Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny with the founders of Mayo Contemporary, Sean McNeela and Leslie O’Neill, at the launch of Brian McCarthy's art exhibition, 'Nautica'.

Exhibition of unique oil paintings launched in Mayo by Enda Kenny

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny has officially launched an exhibition of unique oil paintings by Brian McCarthy at Mayo Contemporary, Humbert Mall, Castlebar.

The title of the exhibition is ‘Nautica’ and it runs until the end of July.

Mayo Contemporary was first opened in December 2020 by curators Sean McNeela and Leslie O’Neill to showcase contemporary fine art by emerging and established artists, both Irish and international.

However, like many Irish businesses hit by the pandemic, it was forced to close a few weeks later.

O’Neill said: “After a tumultuous six months, we’re intensely relieved to finally be able to present our inaugural exhibition Nautica featuring one of Ireland’s leading artists, Brian McCarthy.

A Dublin native, McCarthy is one of the few Irish living artists to have his work hung in the National Gallery of Ireland and go under the hammer at Christie's in London.

His previous shows, Boomtown (2010) and Masquerade (1996), were acclaimed by critics and art collectors alike.

The Caribbean Princess at Dublin Port is one of the paintings by Brian McCarthy on display at the exhibition.

According to curators O’Neill and McNeela, the jewel in McCarthy’s Nautica is the photo-realist Caribbean Princess cruise liner berthed at Dublin Port.

McNeela stated: “Like the other paintings, it’s technically flawless and visually stunning but its sheer scale (circa 1 metre x 1½ metres) and subtle range of muted tones had us both at first sight.”

Other photo-realist works include a series of paintings focussing on the graving docks at Dublin Port’s Alexandra Basin.

Built in the early 1900s, the docks have seen generations of dockland workers service maritime vessels from all over Ireland, including the Jeanie Johnston famine ship.

McCarthy explained: “During my visits there, I was stunned by the steep, near-vertical walls and gigantic steel sluice gates fifteen metres below sea level. I found the dramatic contrast between the massive ships and industrial machinery towering over the dockland workers below visually irresistible.

“The extraordinary range of the graving dock’s sombre tones contrasting so starkly against the vibrant colours of the ships, with nothing but steel gates to prevent this hidden world from being engulfed by the sea, took my breath away.”

While photo-realism has always played a central role in McCarthy’s work, so too has surrealism and satire.

Of The Hat Trick Pub painting, McCarthy said: “Ireland’s collective obsession with international football has always fascinated me. However, although The Hat Trick Pub is whimsical, I wanted to capture the 1990 World Cup mania at a time when a crippling recession was forcing tens of thousands of Irish people to emigrate to England and beyond.”

There’s a sharper edge to the satire contained in Oblivion with its array of clerical costumes displayed in a shop window on Limbo Lane and abandoned toys strewn across a footpath.

McCarthy stated: “I was angry when I painted it and still am. The litany of scandals caused by the Catholic Church uncovered in recent times deeply saddens me, as I know they do everyone.”

For many years McCarthy’s main focus was on painting surreal still lifes. However, these days it’s the surreal portrayal of global events that mostly interests him.

The Ghosts of Palmyra is another of Brian McCarthy's unique paintings on display.

Referencing Ghosts of Palmyra and the current Syrian crisis, McCarthy stated: “I had just sketched in the arch when news of Palmyra’s bombing came in over the radio. I was gutted at this attack on a world heritage site that had survived not only the Romans, the Crusades, and Napoleon, but two world wars as well.”

Also on display for opening night was McCarthy’s 2019 Zurich Prize shortlisted portrait of RTÉ broadcaster Joe Duffy.

Paintings are available to view at Mayo Contemporary or at: