A PORTRAIT of Michael Collilns, right, is among the paintings to be shown in a new exhibiton of work in Cork city, by the current president of the Royal Hibernian Academy, Mick O’Dea.
ODea’s upcoming show The Tan War opens in the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork on March 13th. As well as unveiling new paintings, the exhibition also draws inspiration from the Irish War of Independence which was fought from 1919-1921.
The exhibition draws from three previous series of works – O Dea’s 2010 show, Black and Tans, Troubles from 2012 and 2014’s Split.
O’Dea is personally steeped in this period, as two uncles served in the Clare Irregulars. Growing up in Ennis, he served Mass for De Valera. He drew Seán MacBride (who shared a cell with Liam Mellows).
The Aosdána member says his latest work has its genesis in hours spent researching the national archives, for images and information on this slice of Irish history. The result is a series that highlights both the official and unofficial record through black charcoal and ink washed in the sepia tones recalling old photographs.
The work has been described as both ‘challenging and brave’. Working from historic photographs, O’Dea brings back to vivid life the figures of this period in all their flawed and slightly sinister humanity. These are gunmen of various hues, living with and on the edge of violence.
The Black and Tans and Auxiliaries carry themselves knowingly, presenting a confidant swaggering image to the camera yet always with the overt presence of violence. Guns and holsters are everywhere: forcing the observer to engage with them not as abstract and remote figures, but as real people in a real time and place.