Mythic heroes of the Irish – December exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The December exhibition in the Art and Design Library is a tribute to some of the people who inspire the Irish according to Scottish-based Irish artist, Greag Mac a’ tSaoir. “Mythic Heroes of the Irish” is a series of 14 oil-painted portraits of such luminaries as Elvis, John F. Kennedy and Sinead O’Connor. Greag’s pantheon is a broad church, and the subjects might raise some eye-brows! 

Here is how Greag himself describes the exhibition:

“The starting point for these paintings was a previous body of work that dealt with memory and loss. I looked at a lot of photographs of Irish homes in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and noticed that these often featured pictures of cultural icons. That got me thinking about how people choose their heroes because many of the icons weren’t straightforwardly heroic. They were often flawed characters, and even failures. For me a hero, at least in the Irish sense, is someone who has succeeded against the odds, or failed. It’s the journey, not the destination.  This group of 14 paintings is an extract from a continuing project.”

Here is a little taster of the works, with the artist’s own descriptions:

Edna O’Brien

Edna O’Brien wrote unabashedly from a young woman’s perspective at a time when Ireland was still in the chokehold of conservative political forces and the Catholic church. She was banned in her own country, the ultimate accolade to the prophet she undoubtedly was. She held her nerve and kept writing stunning works which still have a rare emotive force. A visionary and a hero.

Edna O’Brien by Greag Mac a’ tSaoir

George Best

George Best was good looking, stylish and a supremely talented footballer but he blew it all, drinking his way through two liver transplants and fizzling out before he got old. Deep down, quietly and in secret many of us probably acknowledge that we would have done exactly the same. He has an airport in Belfast named after him though.

George Best by Greag Mac a’ tSaoir

Samuel Beckett

If the possibility of failure is central to the notion of heroism, then Samuel Beckett is John the Baptist preaching its gospel in the wilderness. ‘Fail again, fail better’ is the mantra of the existentialist hero. That craggy demeanour and ineffable cool make him a perfect subject too.

Samuel Beckett by Greag Mac a’ tSaoir

The exhibition runs throughout December, in the Art and Design Library, finishing on New Year’s Eve. We hope to see you there!

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