Irish artists and artists of Irish descent are a hot topic around St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17th around the world by the the Irish people. Today, it’s all about wearing green, showing off the three-leaved shamrock and just enjoying Ireland’s national holiday. For our St. Patrick’s Day Special, we decided to honor Irish art. Through history, Irish art developed with the nation and was inspired by cultural resurgence and nationalist ideals, Irish language and Celtic history. Although there are many Irish-born artists based around the world, especially in neighboring Great Britain and the US, Ireland continues to contribute great artists who remained on the island, too.
Here is the list of ten best modern Irish artists!
Francis Bacon - figurative and grotesque paintings
Perhaps the most famous artist of the bunch is Francis Bacon, the Irish-born British painter known for his figurative, grotesque and nightmarish works. This controversial, troubled and complex man created art that was emotional, abstract, highly psychological and described by Margaret Thatcher as “dreadful”. It often contained geometrical forms and lone figures, dealing with death, time and state of human consciousness. Francis Bacon also worked in series, usually making triptychs and diptychs, that would often tell stories of his male lovers or close friends. His 1969 oil on canvas Three Studies of Lucian Freud became Britain’s most expensive art piece in 2013, when it was sold for $142,405,000. Francis Bacon died in 1992 in Spain, aged 82.
Les Levine - Media Sculptor
Les Levine was born in Dublin in 1935.
Considered a major precursor to the conceptual movement, he was one of the first artists to use video tapes for artistic purposes.
This “media sculptor” incorporated many technological and information tools into his art, such as the television, radio, billboards, telephone and other means of mass communication. His 1973 show entitled The Troubles: An Artist’s Document of Ulster introduced the concept of art as a sociological tool. Les Levine is the recipient of many awards, including the first prize for sculpture in the Canadian Sculpture Biennal. He is also a writer, lecturer and panelist. During the 1970s, he was the Associate Professor at NYU and the Distinguished Professor of Video Art at William Patterson College.
Duncan Campbell - questioning the documentary form
Duncan Campbell’s name appeared in the art news when he won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2014. The Irish-born filmmaker’s work titled It For Others takes in African art and iconic images from the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the ethno-nationalist conflict which began in the late 1960s. The video also includes a dance sequence inspired by Karl Marx. His art often deals with controversial figures and mixes archive footage with new material, questioning and challenging the documentary form. Duncan Campbell was born in 1972. He graduated from the prestigious Glasgow School of Art in 1998. In 2008, he was awarded the Bâloise Prize. In 2013, he was one of the three artists chosen to represent Scotland at the Venice Biennale.
Sean Scully - geometric grids and textured surfaces
Influenced by many European and American movements, such as De Stijl, action painting and abstract expressionism, Sean Scully created his own unique style, characterized by geometric grids and textured surfaces. Born in Ireland and based in America, this painter and printmaker often works with a number of panels, to which he applies thick layers of paint.
He has stated that this style represents the way in which Ireland has moved towards a more chequered society.
Sean Scully was nominated twice for the Turner Prize, and his work can be found in many significant collections across the planet. His Wall of Light series traveled to numerous museums in the United States through 2005 and 2006. Sean Scully was also a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany.
Conor Harrington - Fine Art Graffiti
If you ever encountered large-scale paintings mixing historical scenery with the hypermodern one, and if all of that is very visually inspired by graffiti art, then you met the art of Conor Harrington. This Cork-born artist draws inspiration from realism works by the old masters and translates them into abstract art, which plays with the notions of classical and contemporary. His graffiti past is very influential on his fine art technique, which he uses to make art tackling different topics, from social and political issues to male icons and technology. Conor Harrington is still present on the street art scene, painting outdoor murals worldwide. He is currently based in East London, where he works primarily from his studio.
Brian O’Doherty - Patrick Ireland
You may not know about Brian O’Doherty, but there is a chance you’ve heard of Patrick Ireland – one of his alter egos. This Irish art critic, writer, artist and academic started signing his work under that name as a reaction to the Bloody Sunday killings in the Northern Ireland city of Derry. In 2008, in recognition of the progress for peace in Ireland, O’Doherty ceremoniously buried his alter ego at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, and resumed being called by his birth name. Born in 1928, Brian O’Doherty has written many books and works of art criticism, often questioning and controversial. During the 1960s, he was an art critic for the New York Times. He has lived in the Big Apple for more than 50 years.
Dorothy Cross - Identity
Another artist from Cork is Dorothy Cross. Born in 1956, she is known for using diverse media, including sculpture, photography, video and installation. Her art tackles themes of sexual and cultural identity, personal history, memory and the gaps between the conscious and subconscious. She is perhaps best known for her 1998 public installation Ghost Ship, in which a disused light ship was illuminated through use of luminous paint, in Scotman’s bay, close to Dublin’s Dún Laoghaire Harbour. She represented her country at the 1993 Venice Biennale. Dorothy Cross is also known for using materials such as cow skin and stuffed snakes. In 2005, the Irish Museum of Modern Art held a major retrospective of her works.
Liam Slevin - Installations and Sound-Based Performances
Born in 1984, Irish artist Liam Slevin is also a curator and art projects coordinator. Mostly working in installation, which incorporate found objects and videos, he is also the creator of many sound-based performances. He is the founder of Cork Contemporary Projects, which promotes emerging artists, theSPACE, for which he hosted exhibitions, artist talks, workshops, screenings, performances etc., and TACTIC, a cultural space for artistic working practices. During his 10-month curatorial residency in Berlin, Germany, he worked on more than 15 experimental art events at the Waterloo Artspace. His work was exhibited throughout his home country.
James Coleman - Slide-Tape Works
James Coleman is an Irish installation and video artist born in 1941. He studied in Dublin, as well as at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan.
He is associated with slide-tape works: sequences of still images fading into the other with synchronized sound.
By exploring various visual, literary and cultural stereotypes, he reveals how our perception of the world is often filtered through images. He uses a variety of media including photography, film, video and theatre. His art continues to inspire new generations of artists, including Steve McQueen and Jeff Wall. James Coleman has participated in Documenta IX (1992), X (1997), XI (2002) and XII (2007). In 1973, he represented his country at the Paris Biennale. During an exhibition of his work at Museo Reina Sofia in 2007, actor Harvey Keitel performed in the video titled Retake With Evidence.
Richard Mosse - Infrared Color Film
Richard Mosse is a documentary photographer who produces conceptual images using infrared color film. His saturated work depicts conflicts from former Yugoslavia, Iran, Pakistan and Democratic Republic of Kongo, for which he used Kodak Aerochrome film.
His innovative artistic style offers viewers a new perspective of war.
It registers a spectrum of infrared light invisible to the human eye. Richard Mosse was born in 1980 in Ireland and is based in New York. He earned an MFA in Photography from Yale School of Art in 2008 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, London in 2005. In 2013, he represented his country in the Venice Biennale with the The Enclave, an immersive six-channel video installation that utilized 16mm infrared film.