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Solo Arte,
Leading Irish and European Art Dealers
Based in Waterford City,

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European Female Colourists Exhibition

Sunday Business Post
25th September 2005 - By Ros Drinkwater

Watercolour By Sara Sue McNeillAlarm bells rang earlier in the year with news of the closure of the Frederick Gallery in South Frederick Street, and of the decision of Hamilton Osborne King to shut down its fine-art department. When businesses close, it is usually due to lack of customers, but this isn't the case with either the Frederick or HOK.

The problem is one that has become the mantra of Dublin auction houses and galleries - a shortage of works new to the market. Irish art is a very small world indeed, and with the levels of spending we have seen over the past several years, it was inevitable that demand would at some point begin to outstrip supply.

At the point when the best of Irish art and antiques isbeyond most buyers' means, the sensible way forward is to extend our horizons - we don't restrict ourselves to Irish music or Irish literature, so why narrow our focus to homegrown arts and antiques?

What's needed is the will to create new markets by sourcing good art and antiques from further afield.

A handful of dealers and galleries are already ahead of the game the Yello, the Origin, Lemonstreet, Jorgensen, Hillsborough Fine Art, Ava in Bangor and Solo Arte in Waterford all regularly introduce new talent from an international database.

Solo Arte's latest venture is an exhibition at the Waterford Fringe Festival entitled European Female Colourists.

Britain is represented by the lyrical landscapes of Susan Webb (daughter of Kenneth), Ireland by the vibrant abstracts of Sara Sue McNeill and the Turneresque visions of Joan Hogan, but the septet is made up with works from Italy, Germany, Austria and France by artists largely unknown to an Irish public.

On opening night the first red dot to be firmly affixed was on a stunning abstract nude life study by Austrian artist Margit Piffer, and the clear hit with the public was a series of depictions of wildflowers by French artist Valerie Catoire.

When I say wildflowers, I mean neither pastel or delicate, the two words most often associated with the species - Catoire's are wildflowers with attitude. Her scarlets leap from the canvas in full battle cry.

My personal choice would be the works of Italian artist Anna Maria Rossi Zen, who views her native Venice through a kaleidoscope with a dazzling series of cityscapes that perfectly capture the play of light on the muted Venetian palette.

Still in Waterford city, 33 The Mall is an address you should know on a number of counts. One of the most attractive period buildings in the city, it is of national historic importance.

A Blue Plaque on the wall spells it out: "Wolfe Tone Club, the Irish tricolour was flown here for the first time on March 7, 1848 by Thomas Francis Meagher."

Beautifully restored, number 33 has metamorphosed into a cool restaurant where you can not only eat well in stylish surroundings, but view an exhibition of oil paintings by Bill Griffin.

A native of north Cork, Griffin sounds every inch a one-off. His unusual modus operandi involves painting in semi-darkness, a process he likens to automatic writing.

Apparently, he makes marks on the canvas and then takes them into the light to see what he can find in them.

The result is a series of richly coloured, voluptuous abstracts, some of which leave you itching to know more, as in the case of the mysterious Shipwrecked.

Griffin has been in the news this year on account of his landing a plum of a gig.

With the entire world to choose from, the Cuban National Arts Council has commissioned him to paint the portrait of Fidel Castro in Cuba later this year. What I'm wondering is, how the two will get on in the dark.

Richard Argreiter
Elisabeth Bauerstein
Pauline Bewick
Patrick Cahill
Martin Finnin
Franz Lettner
Arthur Maderson
TJ Miles
Margit Piffer
Franz Posch
Anna Maria Rossi-Zen
Alfons Walde
Kenneth Webb
Susan Webb
Johann Weinhart
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