Tuesday 21 January 2020

What Lies Beneath: Climate Change by Tony Lockhart

Climate Change by Tony Lockhart, Acrylic on canvas, Courtesy of the artist

Climate Change by Tony Lockhart
Climate Change by Tony Lockhart

Niall MacMonagle

'There's a great future in plastics,' says businessman Mr McGuire, in the 1967 movie The Graduate. How wrong was he? Fifty-one years on, we now, every week in Ireland, buy 22m plastic bottles. Eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world's oceans each year.

Artist Tony Lockhart's work is a warning. Climate change? Think storm, snow, heatwave, these past months. Lockhart believes human activity plays a part in it all.

"Growing up in Dublin with no money for fancy holidays, my mam would bring us to the beach.

"I've always appreciated the beach, the freedom of being a child and I wanted to be free in my paintings. But have you seen the amount of stuff we leave on the beach?"

Lockhart's early work was "tight, too tight, too graphic", he says.

"I painted flowers and gardens but then went with abstract expressionism. I was happy with a big brush and no lines."

In his final year at NCAD, Lockhart "liked getting abstract. I love bold, clashing colours and the space to appreciate them".

In this work beautiful greens, blues, the yellow band, that child-like cloud top right, in vibrant brushwork, contrast with a lurking, jumbled, intense, black base.

Text, 'Urgent action to address climate change', in "a deliberately loose and awkward script" adds "a man-made feel to the painting" and an authentic urgency.

Lockart, like Jackson Pollock, places canvases on the ground and paints "at speed, intuitively: I can pour and manipulate gloss household paint to create movement, an activated surface" and the process involves "scraping, scratching, pouring".

The paintings, he says, are "a balancing act".

No saint himself, he drives "a banger '97 Toyota Starlet" but tries "to buy cans and glass, not plastic". He recently dreamt that he was choking on the stuff.

Lockhart has always lived by the sea, and is now thinking of painting seascapes. He says that he would like to be a fisherman.

"I try to look at things as if I were visiting from outer space, at the blue earth, only to be told that humans do this to sea and air."

For Tony Lockhart, life in plastic's not fantastic.

Instagram: @tonylockhart25

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