As a young man in the 1960s, Tim Goulding had two great passions: art and music. For three years he toured Ireland and Europe with cult folk-rock band Dr Strangely Strange, before decamping to the Beara Peninsula in West Cork to devote himself full-time to painting. The ‘Strangelies’, all in their 70s, still perform occasionally, and Goulding continues to compose music.
But art is what has sustained him over the past five decades, and it remains his main activity. Goulding’s new exhibition at the Lavit Gallery in Cork, however, combines his interests by presenting a suite of paintings under the title Music. “The paintings are reminiscent of the classical music training I had as a child,” he says. “Until I was about 15, I listened to Beethoven and modern jazz, and read the Oxford Book of Music.
“In many ways, these new paintings are like sheet music. In many of them, the staves run from left to right, and the patches of color are like notes hanging from them. I considered the orchestration, the choristers and the soloists; these are the solid colors to start with, and there are usually four or five in each painting. I constructed the tableaux as I would arrange a musical work, paying attention to counterpoint, harmony and the spaces between which imply rhythm.
“The paintings are Mozartian. I try to have a feeling of upliftment, joy and harmony. ‘Singing with color’ is a good analogy.
Throughout his career, Goulding oscillated between landscape and abstract painting. “I’m just following my nose,” he says. “Painting is my diary, and wherever I am is expressed through work.
“For this exhibition, I came with 42 paintings, all done in the last four years, and the gallery hung 23 for the exhibition. They are all painted with acrylics. I love oil paint, and the smell of paint and turps; I think that’s the main reason I started painting. But later I found out I had migraines from the turps, so I switched to acrylics for this series. I also did a lot of collages, layering Japanese paper on cardboard and painting over it.
Goulding traces his interest in art to his father, Basil Goulding, a dedicated collector who filled the family home on the River Dargle in Co Wicklow with contemporary paintings. “In a way, my father was my teacher,” he says. “I never went to art school, but I remember we were going through art magazines together. He bought realistic and abstract paintings, it didn’t matter. “Quality in the genre,” he said; it was his thing.
Basil Goulding was probably the first to defend Camille Souter, now recognized as one of the greatest Irish painters. “I think Camille had the biggest influence on me as an artist, at least in the beginning. I would go up with Basil to see her, at her home in Calary Bog. All these years later, we are still in touch. She is now 92 and lives on Achill Island, and the last time we spoke she said how much she would love to visit Iceland again.
The Dublin art scene was small and concentrated when Goulding started out in the 1960s. There weren’t a lot of artists around – or collectors, for that matter – so you’d get to know everyone soon enough.
When he performed with Strangely Strange, they all shared a house they called the Orphanage. “Phil Lynott and Gary Moore were always calling. Phil called his second album with Thin Lizzy ‘Shades of a Blue Orphanage’. And Gary played on a couple of our albums; he was a great friend and the most amazing musician that I have ever met.
The original Dr Strangely Strange line-up, featuring Goulding, Tim Booth and Ivan Pawle, released two albums, Kip of the Serenes in 1969 and Heavy Petting in 1970, and reunited to record a third, Alternative Medicine, with Joe Thomas in 1997. .
“I would find it extremely embarrassing to listen to those early albums now,” he says. “BP Fallon said our music was out of time and out of tune, but of its time. I can’t say that we ever succeeded as musicians. We were what they called a “named band” in the music press. We were known. We were kind of a cult band. But we have never been paid more than £1 a day.
Goulding became increasingly disillusioned with touring as the 1960s gave way to the 70s. “The music scene went from velvet to leather. In the 1960s, pants were made with a velvet curtain. But then, in the 70s, a hardness came. It was all leather and cocaine; the drugs got harder, and so did the music.
He left the band and Dublin and fled to West Cork. “I wanted to live in the countryside, and Allihies was as far as I could go, and a bit further.” He renovated an old school and lived there for a few years before moving with his wife Georgina to his current home 800 meters away.
The move to the country proved conducive to his success as an artist. Over the past five decades he has had dozens of solo and group exhibitions; his work has been acquired for collections such as those of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Arts Council and the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork; and he was part of the first wave of artists elected to the representative body Aosdána.
“Looking back now,” he said. “I think music has been my nurse and art my doctor.”
- Tim Goulding: Music until 2 April at Lavit Gallery, Wandesford Quay, Cork. See timgoulding.com or lavitgallery.com