Sunday 25 August 2019

Boherbue artist's work on show at prestigious RHA exhibition

Joseph Heffernan making waves in the contemporary Irish art world

Bill Browne

For the second year in succession, a work by a young Boherbue artist has been included in the prestigious annual Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) exhibition.

Joseph Heffernan (32) has been making quite a name for himself within the Irish art world in recent years, with his works being showcased at a number of high-profile exhibitions across the country. 

His work 'The Warriors' featured in the 2019 RHA exhibition and was sold to a private buyer for €600. 

Having completed a course in Art and Design at Cork's Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in 2005, Joseph went on to receive a BA Honours from the Crawford College of Art and Design, and subsequently studied Painting as a Masters student at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin from 2013 to 2016. 

Based between Dublin and Cork, Joseph was a founder of Sample Studios in Cork, of which he is currently a studio member in addition to being an associate member of Belfast-based Catalyst Arts. 

His work was recently profiled in the Sunday Independent's Art Review, with particular emphasis placed on his work 'Crusade', an abstract oil-on-board painting of a knight on horseback preparing to go into battle. 

Joseph said that growing up in the Boherbue countryside prior to the advent of the internet proved to be instrumental in helping to inspire his creative streak. 

"My siblings and I spent a lot of time outdoors building fortresses in the woods and things like that. There is very much an extension of that world in what I do now."

His keen interest in colour theory and the chemistry of paint is also a huge influence on his work, producing what he described as a "heightened reality and a theatrical staged element" to all his work. 

A prolific painter, Joseph often works on numerous pieces simultaneously, a process that he said allows each of the works to "feed off one another". 

"I am interested in images where you're not sure what's going on. The viewer has to fill in the blanks, so it becomes a sort of breeding ground for what people bring to it themselves," he said. 

While Joseph's works feature a wide variety of subjects, he views 'Crusade' as being very much a reflection of his own character and the manner in which he completely immerses himself in each of his creations. 

"I am a very obsessive and organised person. Crusade is really a self-reflective painting about being in the studio and all the anxieties, monomania and self-absorption that inevitably involves," said Joseph. 

While he admitted that, unlike many of his other works, Crusade does carry with it "an undercurrent of violence" it also offers an insight into the ideas of Belgian painter Michael Borreman's that 'the human being is a victim of his situation and is not free', an ethos that Joseph readily identifies with. 

"I am interested in violence, but not in any overtly political way. There is so much pointless and destructive activity in the world it really seems to me that the creative life is a noble pursuit," he said.

Now in its 189th year the RHA Exhibition will run at the Gallagher Gallery, Ely Place, Dublin until Saturday, August 10.