Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny has officially launched an exhibition of unique oil paintings by Brian McCarthy at Mayo Contemporary, Humbert Mall, Castlebar.
The title of the exhibition is “Nautica” and it runs until the end of July.
Mayo Contemporary was first opened in December 2020 by curators Sean McNeela and Leslie O’Neill to showcase contemporary fine art by emerging and established artists, Irish and international.
However, like many Irish businesses affected by the pandemic, it was forced to close a few weeks later.
O’Neill said: “After six tumultuous months, we are extremely relieved to finally be able to present our inaugural Nautica exhibition featuring one of Ireland’s greatest artists, Brian McCarthy.
Originally from Dublin, McCarthy is one of the few living Irish artists to have exhibited his work at the National Gallery of Ireland and come under the hammer at Christie’s in London.
His previous shows, Boomtown (2010) and Masquerade (1996), were acclaimed by critics and art collectors.
According to curators O’Neill and McNeela, the jewel of McCarthy’s Nautica is the photo-realistic Caribbean Princess cruise liner docked at Dublin Port.
McNeela said: “Like the other paintings, it is technically flawless and visually stunning, but its sheer scale (around 1 meter x 1.5 meters) and subtle range of muted tones have us both at first glance. “
Other photo-realistic works include a series of paintings focusing on the dry docks of the Alexandra Basin in Dublin Harbor.
Built in the early 1900s, the docks have seen generations of dockworkers service ships from all over Ireland, including the Jeanie Johnston famine ship.
McCarthy explained, “During my visits there, I was amazed by the sheer, almost vertical walls and gigantic steel gates fifteen meters below sea level. I found the dramatic contrast between massive ships and industrial machinery towering above the visually compelling dockworkers below.
“The extraordinary range of dark tones of the drydock contrasting so strongly with the vibrant colors of the ships, with nothing but steel doors to prevent this hidden world from being engulfed by the sea, took my breath away. . “
While photo-realism has always played a central role in McCarthy’s work, so have surrealism and satire.
Of the Hat Trick Pub painting, McCarthy said: “Ireland’s collective obsession with international football has always fascinated me. However, while The Hat Trick Pub was whimsical, I wanted to capture the madness of the 1990 World Cup at a time when a crippling recession was forcing tens of thousands of Irish people to emigrate to England and beyond.
The satire in Oblivion is sharper with its line of office suits on display in a Limbo Lane storefront and abandoned toys strewn across a trail.
McCarthy said, “I was angry when I painted it and still am. The litany of scandals caused by the Catholic Church discovered in recent times saddens me deeply, as I know everyone does. “
For many years, McCarthy focused primarily on painting surreal still lifes. However, these days it is the surreal depiction of world events that interests him the most.
Referring to Ghosts of Palmyra and the current Syrian crisis, McCarthy said, “I had just drawn in the ark when the news of the Palmyra bombing hit the radio. I was sickened by this attack on a World Heritage site that had survived not only the Romans, the Crusades and Napoleon, but also two world wars.
McCarthy’s shortlisted portrait for the 2019 Zurich Prize of RTÉ broadcaster Joe Duffy was also featured for the opening night.