By Sean Scully


I first saw Guggi in the Merrion hotel in its fine and sumptuous lounges. He immediately attracted my attention because he looked like a wolf interested in jazz. I asked Ken who that dude was and my friend Ken said that dude is a painter. The painters I an accustomed to rubbing shoulders with in New York and Germany look like Buddhists or plumbers; but they don't look like rock stars or jazz wolves. That was all I knew of it until much later, some years or so, when I met him up close and we spoke. Then I saw that the outside of him and the inside of him, which I saw into; were doing two different things. I took a photograph of him once. In this portrait he has the eyes of a deer, and since I believe that the eyes are indeed, as painters say, the windows to the soul, I concluded that he was interesting. Since this deer was wearing snakeskin shoes, I was touched. There was, I believed, and believe, a fragile soul inside the charming extrovert. We were both born in Dublin and we both had it hard. And avoiding playing the extremely worn out 'blame card' it's fair enough to say we were 'hurt into art'. So of course I can see this when I see another, and then I'm connected. When asked what painting is I have various answers, but when asked about its difficulty I would say its like pushing a dead horse up a hill. Because after you've done it, you still have  to convince people it was an interesting thing to do. How to make the inert wake up, the Holy Ghost, as the prince, finds the sleeping princess and in the forest he kisses her. She wakes and is radiant . Perhaps it is this, with the discipline of work and criticism . Picasso says 'it takes everything'. And he is right. After all, he was a towering genius, so he must know something. I have found in my life that nearly everything is very far from everything. The inertness of the material of paint. It's lack of technological interaction and assistance, all makes it difficult and humble. The silence of it makes it a slow communicator, but ultimately this is its power and permanence. It seeps into the culture of an art lover, and it stays there. The inness of painting is its weakness and its sanctity. Painting is, when it is Guggi's kind, Jane Austen's Kiss. In her world, the kiss is held back. And yet it is backed up by a wave of emotion and delicate regard that it can be felt and not seen. Guggi has entered the world of fragile painting . So it is a visual reality that is hard to see. The restraint in the paintings, is born out of reverence. And it wants to provoke reverence. And this is the problem. This is the hope. It is the hope and the longing that stands behind Jane Austen's kiss. Where a tidal wave of love and sensibility stands piled up in  frozen admiration behind a kiss that is never completed . What goes on between people is what she describes. And the eloquent craft that she brings to her subject, confers on it dignity . William Carlos Williams writes that it is love that keeps the stars in their place in the heavens. It is only love that maintains the space between them. All the worlds romantics know that it is self evident. And so does Guggi. Guggi though chose the difficulty not only of painting but the double difficulty of painting that is self-taught. So his journey has been long and bumpy. Francis Bacon who is a great artist was a self-taught painter. So it proves it can be done. He studied design. And he knew himself. So he simply didn't try to integrate the figure into the background as so many great painters have done, and are doing to this day. Bacon knew he could paint the background as a stage so he did. Then he put the convulsing figure on it. As it turned out he transformed a possible weakness into a strength. The blunt unintegrated nature of his figures adds neurotic drama to the paintings. And we experience them as ravishingly paranoid. When I first saw Guggi's paintings I was in the lobby of The Clarence. And I thought there was a problem with the integration of the figure(being the object) and the ground. He was swimming in the same waters as Morandi who swam in the same waters as Chardin. This is when the subject becomes self-effacing and humble. Chardin (who worked in the 18th century) reduced the subject to domestic banality. No more pictures of God's workers or powerful men and women. He painted bowls of fruit. And showed it was still the same problem. How do you get that figure to be in that painting and on that ground. And if it is not nailed down it is weak. Cezanne was a builder and he cemented his apples into his paintings. Morandi was the inventor of the fragile painting. And his vases sit in fragile colours, huddling and trembling on a simple shelf. I saw that Guggi understood that melodrama should be avoided. And his colours were reduced. That helps, but it doesn't solve the problem. Lately there has been a significant development of  his work. He painted on board and five hundred years of the history of painting fell off his shoulders. So when he paints he is more liberated, more physical and immediate and it's a thing. Like a painting on a wall. As I said on his studio a canvas on a bought stretcher is starting to look like a harmonica mounted on an acoustic guitar. It's not that you can't do it any more but you have to be a genius to overcome its history. Now when he paints, he paints like somebody who paints a door. He no longer gets caught up in the tricks of painting, where the pixies of paintings put a tiny ring through your nose, and lead you on the dance of fools: that is; those who would like to paint. In his beautiful studio he shows me chairs that are the same as the ones he sat on as a child that he managed to find again and buy as a man. He also shows me the enamelled metal jugs that inhabit my paintings. These are the ones he hated as a child that he now loves. That he now affectionately draws into his paintings. And always with a deep love and restraint. This is an act of retrieval . I do this myself. I have teapot that looks like a house that I bought for my mother when I was eight. I'd rather have truck driven through one of my paintings than lose this. When I see this quality in another person, I see how futile it is and how noble to keep trying to put it right. To fix the train that left the station forty years ago. He is drawing these lost objects again and again with a line now and not a body. It has taken a long time to recognise that the body has left. But he can still persist and he can still love the shape. The line and the memory of those things past, put down with reverence. With corrections, past efforts left, as they find themselves on their floating plane, These are not cemented into place. And Guggi no longer fights a fight that is not his. He makes his lines which are sure and unsure. At the bottom of the painting he makes a block that is a place. Above this weight the time in the painting is free. It is the past that hurt him into art and the present that can be redeemed. So he makes his land with this bar. And above this, in his own painted sky, he re-draws his life.