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CRITIC'S CHOICE

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REVIEW

The Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland have captured the imagination of many artists and writers, from Robert Flaherty's film Man of Aran (1934) to two dazzling books by historian, geographer and map-maker Tim Robinson - Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (1986) and Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (1995).

With their attention to everything from underlying geology to botanical minutiae and the long-forgotten genesis of place names, these books are profound investigations of the inhabited landscape.

One section in Labyrinth deals with the myriad stone walls that subdivide the islands. According to Robinson, 'the eye is totally beset by walls. . . a walled landscape uniting the monotonous grandeur of the desert with the petty territorialism of suburbia'. The stones themselves range from 'dog-eared squares' to 'thin bony oblongs', and when assembled they are 'usually not tightly packed and admit a modicum of empty space, slippage and instability'.

One contemporary artist drawn to Aran, and in particular these stone walls, is Sean Scully, whose black-andwhite photos feature in an exhibition, Walls of Aran, at Dublin's Kerlin Gallery from 4 May to 2 June (pictured above), and in a book with the same title, newly published by Thames & Hudson (£19.95). For some years now Scully has been painting a series of works called Wall of Light, which these photos clearly complement. Not only do the paintings comprise loosely oblong slabs of colour, stacked both horizontally and vertically, but there are the same little fissures that Robinson describes, through which shines a suppressed inner light ( www. kerlin. ie).

In his Resistance and Persistence: Selected Writings (Merrell, £19.95), Scully discusses these and earlier works, along with the paintings of other artists he especially admires, such as Matisse, Morandi and Rothko. Aloof from the banalities of Brit Art, Scully has stayed in touch with history, and is eloquent on the cultural importance of art (or architecture) doing so - not to replicate what's gone before but to ensure substance and seriousness, a true sense of content. This is a heartfelt, valuable book.

For forthcoming events visit www. ajplus. co. uk/diary

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