Hopefully, I am now coming to the end of my travels around the house trying to portray the stuff on the walls and revitalising my memories on the orders of Ma Femme, her of the gigantic balls who must never be denied. So up the stairs we go and on the left we have:-
No 29 – A triptych by black Donegal artist Kevin Sharkey born in 1961 of a Nigerian medical student and his Irish/English mother. The British/Irish system must be full of these bright products conceived between the sheets of humble bed-sitters many years ago when adoption was the only way out for these couples. Easy for the men but hard for the poor girls. It reminds me of Lemn Sissay, the poet in England and best man at my daughter’s ill-fated marriage. Born in Dublin but adopted by a couple from Killybegs in Donegal, Kevin did the rounds of abuse as most did in those circumstances but came through it flying. His Wikipedia post is a maze of nearlys and suggests a self-publicist, a chancer and you could say an interesting man.
However, this set of three in oils I bought in about 2008 from his short-lived exhibition in Boyle that caught my eye for its colour. Its title is “Night Flight Over Dublin” and is a mass of colours. Abstract painting does not normally interest me but this does. It does give a remarkable uplift as you mount the dancers. Its purchase is interesting and shows the artist’s temperament. It was on display at this gallery in Green Street in Boyle and had a big price on it. I told the owner that Sharkey had not signed it and that I would give him 75% of the price and that if he came up and signed it that I would hand over the remaining 25%. This never happened and the artist lost a good few hundred euros but that was his mark. Was and is, it seems to me, very erratic. He never really settled to his status having sold works to all the rich and famous including I hear President Higgins. He fussed and farted around Europe for a while not knowing his sexuality and ended up on the streets in 2016, shades of Gauguin it appears. No doubt although this man appears decent his upbringing must have left its scars. He seems out of control of himself and his talents.
No 30 – My crown jewel, an oil by Graham Knuttel, a Dublin artist, renowned for his work over the last 30 years whose work has been bought by all the rich and famous including myself. He is of a German/Jewish father and an art-connected English mother. These international connects seem to produce artists of calibre. Knuttel considers this to be a self-portrait and features a typical slanty-eyed male inserting a flower in his lapel after cutting it off a display with a pair of scissors. He has entitled it “Paddy Punch”.
Myself and Helen were in the Purple Onion in Tarmonbarry one Sunday lunchtime. A lovely restaurant then and probably still is except for a possible Covid smear. We learnt that the landlord had a private gallery upstairs we asked to view and it was full of Knuttel. We haggled over a price and came away well satisfied after beating him down fairly and reasonably. A good Sunday’s work in April 2008.
Before we hit upstairs, come down to my study and sit awhile and admire its atmosphere. It has just been decorated by Ma Femme and two local boys from Boyle. Shades of grey and green and the walls lined with books but just leaving enough room for my favourites above my desk. I look at them every morning and dribble.
No 31 – A watercolour of poppies in a field so close to my heart having spent half my life on the Western Front researching the damage of the GreatWar. These poppies give me hope that, having grown out of turmoil, that there will be no such nonsense again. The artist is K A Burt a local artist in Heaton Moor. I bought it on display in the local church in 1996.
No 32 – A large watercolour and ink portrait by Pete Hogan, the round the world sailor and Dublin artist, of a man sitting at the bar of a pub reading a newspaper and drinking a pint. It looks like the Nags Head in Temple Bar, Dublin. He has entitled it “A Quiet Pint”. This is a theme close to my heart. All through my life I worked hard and tried to give plenty of support to my wife and six children. At times this intensity would catch up and I loved just to relax and have a pint. I once said my favourite pub is one with no customers and a deaf and dumb barman. Peace and quiet at times exhilarated me. Many wives would be against this form of meditation but if you work hard and have responsibilities, moments of reflection are necessary to recharge batteries and attack the next problem with vigour.
This portrait was the first of five or six I have bought off Mr Hogan from his gallery on the railings around Merrion Square in Dublin and it is my utmost favourite.
No 33 – A print of Lady Elizabeth Southerden Butler’s painting entitled “Listed for the Connaught Rangers” completed in 1879. Lady Butler was the greatest Victorian war artist in her time. She was born in 1846 in Lausanne in Switzerland and died in Tipperary in 1933. She worked professionally from 1872 until 1929 covering all the great British conflicts at that time. She learnt her trade in Italy and married Sir William Francis Butler, a scion of Tipperary Ascendancy and officer in the British Army. She travelled the world with him on service bringing up her six children. This painting now lies in Bury Art Museum and shows a recruiting sergeant successfully marching off two local boys from a town in Connemara in the West of Ireland who had been attracted to the colours by the rowdy- dow-dow of the three drummer boys and the words of the steely-eyed sergeant. A wonderful picture showing the poverty and eagerness of the youth in Connaught to escape the grinding uselessness of Ireland in that period and the determined nature of the British Army to fill its ranks. Little is known of statistics of the time but young Irish boys filled more than 50% of the ranks in the British Army and were on average two inches (50mm) taller than the rest of the soldiers in the European Armies. Daughter No 3 bought this print for me in Belgium knowing of my massive interest in the history of that fine regiment, the Connaught Rangers.
No 34 -A watercolour by local artist Frances Murray who lives in Croghan, a wild and secret place on the Leitrim border. I bought this piece at the Boyle Arts Festival in 1999 my first venture into local art. She entitled it “Russet Scene”
No 35 – This is a watercolour by an artist initialled SN, of the grand late Victorian offices of the Westinghouse Corporation completed in Trafford Park, Manchester in 1909. It became the hub of the Metropolitan Vickers empire that employed 25,000 people before, during and after the 2nd World War. Radar was developed here in the late 1930s, Whittle of the Jet engine designed and produced his engines here and in the summer of 1940 my father, Alan Malpas, a recently qualified electronics engineer, met my mother, Margaret Crehan, here. She was 18 and a recently employed secretary, he was 22, a farmer’s son from Denton near Manchester. They married quickly a year later after a bomb destroyed her father’s house in Miles Platting and killed 47 of her neighbours, leaving the family destitute after the Christmas Blitz of 1940. The place of this preliminary assignation was the 1st Floor office on the near corner of the building. We did work in this place for years before it eventually closed down in 2000 under the aegis of GEC Alsthom and was demolished a year later. I cannot remember how I came about this piece but it has massive emotional memories.
No 36 – Is a print of a farmyard scene of two men mending the wheel of a farm cart. A pleasant scene, reminiscent of my grandfather’s farm in Denton where a tractor never strayed and all the work was done by shire horses. The family was renowned in previous days for breeding horses for Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport to pull their drays around its hilly streets. Again I am not sure of its provenance but the artist seems to be Josephine West. I think Helen’s sister gave it to us as a Christmas present one time long ago.
Upstairs we go into Bed 1 front left.
No 37 – A beautiful almost impressionist print of a seascape and sailing boats by late Victorian artist John McGhie completed in 1893. John McGhie 1867- 1962 was born in Lesmahagow near Lanark and studied at the Glasgow School of Art before winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy School in London where he studied under Sir John Everett Millais. His work consists mainly of seascapes but for a while, he was much in demand for portraits in London. I think Ma Femme has an eye for quality and certainly she has some lovely pieces in this house.
No 38 – A great waterside print the work of another Victorian artist whose name appears to be C Malquick. This type of stuff was popular 130 years ago and certainly, this person’s draftsmanship is first class and his choice of colours good. You never see river water as blue as this today.
Bed 2 left rear
No 39 – This is a truly emotional watercolour of our old house in Clifton Road in Heaton Moor created By Tom Howcroft, our neighbour, in 2005 and given us at Christmas that year. It brings back many happy memories for its size and shape. It had 18 rooms plus hall and stairs. A truly well-considered Victorian semi-detached built in 1903. It was like the Forth Bridge in terms of decoration. Tom Howcroft taught Architecture at Manchester University and his tales of his early life in the Scottish countryside had our kids spellbound. A lovely gentleman, now deceased.
No 40 – A print of a lugubrious looking live fish lying on a plate alongside a glass of wine and a lemon by Canadian artist Will Rafuse who was born in Calgary in Alberta but now lives in Montreal in Quebec. It is typical of his oeuvre depicting life prior to disposal. One evening Helen and I were veering towards our favourite wine bar, The Nose, on Lapwing Lane in West Didsbury in about 2000 when my attention was drawn to this in an art shop window opposite. We bought it and ran across for wine. At that time our favourite bottle was an Australian Chardonnay called Sheepshed. We called it Sheepshaggers after all the friends we knew. Eventually, all the staff also knew it as that.
On the Landing.
No 41 – This is a wonderful photograph of Ma Femme’s father, Norman as a three-year-old enjoying life with his mother. She is Bertha Harriet Jane Damarell from Grahamstown, a farming community 60 miles west of Port Elizabeth. He was her seventh child, the picture taken in about 1932. She was a beautiful woman who died young at 57 years of age of stomach cancer leaving poor Norman in the care of his sisters. She had married William Henry Clark, a British uitlander, who had come to South Africa at the turn of the century when South Africa was embroiled in the Boer War and riches from the goldfields. He eventually did well for himself becoming School’s Inspector in his adopted town of Port Elizabeth. I love the oval frame and am aware of how life changes so quickly for people.
Back bedroom right.
No 42 – Another of Ma Femme’s paintings she brought with her from Port Elizabeth. she bought it in a craft fair for 750 rand at the famous General Jan Smuts farm outside of Pretoria, a man I hold in high regard. It is almost 3D in appearance using many materials. It pictures a row of early 19th century dresses hung on a rack in a South African hall. The work seems so real as though you could pick a dress off the rack and wear it. It is by a South African artist, Yvonna Swanepoer painted in 2009. It is painted on hardboard in a really good natural wood frame. The couple who sold it were Afrikaans who were down on their luck, so she painted and he framed her work. An interesting story.
No 43 – This is one of three works I have bought from this acclaimed Sligo artist, Julie Potter, daughter of Paidric Potter of Jazz Lads fame, from her Ibiza series. I have kept two and gave one away. This one is entitled “Hammock”. The medium is bleach and acrylic on black cotton on board, a medium she has claimed as her unique own. I bought this one at the Boyle Arts festival in 2018.
No 44 – This was my first Julie Potter piece. I bought this at the Boyle Arts festival in 2017. Entitled “Bed Swing”, the scene reminded me of life on our verandah in Boyle, the carpentry work the same. Julie to me is a serious artist, worthy of note. She has a good pedigree. In fact, I love her work.
No 45 – A print by a famous Renaissance painter whose name escapes me, showing men and women in various stages of temptation wearing skimpies that would cost a pretty penny these days and featuring a saintly virgin at its centre who seems to have already been tempted.
Front bedroom right.
No 46 – A Vincent Van Gogh print “Nuit Etoilee A St Remy” a wonderful Van Gogh whirligig. In the early 90s, I used to habituate a sandwich/snack bar in Ancoats in Manchester and at that time I had signed up for this art magazine that offered free prints of famous paintings. After a few months, I had a collection of these prints and one day eating my lunch I noticed a picture framing business a few shops away from this cafe. The Manchester Framing Company I think it was called and he framed a good few for me. I still have them and unfortunately am running out of space so they and a lot more are stored under the stairs awaiting renaissance.
No 47 – A grand photographic study of five of my grandkids floating on the floor some ten years ago. Joseph, Daisy, Polly, George and Thomas Attwood. Considering the trauma that has enveloped them they have survived it manfully. Five very nice upstanding children.
Oh and I nearly forgot,
No 48- In the downstairs loo an almost dreamy watercolour of a watery landscape entitled “Peatland” by one time German/Cavan artist and writer Rob Steinke which I bought at the Arts Festival many years ago. Ma Femme has this piece judiciously placed above the porcelain so that man and woman can observe either by close inspection or by reflection from the mirror on the opposite wall whilst carrying out their daily evacuations.
On the front room window ledge.
No 49 – A marvellous metal sculpture by a young local boy of a “Gaelic Chieftain”. It is as the title suggests an image of an ancient warrior holding lance and shield in very thin metal layers tinted in gold and bronze soldered decoration. The remarkable thing about this piece is its intricacy considering the medium and the age of the boy who constructed it. I understand at the time he was 15 years old that would make him mid to late twenties now. It won him Best Young Artist of the Year at that Festival. I wish him much success in his life.
Well, that is the lot. I have spent four days sweating over this task but I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you Ma Femme for your perspicacity in advising this oeuvre, I have only just realised your input and I thank you kindly. Let us hope now Daughter No 2 gets busy with the camera and keys and puts all the photographs on the airwaves. She is slowly getting there.