Belfast Telegraph

Artist Sam McCready's widow flies in from US for show that he insisted went on prior to his death

Joan McCready
Joan McCready
The late Sam McCready and his wife Joan at their home in Belfast
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

The widow of acclaimed Ulster actor, playwright, director and artist Sam McCready has flown into Belfast from America for the opening of an exhibition of paintings he completed just before his death.

Joan McCready's husband had told friends last year that he hoped an illness wouldn't stop him seeing the 20 artworks going on show in the ArtisAnn gallery in his beloved east Belfast.

But Sam passed away at his home in Baltimore in Maryland at the age of 82 in February.

He was diagnosed with a lung condition after he returned to the States from Belfast following a hectic schedule of presenting a one man show, launching a book and staging another art exhibition.

The illness stopped him coming back to Belfast to direct a play about singer Ruby Murray, but in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph in November he said: "Tell Belfast I will be back."

Sadly, however, he didn't make it.

But his widow Joan, who met Sam when they were students at Stranmillis College, has arrived with a wish list of things he wanted her to do and people he wanted her to see.

The owner of the ArtisAnn Gallery Ann Bartley, said the exhibition will be emotional for Joan and her husband's many friends and admirers, including artist Neil Shawcross, who opened a preview on Wednesday night.

"A lot of people will be coming to the gallery during the run of the exhibition through to the end of April to pay their respects to Sam, especially as they weren't able to go to America to say farewell to him over there," she added.

Ann said Sam was determined that the show would go on.

She said: "After he informed us that he was unwell, we told him that we would understand if he wanted to cancel the exhibition.

"But he was very keen that it should proceed even if he wasn't able to come to Belfast. It's hard to think that Sam has gone. He was always so busy. He had powerful energy. And he crossed the Atlantic like he was taking the Glider into town.

"We were delighted, however, that Joan was able to fly over for the exhibition. She's already been to the gallery to give her seal of approval to everything."

Sam's previous exhibition at the ArtisAnn centred on black and white works, but he told the gallery he wanted to move into colour - hence the title Emergence Into Colour. Ann added: "They are very interesting pieces.

"He took a sheet of black paper and then he scrunched it down a little bit and painted it.

"Once it was dried he squashed it flat and then decided from there if he was going to add anything to it or not.

"They are very beautiful. And they're very innovative.

"Sam was always pushing the boundaries."

The Sam McCready exhibition runs in the ArtisAnn Gallery, Bloomfield Avenue until April 27.

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