Note: this body of work was first presented at The Paul Kane Gallery in Dublin in March 2008 under the initial title: “Dearcadh”. It was then shown in various art spaces around Ireland – the Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar, the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, the South Tipperary Arts Centre in Clonmel, Droichead Arts Centre in Drogheda and Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast – all under the new title: “Caoineadh/Elegies”.
This work was reviewed by Aidan Dunne, art critic with The Irish Times (10/04/2009) when it was presented at Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda.
I began work on a series of “Head” paintings in response to the American invasion of Iraq. I decided that I would paint 52 heads because of US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld’s notorious Deck of Cards, his 52 “most wanted men” in Iraq.
However, what began as an emotional response to the so-called “War on Terror” later developed in various other directions, the fractured heads becoming a useful vehicle to explore issues of identity and ‘otherness’ and also leading to ideas relating to the media and spectacle, ideas about the human condition and about seeing and not seeing in the contemporary world.
I submitted these works for consideration to the panel of the Golden Fleece Award and I was chuffed to win that award in 2008.
Caoineadh/ Elegies at the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, 2008
“Caoineadh” or requiem is a theme I frequently return to in my work and I thought of the Heads as “Elegies” to those who suffered because of the war. I continued to work on this series and I would set them as a backdrop to the more figurative work which I had begun to develop.
Caoineadh/ Elegies at the South Tipperary Arts Centre, Clonmel, 2008
The media presents us daily with a multiplicity of images which can have the effect of inuring us to the personal stories that lie behind each individual image. A personal tragedy, the loss of a loved one, for instance, is sensationally ‘splashed’ across the front pages one day but then is quickly forgotten when the next story is presented. Wars and atrocities give way to further wars and atrocities. The endless supply of stories and images begin to lose their meaning…
But by taking an image and using it as the subject of a painting, it emphasises the importance of that image, that personal story. It challenges the viewer to delve deeper and perhaps think longer about its implications. In a way, it subverts the notion of the “15 minutes of fame”.
From a formal point of view, I am fascinated by the tension between the actual task of representation and the formal ‘pleasure’ of mark-making and painting. I like to create works that, from a distance, appear purely figurative yet on closer inspection, reveal the true nature of the practice -ie- that it is one individual’s ongoing struggle with the materiality of paint and surface.
Caoineadh/ Elegies at the Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, 2009
Caoineadh/ Elegies at the Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda, 2009
Aidan Dunne, art critic with The Irish Times wrote a review of this version of the exhibition under the heading: “The Eyes have it”. I include his text below…
Eoin Mac Lochlainn’s Caoineadh/Elegies began as a response to the suffering generated by warfare. Once he’d embarked on his series of close-up studies of heads however, the scope of what he was doing broadened out according to its own logic. “Other themes have emerged in the work,” he writes. “Ideas relating to the media and spectacle, notions of identity and ‘otherness’ and ideas about seeing (and not seeing) in the contemporary world.”
In a way he seeks to still the constant flow of images that greet us every day, to humanise what is otherwise an undifferentiated mass of anonymous others. We do not know the individual stories of the people whose faces dominate his paintings (such as What I’ve Seen, No.1, No.4, above), but we recognise their emotion and can instinctively empathise with what we see. Often, the most compelling part of the image is centred on the eyes, which most clearly express what remains unsaid.
AIDAN DUNNE, The Ticket, The Irish Times 10/04/2009
I started this new series of paintings of the ‘unknown soldier’, returned from war. This is the unfortunate guy who ends up doing the dirty work – and suffering the consequences. I made several of them, each 20 x 20 cm, some darker and some lighter, some almost fading to black.
The work also explores how photography and painting differ and compete as modes of representation.
Caoineadh/ Elegies at the Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, 2009
From the Press Release…
An exhibition of paintings by Dublin based artist Eoin Mac Lochlainn opens at the Crumlin Road Gaol in North Belfast on the 25th of August, 2009. The paintings, which are installed in the cells of C Wing, were first conceived as ‘elegies’ to those who suffer because of conflicts around the world. The work also explores ideas about the media and ‘spectacle’, and how photography and painting differ and compete as modes of representation.
Crumlin Road Gaol is one of North Belfast’s landmark historic buildings and it is being renovated and developed as part of the regeneration of the whole area. It is hoped that art will play a significant role in this regeneration project.
Mac Lochlainn graduated from NCAD in Dublin in 2000. He has exhibited widely around Ireland and has also participated in group shows in London, the Hague, in Copenhagen and in China. He had a solo show in the RHA (Ashford Gallery) in Dublin in 2002. He won The Golden Fleece Award for his work in 2008.
You can listen to a podcast here, I talk about the paintings in an interview I had with Lee Henry for Culture Northern Ireland
I take images from the media as the subjects of my paintings. We are continually bombarded with a multiplicity of images and it is easy to become inured to the personal stories that lie behind each image. A personal tragedy, like the loss of a loved one for instance, is sensationally ‘splashed’ across the newspapers one day and then quickly forgotten when the next story is presented. Wars and atrocities give way to further wars and atrocities. The endless supply of stories and images tend to lose their effect… But by taking an image and using it as the subject of a painting, it emphasises the importance of that image, that personal story. In a way, it subverts the notion of the “15 minutes of fame”. The work invites the viewer to look again, to delve a little deeper and think about the implications behind the image. However, rather than make finite statements about the work, I prefer to allow the viewer to bring his or her own associations to bear on it.
It is a special privilege for me to show my work in the context of the Crumlin Road Gaol. I am keenly aware of its dark history and associations, and of the depth of feeling that this former prison engenders. Rather than take on the politics of the situation, the art seeks to address the human side – and perhaps, in some way to reach towards mutual understanding and healing.