Over the winter of 2008 to 2009 I'd been house sitting for a friend at the gate lodge near Charleville castle , having been made redundant all I really wanted to do was paint so having bought all my materials and props I'd been collecting for a year or so I began to paint , and whilst there I saw a castle that my friend had made for his two sons and I thought hmm I should paint that ( my girlfriend of the time had a friend who was into castles and we'd been around some of the ruined and not so ruined , the Rock of Dunamaise castle near Portlaois and Kilkenny castle ( great gallery in that castle if you get to visit go and see it ) so I picked one of the kids toys and started painting
|Before the thought occurs the panic will pass|
But then of course I wanted to paint something a little more too my liking , as a digression I see painting still life as very much a controllable experiment , by varying the elements of light, subject and composition story and drama unfold , so I built my own castle
|The empty castle|
Then expanded it
|The castle before its capture|
And acted out dramas and stories within it
|The emptiness of Pandora's castle|
(The Pandora in the painting above is a reference to a character from one of my sisters paintings , this character reappears in the later paintings ). Buildings and houses tend to appear in my paintings from this time , partly due to my obsession with De Chirico , and partly because of the economic crashes effects on the people and society around me , wandering through Ireland by bus and train , seeing ghost estates , half finished shopping centers and a feeling of desperation and desolateness that could not be shaken .
Ireland is also littered with the ruins of old castles and cottages and pasts. Walking out of a friends house one morning I passed these gates , one of the main entrances to Birr castle ,
the day before I'd been at a meeting to discuss taking part in Birr vintage week , funnily I'd sent on pictures of my work and at the meeting to discuss what I'd show they had thought from my work that I was a sculptor , and they were very surprised that in fact I was a painter , the drawing practice was paying off ! So anyway I had an idea for a painting which might fit into the space in the Maltings I'd been allocated and walking past the castle gates gave me an even bigger Idea . I'd been walking along the road thinking about my past and sprouting a pair of black wings ( thinking black angels death song ) and thinking about the film Angelheart ( a favorite of mine ) , and I wondered is it possible to make a painting around that ?
A castle is foremost a place of refuge and defense , a wall against an invader or injustice , a place to defend against the barbarians , and this is how I saw the painting that came to be Angelheart , the largest painting and the only triptych I have made to date . The initial model setups and shots had to be combined into one overall image within the computer to give a coherent perspective and layout , and lighting - I did the photo-shoot of the middle panel at night hilariously running around naked trying to leap into and out of the castle that I'd made in the mobile I'd cleared to work in ( the painting being to big to work in the mobile I was living in ) whilst holding a wooden sword and a pair of scales which held a baby and a skull whilst trying to make it back into the castle before the timer on the camera went off . Id taped a webcam to the viewfinder on the camera which fed into a laptop so I could position myself as I wanted .This is the layout as I composited it on the computer .
I took a photograph of the basement in the Maltings where it would be shown and cut the boards I would use to paint on to the curved shape of the vaulted rooms , so when it was displayed finally it looked like this (on display at Birr vintage week in 2009)
and a better photo of the finished piece ( this was taken when I took the painting out of storage in the garage , there's some damage to it but paintings this size are awkward to handle and store )
The painting was finished in a mad dash in 24 hours , I'd been going up and down to see another girlfriend in Sligo so had only half completed the painting so I finished the whole thing in a mad rush and delivered it to the exhibition the day before it opened . Painting for 24 hours straight is not to be recommended.