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L ike a magpie drawn to shiny objects, I first became interested in icons when I studied history of art at UCD. The early renaissance paintings have a sculptural quality, as the frame is as much a part of them as the image. Icons look like a tidy little home complete with roof and walls. They are also an early form of conceptual art where the meaning is more important than a realistic rendition. For example, the more important a person is, the bigger they appear in the painting. After graduating, I toured the museums of Europe and saw hundreds of them.

I am a painter of modern life. I observe and make comment. I wanted to make art about ethics, what is right or wrong. In modern life, the church, once very powerful, has very little to do with decision making of most people. The major influence instead is the mass media and consumerism. Through subtle and sometimes blatant messages, we are told the right weight to be, and what products to buy to give our children the best start in life. I decided that a series of secular icons would be the best format in which to depict issues of the day.

Recycling is an ethical issue. It is better to cut down on consumption and waste and reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. Although these are the buzzwords of the last few decades, the evidence suggests that we consume more and waste more than ever. In my painting The Last Man to Darn His Socks, I am seated at a table sewing a sock that cost €1. Most people discard them at the first sign of a hole. They are cheap and virtually disposable. But I extend the life even if the time spent is greater than the saving.

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