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This article is taken from PN Review 245, Volume 45 Number 3, January - February 2019.

Ireland Chair of Poetry Lectures
‘Place-paint’
Hal Coase
John Montague, The Bag Apron (UCD); Paul Durcan, Three European Poets (UCD);
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Cead Isteach (UCD); Paula Meehan, Imaginary Bonnets with Real Bees In Them (UCD)

IN THE HEANEY memorial issue of the Irish Pages, Murdo Macdonald recalls giving a lecture on a landscape by William Johnstone at the 1994 St Magnus Festival in Orkney. Seamus Heaney was in the audience to hear it. Having listened from the back of the room to Macdonald’s description of the painting’s dual concern with the nature of place and the nature of painting itself, Heaney remarked to Macdonald afterwards that he’d liked what he was saying about ‘that artist’s place-paint’. There in one go was what Macdonald had been trying to say: ‘“place-paint” – whether the meaning one takes from this phrase is the painting of place or the placing of paint’, or, better still, both together.

The relationship between an artist and place can too often be interpreted in one direction at a time. There’s consideration for the ‘painting of place’, in which ‘place’ is taken as the abiding subject matter of an artist’s vision; a time and a setting that ground a body of work in a world beyond it. And either before or after that, depending on your inclination, there’s thought for the ‘placing of paint’, during which all the artfulness of the art is paramount and the tangible, maybe rather tiresome heft of ‘where’ and ‘when’ is put to one side. Most gallery text’s still run through this order, ...


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