John Dohert

Taylor Galleries

When John Doherty stopped working as an architect in the late ’70s and began painting, it wasn’t to let his imagination roam or bulldoze. Painting was a way of leaving the imagination—that endless drawing board—behind. Nowadays, instead of drawing what is to be, he makes paintings of existing buildings, where the architect seems to have gone missing. With a draftsman’s eye for detail and a camera for an assistant, Doherty takes undistinguished shops, houses, and pubs as models for his paintings—doors at odd angles, window sills going their own way. In Pink and Blue, Ardfert, Co. Kerry, 1988, symmetries make gorgeous nonsense of themselves. There’s no room in this republic for architects.

Doherty, who moved to Sydney from Dublin in 1973, showed a mixture of new Irish and old Australian work here. No longer a seeker after small-town or no-town gems, he hunts for buildings primarily in downtown Sydney. The proportions and scale of any individual structure, its army of lines, may work according to plan, but all get caught up in an unplanned dance with neighboring buildings. This time it is the city-planner who has gone missing. His absence turns all the other architects into jokers. In Australia the unit of disintegration or formlessness is the city; in Ireland the individual buildings disintegrate on their own.

The show contained a number of bare, West of Ireland landscapes, as weak as the Irish buildings series is strong. Doherty’s realism works when there is something to be broken down. The image of the countryside here is a lie, taking stable forms in nature as a general model of things. Doherty allows the architect, with his bent for an equilibrium of forms, to return; he has lost himself out in the fields. There are no sign-posts in this bog of the imagination, but if there were, they would point back to town.

Conor Joyce