On the Tightrope by Mick O’Dea

Catalogue foreword by Mick O’Dea, RHA, Aosdána, published in ‘On The Tightrope’ for a 2 person show with Sahoko Blake at Gormleys Fine Art, Dublin, June 2014.
Modern World, pencil on paper, 38.5 x 38.5cm

At a time when the definition of drawing is wide open, when any type of mark making is drawing by definition, it is refreshing to encounter the work of artists who have built up a significant body of individual, sophisticated and intelligent drawings, drawings that have been honed from years of careful observation of the world around them. Tentative inquiry, firm resolution, coupled with a thorough knowledge of past achievements by masters of the art, have brought the careers of Sahoko Blake and Dorothy Smith to their present level of accomplishment.

Sahoko Blake, originally from Tokyo has a distinguished career as an underwater camera woman, teacher and artist to her credit, she has been living in Ireland for the past twenty years, always beside the sea which competes with terra firma as her natural habitat. Her drawings of sea creatures and animal skulls have many of the characteristics of the drawings made by artists who accompanied the great explorers when seeking out new habitats, plants and animals. They are made in order to describe and understand as fully as possible. The images in these works have emerged, teased out carefully from the surface of the paper with the nuances and textures of the subject subtly and firmly realized. There is a sense of wonder in the encounter by the artist of her subject, she is amazed by what nature has presented to her for contemplation, her translations into drawings communicate that sense of wonder. We encounter highly tuned work, drawings that are made on the tightrope, demanding the full concentration of the artist whose considerable gifts bring her vision of the fabulous world that surrounds her directly to us.

Dorothy Smith is an artist with a long established career in Ireland. She has been successfully involved in arts administration from the perspective of a trained artist before devoting herself full time to her art. She has organized exhibitions and events while participating in residencies and showing in many of the major national exhibitions. Her approach to drawing is analytical, she is fascinated by structure and construction. Apart from her ongoing exploration of the human form and the portrait, an area of activity that she shares with Blake, Smith has made a lifelong study of the built environment that she is exposed to everyday. Currently her attention is focused on her Dublin neighbourhood, in particular noticing spaces such as traffic islands; those places that offer sanctuary to the pedestrian as they negotiate our shared public space. She is drawn to the structures that people blur out, that stand forlorn, such as a derelict freestanding electric advertising board, the size of a building, just being there. In Smith’s world, they step forward, while the more established street scape recedes. Smith knows that we are shaped by our environment and that we have developed highly sophisticated ways of editing what intrudes into our personal narrative. The language of drawing becomes the subject as well as the means of inquiry for Smith, her box drawings and crumpled paper studies observe patterns and dislocations in line that are very beautiful and revealing. These are ground breaking works.

Package, Pencil on paper, 10 x 10cm
Thoughts on Paper, marker on paper, 8 x 8cm

Blake and Smith met at the drawing sessions that were held at the RHA Studio back in 2000. Both artists were invited to partake in the formative drawing sessions with interested Academicians that led to the present stage in the revival of the Academy School. Many connections were forged at that time between artists who were passionate about drawing and what drawing can do. It is the great communicator, transcending language barriers and touching people deeply and profoundly. The Academy School continues to provide a forum for artists to meet and exchange ideas. Sahoko Blake and Dorothy Smith have been intrinsically linked to the school since it’s formation, the idea for this exhibition has its genesis there, words can only say so much about drawing, the drawings presented by these two colleagues say a lot about us and our world because their authorship is by clearheaded observers and artists with insight.

Mick O’ Dea, RHA, Aosdána
Portacloy 2014