle
Words & images by Tina O Rourke