Martin Gale

Born in England to an Irish mother and English father, Gale acknowledges the influence of British paintings on his work. He studied at NCAD in 1973 and made Ireland his home. Also of influence is the pop culture of 1960s in which there was a ready availability of mass imagery, a clear influence on Gale’s quasi-pop aesthetic.

Gale’s place within the context of Irish art is both a departure from the romantic aesthetic of the Paul Henry and Sean McSweeney landscapes, though also a continuation of the theme of portraying an Ireland of his time.

Gale paints his implied narrative scenes, at the point of interruption, in a hard- edged photo realist style. The result is a sinister air and disturbing aspect which is verging on a surreal and dreamlike state. This apprehension can be read within a broader context, as is done by contemporary landscapist Sean McSweeney when he says that Gale’s pictures ‘‘register injuries to the land , and incursions upon it, but they don’t insist on these matters as ‘issues’ his paintings are “green” right enough, but in an older, grateful, grass green sort of way’. His pictures, though often set in the countryside, portray an urban sensibility.

Gale’s approach to painting is a painstaking one -building up image with layer on layer of glazes. Ironically he says of this ‘I think I was reacting against the painterly thing to begin with. No brushstrokes. Just image’.

Gale’s portrayal of Ireland is not sentimental. It offers a new perspective and contributes a social commentary which speaks to the Ireland of our times in a hard-edged and honest way.
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