Tuesday 17 September 2019

What Lies Beneath: The Boy Who Could Swim Faster Than A Shark

The Boy Who Could Swim Faster Than A Shark by Tommy Feehan, Oil on linen on board, courtesy of the artist

The Boy Who Could Swim Faster Than A Shark
The Boy Who Could Swim Faster Than A Shark

Niall MacMonagle

Where did this wide-eyed, frantic and frantically- happy boy come from?

"From a marriage of moments, circumstances and something inside of me," says artist Tommy Feehan.

And that title?

"It was a perfect fit."

And were those fluent, sensuous brushstrokes, that background, with its beautiful, painterly delicacy, those blue flecks on pale pink mother-of-pearl carefully planned?

"Pure spontaneity," says 29-year-old Feehan who's "very good at making plans but I've never been a fan of following them", adding that he's from Fermoy, has high blood pressure, a brother, a sister ("one who is better looking than me, one who is cleverer"), is fascinated by ghosts, wanted to play for Man Utd and, after Crawford College of Art, moved to Amsterdam and fell in love in a bar in Belgium.

"My life has been a series of beautiful accidents, mishaps and mistakes that have always served me much better than my original intentions."

Praised for his masculine use of pink, in The Boy Who Could Swim Faster Than A Shark (a work which took three weeks), pinks abound. It differs significantly from his very first painting of a forest clearing at night complete with ghost, witch, old man, eyes peeping from bushes, graves and tombstones. He was eight.

Today, Peter Doig, Tal R and Daniel Richter are artistic influences - "these three lads have shown me the possibilities of paint and how it can excite".

Though mainly figurative, "abstraction is rarely too far from my work. I like it to be just around the corner to sneak up on you when you're not expecting it".

For Tommy Feehan, this boy is different things on different days. "There are days when the raised hand reminds me of a schoolboy asking to go to the toilet; other days it's a baby just chilling in the womb." Waving not drowning.

And the shark?

"I like to have something a little sinister just lurking beneath." But that boy outswims sinister; that boy is faster, faster than a shark, faster than Feehan who can swim but "not to any great merit - a solid doggy paddle!"

Talented, ambitious, optimistic, Tommy Feehan plans "to wake up the Irish art scene, then take over the world". And it has already begun.

Knock Knock, Feehan's first solo show, is at the Doswell Gallery, Rosscarbery, June 1-19. www.instagram.com/mrfeehan/

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