Sunday 22 April 2018

Painter's brush with stars is a chain reaction

Artist up for prestigious UK award

Ken SweeneyEntertainment Editor

IT all began with one artist meeting another but soon by word of mouth Colin Davidson found himself as the painter of choice for famous musicians and writers.

This week his painting of musician Glen Hansard goes on display in the National Portrait Gallery in London, chosen from 2,372 entries to make the final 55 works in the UK's prestigious annual BP Portrait Awards.

But the Belfast artist never set out to capture these famous faces. Each one arrived after one sitter introduced him to the next -- and it all started with Belfast singer Duke Special (aka Peter Wilson).

"I'd always wanted to paint Duke because of the way he looked with his dreadlocks and eye make-up," the 42-year-old said.

"Duke introduced me to Glen Hansard, who introduced me to Roddy Doyle. An interesting thread began where each sitter would introduce me to somebody else. For me it was a huge honour to be meeting these people whose work I had loved for the past 20 years," he added.

Some of the subjects posed in Dublin, some at his studio near Belfast, while playwright Brian Friel posed at his home in Co Donegal.

"Brian Friel really doesn't want or need any attention. He is an icon, a world name and I have to thank the Lyric Theatre in Belfast for helping me to meet and paint him," the artist explained.

"Brian has the most fabulous face, with the years etched into it."

Mr Davidson revealed the key to his portraits was "consciously or not, the sitters going into a daydream-like state where they become almost absorbed in their own thoughts".

But in the case of author Roddy Doyle, whose portrait 'What Isn't Said' is on display at the Royal Hibernian Academy until July 30, a few Van Morrison CDs did the trick.

"I want a situation where people are unaware that I am there. That's the moment I strive to capture. The moment when people are truly themselves," said Mr Davidson, who holds a first-class honours degree from the Art and Design Faculty at the University of Ulster.

"With Roddy, we chatted all day as we listened to Van Morrison CDs. It wasn't just his face I captured but my own empathy with his work."

The artist revealed that he started each session by making drawings that "act as shorthand". He then sets up an easel and creates the work on canvas using oil paints and crayons.

His work is featured as part of the 181st Annual Exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Ely Place, Dublin. Admission is free.

The BP Portrait Award will be announced tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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