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Patrick Healy - Recent Paintings

We gather here today for the exhibition ‘Passing Stranger/Recent Paintings’ by Patrick Healy, whose history in Amsterdam is closely knit to this neighbourhood, to the Lauriergracht. This Wandu Café used to be the Penguin bookstore, and Lauriergracht and Hazenstraat a cradle of artistic presence in the city. Bien, Healy, Abramovic, Kloppenburg, they all lodged in the same block of houses on Lauriergracht. When a foreigner comes to a city it is interesting to see what he brings and what he takes from it. Patrick brought a lot over the years.

Poster of the exhibition poster at Wandu, Amsterdam (2024)

Being the first artist in residence at the invitation of the Amsterdamse Fonds van de Kunst, an article about Patrick in Het Parool in 1997 confirms this status, he organised the first Bloomsday in the city and continued working on PPP Magazines and a monograph on artist Waldo Bien. He became an important part of the Free International University and founder of the FIUWAC, the Free International University World Art Collection. His contacts with FIU Amsterdam enabled him to extend the work he had done on Joseph Beuys in Ireland. With Bien he kept alive the legacy of Jacobus Kloppenburg, whose entire oeuvre was evacuated from his 4 story house on Lauriergracht by the Gemeente, and later brutally destroyed. The extensive book on Kloppenburg’s oeuvre you’ll find on display here. With publisher Gijs van Koningsveld and Amsterdam-based November Editions, Healy extended his literary and critical work. A full overview of what Healy has done in Amsterdam, goes beyond the scope of this short introduction to his painting. Healy gave, inspired, added and shared. Such is his generosity.

Patrick arrived from Ireland with a crate full of paintings on Irish breadboards, entitled ‘Give Us Our Daily Bread’ and in his subsequent years in Amsterdam, up til recently as these paintings here demonstrate, Patrick kept on painting, besides his writing, teaching at TU Delft and scholarly work. First thing to take into account is that he absorbed in his painting the subjects he had involved himself with since his student days, the writings of Max Raphael notably on cubism and expressionism, and those of Carl Einstein, on African sculpture. This moment of distortion and disruption in painting in the late 19th / early 20th century was the opening up of the great hallucinative interval in which we still find ourselves. Art allowed people for the first time to look fundamentally different at the world. It’s remarkable to see that Healy in a way has moved away from this drang to distort you can find in his early paintings, and has returned to his Irish roots, becoming an Irish painter painting on the continent. That’s right, here we are in the middle of a bit of Ireland, a memory of the place, watery and druidic, Joycean and Yeatsean, its nature, greens and sea, even though some of the scenes may depict Dutch or French landscapes.

I asked the distinguished Irish art historian William Laffan in London what to make of the recent paintings. He wrote: ‘For all its freshness and modernity, Healy’s art also sits comfortably with the long tradition of Irish landscape artists finding inspiration on the continent. Nathaniel Hone painted with Corot and Courbet at Barbizon, Walter Osborne in Antwerp and on the Belgian coast. But in his artful mark making, Healy comes closest to the tachisme of Roderic O’Conor, the great Irish artist from County Roscommon, who painted with Gauguin in Brittany (he declined the invitation to the South Seas) and anticipated the coloristic experiments of the Fauves by several years’.

Personally I find Healy to be an outstanding colourist. And he paints water like very few can or do. Just have a close look at these works, take a step back, and see the aqua-reflections shimmering in the thick layers of paint. Something to be said about the scale of the small paintings: namely the realisation that occurs when looking at them for a long time, one has the impression that one is looking at large canvases, they are growing towards you, in the space between you and the work. I remember as a kid trying to figure out that if I was the size of the Eiffel Tower, how tall the Eiffel Tower would be. I did the same with the small paintings by Healy, imagining them to be large scale works by Anselm Kiefer. My conclusion was that Kiefers works would be a bit too large if they are not already, yet Healy’s small landscapes have in fact no size at all. They are beautiful, poetic, decorative and timeless. Their titles tie into Healy’s poetry as we can read in his collection ‘The Papyrus Dream’. If anyone would like to buy one, or any of the other top pieces in this room, please contact Gijs van Koningsveld or Evandro from the Wandu Café. There’s a price-list right over there.

Patrick sees this show as a way of giving back and saying mercy buckets to his friends in Amsterdam, from out of town and abroad. Artists don’t generally survive on their own, they do so in close connection with others. A lot of these people are here today. My wish for this work is for it to find a deserved place in the art world, both in the institutions, in Ireland for example, and on the continental market. I would like to thank Gijs van Koningsveld for curating this show and Evandro Barbosa de Souza from the Wandu Café for providing the space on Lauriergracht, allowing this event to sit nicely in a geography of time, an ebb and tide of arrivals, passages, encounters, leave-takings and returns.

I wish to congratulate Patrick on this marvellous moment with a gift that may surprise him. I do this also on behalf of my father who passed away almost three years ago, and his wife Ingrid. It has something to do with Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, the readings of which by Patrick are of a global monumentality. This present is a circular return to the beginning but not the recommencement of the same book. A new time has come. Chapeau Monsieur Healy et Bon Voyage!

Hilarius Hofstede, Amsterdam 18/01/24