MIKEY CUDDIHY

Catalogue Excerpts/Reviews (visual)

"A rainy night in the East End. Stumbling through puddles and over broken paving-stones, I finally track down Mikey Cuddihy's house/studio. Drying out, I'm aware of 'formal' abstract paintings on the wall. But also, in an upstairs studio, dotted about at random, dozens of smaller works on paper. "Oh, you like those: there's lots more". She opens drawers of a plan-chest. They're packed to bursting-point with them. Some tiny, some quite large. Stars. Rhomboids, hexagons, all kinds of eccentric shapes, the paper folded, torn, pierced, folded again. Drawn on over and over, stained with colour, sometimes stiffened with resin. These works are joyfully improvisatory: they retain the freshness, the excitement of their making to a remarkable degree."

Adrian Henri 1981 - selector of Serpentine Gallery Summer Show

"For Cuddihy fragmentation serves the purpose rather of defetishising the image and releasing it to create an identity which isn't constrained by the stereotype or objectified for the masculine gaze. Fragmentation is the premise for acts of restructuring and recall. The beautiful and simply written descriptions by Cuddihy of her memories and experiences in the publication to accompany the exhibition suggest the importance of memory, of the making present of a past which would otherwise be lost."

Michael Newman in Art Monthly on the 'Riverside Studios' Show 1985

"In Mikey Cuddihy's wallpaper drawings, there are tensions of convergence and separation, the overlapping of shapes which seem to seek out areas of congruence, while also attempting to retain the integrity off their own forms. The curves of a carved column might also be the line of a woman's body might also be the tracery of the waves of her long hair. Often in the large wallpaper drawings objects drift through space like thoughts through imagination. Objects not only occupy mental space but lend form to its content. In Mikey Cuddihy's work, the drawing of objects often conveys the quality of thought more accurately than words, and represents visual dimensions of thinking and imagination."

Susan Butler's catalogue essay for 'Objects as Art' Plymouth Art Centre 1986

"[...]Working over the last ten years in a wide variety of media and techniques, Mikey Cuddihy has dealt with themes of female identity and romantic love, of domesticity and decoration, of transience and transparency[...]

These paintings represent a remarkable extension and amplification of Cuddihy's vocabulary; exuberant yet highly controlled, intensely personal yet plugged into a more collective consciousness, frozen in time and space and yet, thorough the origins of their forms and their method of fabrication, infused with the same sense of ephemerality that informed the earlier work.

[...]Cuddihy gives the ornamental free rein only to throw it back on itself, or rather on ourselves, to loosen up its underlying meanings and level its psychological or emotional resonances and motivations.

She does this by a very conscious, almost mechanical manipulation of that most semi-conscious of artifacts, the doodle. She doodles incessantly, and chooses a limited number of these tiny fragments to work up into paintings. [...] Her canvas, primed with gesso, remains a bare and neutral ground; the pencil lines of the under drawing remain largely visible; acrylic paint is applied, allowed to dry to a certain point, and then washed away, leaving stains or patchy imprints of colour... The transparency of process is not an end in itself, a position taken vis a vis the act of painting, but rather a complement to the many-layered sources of the images themselves."

Greg Hilty's catalogue essay for Mikey Cuddihy Iron Gates of Life 1991

"Resembling natural growths one minute and wrought iron the next, her double curves, looping lozenge shapes or six-leafed clover, wind and unwind, embracing nothing. And instead of being erased, false moves are still there below the surface, felt and half seen.

... The bravura of her line alone - look at that penciled clef on the bottom right of Iron Gates of Love: (sic) Strength and Sweetness, 1991, or the fluid stroke on the on the top left of In Caragloos, 1990 - conveys her meaning more than adequately. And the fading of that mark-making calls its stasis into question while emphasizing its roots in reverie: what is desired, what we move towards but can never reach."

Stuart Morgan - Artscribe review for Iron Gates of Life Sept 1991

"... During the past twenty years, the critical upper hand has often been given to the script over the visual - think Mary Kelly and Joseph Kosuth. However, what Cuddihy has done, whilst playing with the painterly gesture, is try to reserve or at least query the relationship. She has made it interesting and that is saying a lot.

...There are grammars of repeated marks, there are drips and dribbles and other accidentals, there is formal iconography developed, though allusively, and there are recognizable colourways.

...Don't I Know Myself? (1998) is a medium-sized painting. 175 cm x 104 cm. made by fixing to a wall a piece of canvas, which is then gesso-ed and stained, it has applied to it a number of discreet montages made from fragments of handwriting on paper. On one of these pieces of paper, the words 'don't I know myself' can be seen. ... derived from pattern books of nameplates in which her son had taken an interest.... the shapes also refer to the body and to the vaginal iconography developed by Judy Chicago in The Dinner Party project. ...The repeated and improvised upon gestures and devices that cover the canvas are applied by painting onto polythene sheets and then pressing the sheet onto the canvas.

... Whilst seemingly inconsequential, this grammar is affiliated with and critical of the means of making paintings. ...The kinds of important images imagined of the 'portrait of the woman artist as housewife' by feminist artists in the mid-1970-'s are necessarily surpassed by such a painting as Don't I Know Myself?."

Heidi Reitmaier catalogue essay for 1998 show at Beaconsfield Gallery

"The repeated, amorphous, almost muscular forms within Cuddihy's painting recall the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A doctor's wife is confined to her room to 'cure' her, which inevitably leads to her final breakdown. Throughout the story she describes the wallpaper pattern with increasing alarm, as if it were a malevolent, unnatural force.

The paintings in James in Limbo remain a delicate anomaly, like incongruous lovers or the quiet girl bursting into song. "

Sally O'Reilly: James in Limbo - catalogue essay 2003

Reviews (writing)

"Written with a cool-eyed compassion, this is a fascinating examination of the bittersweet experiments of sixties child rearing, of which Cuddihy was both a victim and a beneficiary. I found it deeply moving."

Esther Freud (Author Of 'Hideous Kinky')

"Cuddihy's craft is to elicit our sympathy in non-combative style. Often unhappy, in pain or confused, she is never explicitly bitter....Childhood is a topsy-turvy world here, and Cuddihy's triumph is to remain balanced throughout, leaving us to feel the spills."

Sheena Joughin - The Times Literary Supplement →

"Swallows and Amazons one day, Lord of the Flies the next, Summerhill in the Sixties emerges from this memoir as a work in progress, where children were theoretically given a voice but not one that was always heard. Cuddihy ends her book as a woman defined by the loss of her mother. Neill's benign neglect appears to have had little impact on the part of her that will always be a little girl, leaving a piano lesson and waiting on the street corner for a car that will never come."

Helen Brown - The Telegraph →

"The ironies within this compulsively readable account of Sixties child-rearing are many. The 'happiness' of the title is clearly debatable, and yet the plight of the orphaned family - victims of thoughtless, selfish adults - is recounted with a commendable lack of emotion."

Bel Mooney - The Mail On Sunday →

"...Well-written and moving memoir."

Nicholas Tucker - The Independent →

"A palpable longing for lost family suffuses this memoir. [on witnessing children reluctant to leave Summerhill during school holidays] "I wished I could be like them, to have a home I didn't want to go back to," she wrote."

Brian Maye - Irish Times →

"Cuddihy's ambivalent account of her 1960s childhood at Summerhill is an evocative memoir written with a deliberate naivety."

Cristopher Turner - The Guardian →

" The childlike telling contributes to a real sense of empathy for her plight. It [asks questions] of societal constraints and cultural requirement. What does and does not have positive or negative impact on our children? Has Mikey Cuddihy forgiven and let go of the burden placed on her by the decision of the faulty party (that so heavily affected she and her siblings lives)?"

The Examiner →

"...A sense of stoical bewilderment runs through this restrained but fascinating account."

The Herald Scotland →

"What good is freedom to a child who wants to be anchored? A survivor of the 1960s recalls an imposed liberation."

The Times excerpt/review →