The Improvisations of a Belfast artist

Fran McCann, Trad Pair, oils on canvas laid on board, 20x24in.

Fran McCann, Trad Pair, oils on canvas laid on board, 20x24in.

IMPROVISATION IS a key element of jazz. Miles Davis might lay out a chord chart and the others may have only that basic sketch to build a piece of music from - the rest must come from their skill, knowledge, feel, imagination, and soul.

It was in this way that a masterpiece like Kind Of Blue was recorded, and among the musicians on that magnificent album, negotiating the bare details of the scales and melody lines given to him by Davis was John Coltrane, who himself would push jazz improvisation into even deeper waters of atonality and avant garde sound.

Both musicians and jazz improvisation have been a major influence on Belfast artist Fran McCann, whose approach to painting relies on spontaneous and instinctive moves (McCann is also a saxophonist and often depicts musicians in his paintings ). Little wonder then his new exhibition is entitled Improvisations.

Improvisations opens in The Kenny Gallery, Liosbán Retail Park, Tuam Road, tomorrow at 6pm and the guest speaker will be Pat McDonagh, founder and managing director of Supermac’s.

A self-taught artist,who emerged from Belfast in the 1960s, McCann originally began drawing to impress his schoolmates. His abilities eventually came to the attention to leading draughtsman John Luke, who took him under his wing.

The Troubles saw McCann and his family emigrate to Australia. He also moved on from drawing to painting, before his eventual return to Ireland. Painting with a pallet knife rather than a paintbrush is McCann’s preferred method of working. He finds the knife “was the most immediate and direct way” to express his ideas.

Improvisations runs until October 2.


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