Irish artist Tony O'Malley had a long connection with St Ives, having lived and worked in the town for 30 years. Working intuitively, painting on everything from scraps of recycled paper and canvas to fragments of wood and slate, his painting never completely assimilated the rigor and formality of British abstraction, but displays the energetic marks which became central to his artistic identity.
Tony was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, and began painting full time in 1958 having previously worked as a Bank Clerk. He visited St Ives in 1955, returning to settle there in 1960, and is best known for his paintings from Cornwall, where he lived for thirty years. While he was strongly influenced by the St Ives artistic community, his relationship was one of engagement rather than direct participation, although he did meet and work with Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron. He spent winters in the Bahamas, a place that had a further influence on his art, which became more vibrant and colourful. Tony’s work has been exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Taylor Galleries and Coram Gallery in London, and he represented Ireland at ROSC 1980. He was an honorary member of the RHA (elected 1990), was elected Saoi of Aosdana in 1993 and the following year received an Honorary Doctorate from Trinity College Dublin. The Irish Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective of his work in 2005. Tony returned to Ireland in 1990, Despite failing eyesight, he continued working almost up to the time of his death in January 2003.
Not so much abstract as essence. I could not paint for the sake of the pigment of whatever, but I like abstract form in the painting which instills it with meaning and power. Abstraction does enable you to get under the surface, to get beyond appearance, and to express the mind. But abstraction for its own sake does not interest me.