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What Lies Beneath: The Mind's Eye by Darragh Dempsey

The Mind's Eye by Darragh Dempsey, Oil on birch, plywood Courtesy of the artist


The Mind's Eye

The Mind's Eye

The Mind's Eye

When artist Darragh Dempsey's father, a carpenter/builder, came across a beautiful but broken ornate French sandstone fireplace, he could see, in his mind's eye, that same fireplace restored and glowing.

"My dad, a bit of a MacGyver, rescued the fireplace from a skip, put it together, and Italian slate from a pool table that was in the house when we were growing up but had ended up in the shed, was cut up to become hearth and cheeks."

Dempsey grew up in Sandyford where all houses came with fireplaces but not like this one, which is now in his sitting room. Having spent two years studying engineering, Dempsey, always a sketcher, dropped out of college and began painting.

He spent every other weekend in their holiday home in Rosslare, "made from upcycled materials, another one of my dad's projects. All electricity from a generator, no TV", Dempsey spent hours drawing and playing pool and "both gave me a good understanding of perspective and measurement".

This painting tells a fictional story that draws on cinema and remix culture, a topic Dempsey chose for his MFA thesis at NCAD. He calls it The Mind's Eye and "the title, of course, is an anchor to bring the viewer's attention to the power of the imagination".

Many of the objects are "movie tropes in a narrative about a man who is losing his sight. On the floor is a photo book with an image of two figures holding hands; the fire is burning out; the snooker cue and the red, glowing cue case belong to the pool table story".

And who is the figure in the painting? He looks uneasy, anxious and is hanging on to time?

"He's a fictional character, losing his sight and played by Father. He is remembering his past. I leave it up to the viewer to decide how he is feeling... I try to keep my work as ambiguous as possible."

Winner of the Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust Award, the Don Niccolo D'Ardia Caracciolo Award and RHA gold medal, Dempsey has gone beyond painting and has created an immersive, virtual reality Mind's Eye. Put on the headgear: you are in the room, feel the heat, a breeze from the unseen window. You reach out, you touch time.

And as for stuff you'd find in a skip - never pass one by.

(See 'A Hidden Narrative' Virtual Reality Experience, YouTube)

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