Friday 19 January 2018

Flying Into LA by Charlie Whisker

Niall MacMonagle

When Mrs Hockney, a practical and sensible woman, visited her mega-famous son David in California, she was dazzled by the blinding warm sunlight, but her first comment was along the lines of : "Look at all that wonderful drying and not a washing line in sight." Los Angeles is just too beautiful and too cool to hang out its smalls.

LA. Just two letters and how they spell dreams. It's a magnetic place, inhabited by superstars and film stars and hundreds and hundreds of wannabes who are resting or waiting tables and living for that breakthrough moment when their careers take off. The place of the angels? It can be devilishly difficult there.

Think palm trees, sandy beaches, ocean surf, gorgeous, shimmering swimming pools, golf courses, flowers and you're in paradise. All of these feature in this dramatic and exciting painting by Irish artist Charlie Whisker, but he paints them in a brilliantly unsettling way. Whisker, who has lived in California, zooms in here on more than a place. He captures a state of mind and doesn't glamorise.

The scraggy palm trees are being tossed about; the ocean swooshes in and invades the grass. There's trouble brewing and the rag doll, lower right, looks abandoned. Is that black circular hole a golf hole? The surfboards look odd; the pool is empty; the flowers askew. And there's such an edgy, surreal quality to the work that it's more film set than anywhere actual.

A burnt-out match, lower centre, is a Charlie Whisker trademark. It commemorates a 16-year-old student who was shot in Belfast during the Troubles and whom Whisker held and watched die. That he always remembers him is a tribute to Whisker's decency and humanity. For him, the past is always present.

Born in Bangor, County Down, Whisker now lives in Bray. U2, John Boorman, Henry Mountcharles have his work on their walls and Whisker, in his early 60s, is 'very young at heart. I'm happy and I think I'll live a long time. I still think I'm about 30.'

If you're flying into LA – with Whisker at the controls – fasten your seat belt.

'Zoo – New Work by Charlie Whisker' now on show at the Peppercanister Gallery, Herbert St, Dublin 2. Until June 29

Irish Independent

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