Sunday 23 April 2017

What Lies Beneath: Resurrection by Michael Beirne

Resurrection by Michael Beirne Oil on gesso panel Courtesy of the artist

Resurrection by Michael Beirne
Resurrection by Michael Beirne

Niall MacMonagle

When Wexford-born artist Michael Beirne moved into his house in south Kilkenny, he looked out on a field with cows. Today, he sees "bricks and mortar". The little village now has its housing estates but Beirne isn't bothered. "I'm very much in the moment, I am an internal person," and he's glad that the estate opposite has people living there, not ghosts.

Beirne draws on land, sky, gardening, weeding, animals, Eastern philosophy, Christian iconography for his inspiration. He says of his paintings that "what's in the work surrounds us"; he also thinks they "exteriorise an internal observation".

Though he thinks of life as "cyclical and turbulent, just like nature; it is never permanent" and remains an optimist. "We had 10 years of false utopia in this country and the better parts of human nature got lost".

What he doesn't admire is "our desire to be simplistic" and believes that "you can lose, do without a lot of information". His intricate, intriguing, animated paintings begin as pencil drawings: "I want to emphasise the image so that a confidence enters the work, work that contains "a broad spectrum of emotions - fear, happiness, beauty, ugliness". He doesn't worry about how the work is interpreted or misinterpreted. For Beirne, the viewer is creative too.

Resurrection, took 18 months. The title came later but it signals "a positive intention, a cyclical thing".

For Beirne "things are never gone: people, pets [he has three dogs] and out of the dirt comes the flower". The yellow rose at the centre of the painting he bought "for that particular colour". To research the fanged teeth, "I opened the mouth of one of my dogs!" and his poodle is the main, but deliberately hidden, figure in the image. The poodle's eyes are screened by delicate lace: "I want the dog to see but not be seen". Flowers, seeds, flying eyeballs and, top left, "a manifestation of the crown chakra" give the work an extraordinary energy.

When sold, does he miss his work? "It's in me! I can recall it. I've had the time with it."

The time of his life.

Sahasrara - new work by Michael Beirne at Molesworth Gallery, 16 Molesworth St, Dublin 2, until January 31 molesworthgallery.com

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