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Part One

Part Two

Part Three

The Paintings

Ely Place Period - mid 1960s

Project Period - late 1960s

Late Period

Additional Material:

Trinity College Retrospective Exhibition

Lincoln Gallery Retrospective Exhibition

Ballyfermot Retrospective Exhibition

Other Works

The Late Period

    Of the late work, the assemblages made during 1970/71 perhaps come closest in feeling to the paintings of the Project Period. They were constructed mainly of sawn angular sections of hardboard. The flat bland surfaces were enlivened by rows of nail heads, staples and lengths of heavy wire. The colours were, if anything, more muted than ever, surfaces being stained deep reds, greens and browns. Sizes ranged from two feet square (plate VIII) up to about three feet by eight. Apparently abstract they still suggest a heavily industrialised environment, but laid out as in a map, or as if seen from the air. Areas of dockland, with jutting wharves and surfaces crossed by roads and railway lines appear spread out far below.

    Rather more problematic is the series of large urban landscapes which appeared soon afterwards. These are acrylic paintings on canvas. The largest of them (plate XI) measures approximately fifteen feet across. By comparison with earlier work these are quite lyrical in feeling. Indeed an affinity with the so-called 'Tubist' paintings of Fernand Leger has suggested itself to a number of people. As their general title indicates, they bear some relationship to the paintings of the Project Period, but the differences, of style, feeling and scale are all quite marked. Gone completely is the insistence upon rust and decay. In the later paintings we find a rather different kind of wasteland, for here everything is gleaming and new. The mountains of scrap metal have been replaced by tangled masses of polished metal pipes, the collapsing derricks and bridges by firm, foundry-bright girders and clean-cut mass concrete flyovers. Beneath the stylishness of the crisp acrylic surfaces and the grand scale, a vision of unease still remains. Wade was still preoccupied with his theme of alienation and ultimately this newer world, antiseptic and gleaming, is every bit as daunting as the old.

    It is the sheer decorative quality of the painting which somehow modifies the effect of the communication. There is also the fact that their hard-edge stylishness appears to relate so closely to all that was modish in painting at the time. Simply by stating the matter so blandly, one is probably being grossly unfair to Wade. It must be emphasised that the late 'Urban Landscapes' are very impressive works indeed, and certainly they have a character almost wholly lacking in any of the ultra-bland hard-edge confections which were contemporaneous with them. The fact remains, however, that Wade's style had become increasingly influenced by contemporary trends. And he himself had even produced a number of such hard-edged works, albeit on a modest scale (plate XII). They are beautifully made, redolent of good taste and often totally abstract. Perhaps the truth is simply that Wade had climbed so high, and in such an alarmingly short space of time, that some dilution, temporary or otherwise, was at least inevitable.

    Unfortunately we shall never know whether this remarkable artist would ever rediscover his earlier intensity, or indeed whether he would burn with ever greater brilliance. Death intervened.