Paintings for Good Friday

During his long life, the late Tony O’Malley used to make a painting on Good Friday each year.  In 2006, these paintings were exhibited together in a special show in the St Ives Tate Gallery in Cornwall.  In his accompanying text, the curator Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith considers how these works continue to embody a primal image of suffering and redemption, whilst marking the celebratory rituals of faith in Western culture.

I was really interested in the work of Tony O’Malley and I wrote my thesis on his work for my Fine Art degree in NCAD, in Dublin.   I particularly liked the painting above, Good Friday, 1966,  the contrasting colours and tortured shapes evoking the horror of the crucifixion and the bright red symbolising the blood shed in Christ’s sacrificial death.  That was a quote from my thesis – it’s strange reading it now, fourteen years later.  I seemed so sure of myself back then when I wrote that stuff.  I’m not half as sure now…

But Tony was a lovely man and I’ll always remember him.  He was wise, I think.  “Painting is a mystery”, he’d say,  “and Silence is important.  You have to listen.  It’s available to you, as long as you don’t presume.  You arrive at the work.  You don’t confront a painting, asking what it means.  As the Chinese say:  allow it to just be there on the wall, ticking like a clock…”

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

He was represented by the Taylor Galleries in Dublin, see:



  1. A wonderfully interesting and insightful post Eoin. My thesis written in 2002 (at the age of 22 years) tackled Freudian psychoanalysis theories as a means to interpret the world of Abstract painting, especially those of the abstract expressionists! I defiantly got in over my head on that one!


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