For the first Workspace Social of 2017, Kevin Mooney will introduce his current exhibition Twilight Head Cult at Ormston House. The exhibition of paintings is interwoven with references to emigration, folklore and the supernatural. Kevin will share his on-going research into Irish cultural traditions and how the diaspora journeyed and integrated these traditions globally.
Admission is free and all are welcome. Don’t forget to bring your lunch!
My parents were part of the mass exodus from Ireland in the 1950s, returning decades later. This background of emigration, and my early experiences as a UK-born Irish person growing up in Ireland, has informed my practice. As a child, I was partly excluded from a “real” Irish identity as a result of this family history. This allowed me to develop an “outsider” understanding of Irishness.
Rooted in mythology and a semi-fictitious Irish art history, my painting practice is culturally specific. A key influence is being part of the last generation to experience a living oral tradition. This has been crucial in developing my work, which can be read as the abstraction of Irish folklore as seen through a contemporary lens.
My paintings are often made to look slightly decayed and broken down. Their surfaces, sometimes heavy and bearing occasional scars, show the evidence of their history. The time, and layers of paint, that goes into their making, relates to their content. The palette, suggestive of mud and dust, invites possible readings as “bogman” paintings, or as found artefacts from an unknown era. Contemporary languages of paint find their way onto the canvas alongside a medieval flatness, creating a compression of time.
The folk forms which have dominated Irish visual culture since pagan times have offered rich possibilities in re-imagining Irish art history. They have also provided a key in notions of cultural fluidity – how Irish culture might have interacted with other cultures on its migratory journeys.
An area of research which has been particularly important to recent work is the “cult of the head” in early Celtic culture, which relates to notions of the head as a site of power, spirit and consciousness. Many of my paintings depict misshapen, mutated heads – this can be seen as creating an archive of these heads.
The work evolves like a slowly unfolding folklore. The sources and motifs of my work continue to be adapted, developed and intertwined to create a rich and darkly humorous world of history, imagination and myth.
Kevin Mooney, 2016.