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Patrick Scott – Irish artist

Patrick Scott
An image of Patrick Scott.
© Irish Museum of Modern Art

The Irish Museum of Modern Art is home to artworks by many of Ireland’s senior artists. In this step, we introduce you to the work of one of these artists, Patrick Scott, and show how through a study of his work, one can share his vitality for life.

Patrick Scott was born in Kilbritten, County Cork, Ireland. He studied architecture at University College Dublin and, from 1945–1960, he worked for the architectural practice of Michael Scott where he was involved in the design of Busáras and Iranród Eireann trains. He became a leading graphic designer with the Signa Design Consultancy (set up in 1953 by Michael Scott and Louis le Brocquy), all the while continuing to test various ideas in his painting.

On winning a National Prize at the Guggenheim International Award in 1960 and representing Ireland at the XXX Venice Biennale in the same year, Scott became a full-time artist and designer. In 1969, he joined the board of Kilkenny Design Workshops and, in 2007, he was elected Saoi of Aosdána, an honor bestowed for distinction in the creative arts.

Patrick Scott’s work varies considerably in size and medium from small paintings to industrial-sized tapestries. Scott’s work in the 1950s can be seen to evolve over several phases.

  • His early work employed simple motifs such as birds, trees and geometric shapes, in particular, the circle which is a recurring motif in his work.
  • In the early 1960s, he created a series of ‘bog’ paintings inspired by his journeys between Dublin and Galway.
  • This was followed by his ‘device’ paintings which employed the circle motif and the use of tempera on canvas. These works involved spilling and dripping paint on the canvas which was often saturated. They were partly inspired by the testing of hydrogen bombs in the 1950s and ‘60s during the early stages of the Cold War.
  • Scott is most well known for his ‘Gold’ paintings which he began in the mid 1960s. These works combine gold leaf and tempera on raw canvas to create geometric images which emphasise the beauty of materials. Scott employed a more precise and controlled technique creating these works. These works are partly influenced by his interests in eastern philosophy and his visits to China and Japan.
Patrick Scott said about painting, ‘I have no aim in my painting other than my own happiness’.

Meditation 28 was painted in 2007, during the last decade of Scott’s life, and like his earlier work, was inspired by Zen Buddhism. Throughout his life, Scott used a range of natural materials and forms in his work. These included simple geometric forms such as the circular Mandala motif as seen in his Meditation Tables in the early 1990s, and in this painting made in 2007.

Reflect on Scott’s Meditation 28 painting below:

Patrick Scott, Meditation Painting 28, 2006; Gold leaf & acrylic on unprimed canvas; 122 x 81cm; Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art; Donated by the artist, 2013; IMMA.3813
  • What is your initial reaction to it?
  • What is the mood of the painting?
  • What does the painting “say” to you personally?
© Irish Museum of Modern Art
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