Des Kenny Reviews John O’Reilly - Transient

September 20, 2012

20 September 2012

Smithfield Car Park, John O'Reilly (2012)

John O Reilly’s exhibition ‘Transient’ consists of seven oil paintings in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery. John is better known as a graffiti artist and went under the tag name of JOR, his initials. He abstracted this graffiti name of JOR into large wall pieces, using spray cans. The graffiti artist rarely exhibits in a gallery environment except for a few well known exceptions, such as Basquait and Banksy. They prefer the anarchic freedom to display their creativity on the walls of disused buildings throughout our cities. This desire to remain outside the cultural structures of today’s society predominantly attracts youthful practitioners and audiences.

The paintings consist of views of our city that graffiti artists find popular. He knows these environments well and instead of using spray cans on vacant walls; his creativity is now channelled into fabricating paintings in a studio. This creates an inner tension, as the desire to reach out for the impulsive freedom of a spray can is restrained. The artist needs to focus intensely on his subject matter and hopefully control this capricious side of his nature. In these paintings this tension, though not self evident, lurks achingly just below the surface.

The paintings are small and intimate when compared to his graffiti work, which are large and envelop the viewer. Their main concern is the study of light, be it dull florescent strip lighting of concrete car parks and warehouses or the glaring light over a sombre city masked by cloud. The grey cool interior of ‘Smithfield Car Park’ is cast in the shaded gloom of white strip lighting while outside the streets intense daylight will cause pain as the eyes dilate sharply on leaving the car park. In ‘Ticket Machine’ the red light emanating from the machine relieves the enclosing shadows shrouded in bleakness. In ‘Cavern’ we are pitched downwards steeply into a vault like space, devised for vehicular traffic and too precipitous for people. An alien opening to a concrete underbelly of an anonymous office block designed for commerce and not for people.  

In daylight, against a nondescript sky, lurks a crane for container traffic, inactive but for the rusting air devouring it. Behind a warehouse, climbing weeds are beginning to renew natures claim on disused land. The paintings exude a quiet sense of loss and melancholy, for these sites are the remains of the Celtic Tiger. The airport lounge is a reminder of the heartbreak we know as our youth flee the country. ‘Patchwork’, is a study of two walls and snow as its white purity drains down a patchwork shore, like an unfulfilled dream dissolving into the sludge of regret. These paintings do not overtly offer a political stance but are quiet reflections on a lost opportunity, when property and greed took precedence over people and culture. Yet the title of the show ”TRANSIENT” denotes this hopelessness will pass in time.

Artist John O'Reilly

When paintings leave an artist’s studio he surrenders, to a certain extent, his ideas and allows the audience introduce their thinking processes to the works. It’s this engagement with the viewer that transforms the painting into a work of art. Maybe an unknown visitor troubled by our economic plight will look at these works and find assurance. Perhaps these paintings might probe into that internal horizon where revelatory hope reclines waiting a summons to push back the dark tide. Perhaps this unknown visitor might feel their load lighten as the darkness recedes. Is this not a function of art? There are not seven paintings in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery but seven works of art by JOHN O REILLY, primed in stillness, awaiting your thoughts.


Read more about John O'Reilly here 

John O’Reilly / Transient / FRI 14 SEP - SAT 10 NOV 2012  / FIRST FLOOR GALLERY



Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.

Des Kenny, Rosie Fay & President of Ireland, Mary McAleese

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