I have known and loved the work of Eoin Mac Lochlainn since I first saw it at the NCAD graduate exhibition in the RHA Gallery in 2000. The vibrant abstract oil paintings were exquisitely painted and carried elusive titles in Irish, inviting further interrogation. I contacted Eoin and the stories behind the work verified the work has a deep historic resonance beyond the hand of a skilled draughtsman. A solo exhibition a couple of years later at The Ashford Gallery could have been mistaken for sky-scapes were it not for the Artist’s Statement around the exploration of the uniqueness of each of our fingerprint whorls, and their inspiration for the work. As the years progressed I always found that Eoin’s deep examination of our humanity added greatly to what also stood alone as technically excellent works of art. Eoin’s oil paintings of faces which told stories, faces of people who lived on the streets of Dublin, faces of war-torn victims were handled with the skill of an old-master painter but with the depth of Irish story-telling at its heart. Deep history, social interrogation and often a personal resonance for Eoin himself adds an extraordinary depth to his work.
I have always bought art, from my first wage packets (literally those brown packets) in The Davis Gallery in the 1980s. I buy it to support artists whose work I admire, but recently I also realised how beautiful it has been to have certain works of art which have become witnesses to my own life. Certain artworks have witnessed extraordinary life events in the various houses I have lived in along the way… I am delighted that some of my prized material possessions include paintings of Eoin’s. Paintings which already my children treasure, so will last long after I have shuffled off this mortal coil.
In recent years Eoin has spent more time working with sustainable materials and non-toxic art materials, resulting in stunning delicate explorations in water-colour and mixed media on paper. He chose to stop working in oils, a medium he was gifted at handling, out of respect for our environment. The oils and the solvents used to make the work are highly toxic to humans and to the planet.
When Eoin was asked by Olivier Cornet to prepare for this solo exhibition in 2019, how little we could have foreseen how much the world would change in the interim. The work has been changed by the world around us, and has resulted in a series of smaller works created as sketches amalgamated into larger explorations of nature, light and the environment. The work explores the fragility of change, especially given the current context. In this work Eoin gently reminds us that everywhere around us, in the past 14 months, we have all discovered simple beauty in the nature of our immediate surroundings. Who hasn’t discovered something wondrous in their own vicinity during the pandemic while out walking? A heron perching for a meal, robins flitting in among the hedgerows. Parts of our stunning natural environment that we have slowed down to observe. Is glas iad na Cnoic reminds us that the faraway hills are not greener, we just sometimes think they are. We need to hang onto the good things that the last year has given us, and take time to remember we do not need lots of stuff. We need each other. We need nature. We need to appreciate smaller things, and appreciate that we cannot keep taking, we need to make sure we give back.
Like many artists Eoin has engaged with audiences for his work through technology over the past year, (and indeed through his wordpress blog https://emacl.wordpress.com/ over the past ten years). This exhibition Is Glas Iad Na Cnoic can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home through the gallery link at the Olivier Cornet Gallery: https://www.oliviercornetgallery.com/Is-glas-iad-na-cnoic-eoin-mac-lochlainn. However, you really should try to get up close and personal with these works, and see their delicate compositions, their interrogation on the fragility of the natural environment, and if you see one you love then buy it so it can start its new journey as a witness to your own life.
I had the pleasure of hosting an ‘in conversation’ with Eoin about Is Glas Iad na Cnoic – it is 32 minutes long, so grab yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and get into your comfy chair and view it here:
Is Glas Iad na Cnoic continues to the 19th May 2021 at the Olivier Cornet Gallery.
This blog is number 5 of 21 celebrating 21 years of Jackie Ryan Art.