Review of Twenty

A review of Twenty in today's Irish Times.


The Irish Museum of Modern Art recently acquired my painting Swarms the Moth for their collection. This painting along with Domingo (also in the IMMA collection) and five recent drawings are currently on display in a group exhibition entitled Twenty curated by the director Enrique Juncosa. Swarms the Moth as a title was inspired by a text written by the German expressionist painter Franz Marc. For the opening event of the show I arranged a reading by the actress Edel Murphy. For this I chose a text by Virginia Wolf entitled The Death of the Moth. I was moved by this text for many reasons. It seemed like a poetic description of my process and how that might be bound up with our obscure existential condition. Here is an extract from the text (full version here):

"The same energy which inspired the rooks, the ploughmen, the horses, and even, it seemed, the lean bare-backed downs, sent the moth fluttering from side to side of his square of the windowpane. One could not help watching him. One, was, indeed, conscious of a queer feeling of pity for him. The possibilities of pleasure seemed that morning so enormous and so various that to have only a moth’s part in life, and a day moth’s at that, appeared a hard fate, and his zest in enjoying his meager opportunities to the full, pathetic. He flew vigorously to one cor- ner of his compartment, and, after waiting there a second, flew across to the other. What remained for him but to fly to a third corner and then to a fourth? That was all he could do, in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea. What he could do he did. Watching him, it seemed as if a fiber, very thin but pure, of the enormous energy of the world had been thrust into his frail and diminutive body. As often as he crossed the pane, I could fancy that a thread of vital light became visible. He was little or nothing but life."

From The Death of the Moth and Other Essays by Virginia Woolf. Copyright © 1942 by Harcourt, Inc.

Swarms the Moth, 2010, oil and collage on linen, 160x180cm, collection Irish Museum Of Modern Art.