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    Artist depicts emigration in satiric exhibition

    By Noreen Bowden | October 14, 2010

    Because emigration is so rarely depicted in the Irish visual arts, it’s always exciting to see an artist tackle the subject.

    Brian McCarthy’s Exodus [see larger size] is part of a new exhibition called “Boomtown”. It’s a bit cheeky in its depiction of Irish emigrants as refugees in a boat bedecked with a white flag and a shamrock – several of the emigrants even look like they’ve donned green jerseys for the trip. The artist’s press release describes the painting by saying “the scramble to leave is brought to life with Irish boat people on the high seas”.

    The painting bears several hallmarks of traditional emigrant scenes: vulnerable-looking travellers, moving toward a brightly-lit sky in what at first glance could be a fairly typical signification of salvation ahead. But wait – those enormous rocks in the way are reminiscent of Patrick Hennessey’s 1943 painting, “Exiles“: surely one of the most disturbing images of emigration in the Irish canon. Hennessey’s painting is a surrealist take on the vulnerability of ill-prepared mid-century emigrants facing an urban wasteland: Are those cliffs or smokestacks? Are those clouds or plumes of pollution?

    It’s the juxtaposition of those cliffs with that shamrock and those green jerseys that gives McCarthy’s painting its satirical edge. McCarthy is poking fun at traditional images of emigration while making a provocative statement about emigration’s return.

    An excerpt from the exhibition press release:

    Liveline’s Joe Duffy to open Brian McCarthy’s Boomtown exhibition. THE KEELING GALLERY on October 14, 2010 The exhibition runs from 15 October – 30 October

    RTE’s Liveline gives a voice to the citizens of this country and right now this collective voice is angry. Very angry. Who better to open an exhibition of paintings about the life and times of the Celtic Tiger than Joe Duffy, himself a student and protégé of artist Brian McCarthy?

    Brian McCarthy is one of Ireland’s foremost realist artists with a career that goes back to the Irish Exhibition of Living Art at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in 1981.

    This exhibition of his recent paintings includes Boomtown, a short series of canvases reflecting this artist’s unique take on the last few climactic years in Ireland. These paintings form a surreal satire of recent times:

    Delirium – a head shop like no other – a treasure chest, champagne and a vulture in the window, while discarded cash litters Easy Street. Members only.

    Boomtown – a vast shantytown bedecked in Irish tricolours with an unfinished Tower of Babel looming in the background.

    Euphoria – another head shop, this one selling Craic pills, booze and bongs. A lighthearted look at our national obsessions as the country is flushed down the drain.

    Exodus – the scramble to leave is brought to life with Irish boat people on the high seas.

    Sword of Justice – illustrates the mood of the country in a dramatic night scene.

    Visit the artist’s website.

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