What Lies Beneath by Niall MacMonagle

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Here’s an article about one of my paintings – from yesterday’s Sunday Independent –

Jimmy by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Nothing remarkable about E, H, M, O as they appear in the alphabet but, rearranged in HOME, they spell one of the most potent words in the language.  Edna O’Brien, in Country Girl,  her recent memoir, calls it a “sacred and abiding” word.  Everyone of us cherishes that place we call our own.

Homelessness, of course, is a grim and terrible reality and the crouched figures on the pavement, eyes down, hoping for someone to throw a few coins into a paper cup have stories to tell, if anyone listens.

Eoin Mac Lochlainn looks and listens.  Originally an abstract painter, Mac Lochlainn, unusually, has moved from shape and colour to representational/figurative work.  “I am particularly interested in images of ordinary people in situations of conflict or crisis.  It is easy to become inured to individual stories that lie behind any of these images, but by choosing one and making it the subject of a painting, I try to emphasise the importance of that human story and, in a way, to subvert the notion of the ’15 minutes of fame’.”

Jimmy is a portrait of someone Mac Lochlainn doesn’t know:  “I just noticed his image in the newspaper once.  It was the expression I was attracted to.”  And he didn’t have a woolly hat.  Mac Lochlainn added that detail.  It’s a lived-in face qnd it has a wisdom and a beauty to it.  The mottled, rugged skin, the thick beard, the left cheek resting on the hand all suggest tough times; the whites of the eyes are veined but there’s a clear and deep light in the eye and the story being told here is one of survival and acceptance.

The works in his Belfast show are also not just about homelessness but “more about a yearning for home or peace or something.”

Ireland’s vibrant youth might forget that older people, simply by their having lived through more days, having looked up at the sky more often, have had more time to puzzle things out, know things that they don’t know yet.  It’s called experience.

Eoin Mac Lochlainn’s show Dídean/Home will run at the Gerard Dillon Gallery, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, 216 Falls Road, Belfast until Februaury 28.  www.culturlann.ie


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