Rugged landscapes, skies thick with looming clouds, deep blue, tumultuous shorelines painted with almost impasto density, rolling hills, grassy spaces, glass-like lakes peaceful and sunkissed, and wildly verdant horizon lines, Belfast-born artist Martin Mooney is responsible for artworks so vividly realised that as sculptor Deborah Brown described it, standing in front of his paintings at his studio in Donegal, she ‘feels the wind and smells the salt air’.
His work is infused with the drama of the elements that swirl and sweep across the land, sea and air, his exploration of outer weather becoming a reflection of inner psychological states, the turmoil or stillness of a landscape speaking of what poet Robert Frost referred to as “inner weather”.
Then too comes the pathos of his domestic still life work, meticulously rendered, the balance between light and dark so perfectly balanced, the attention to detail and mastery of oil on canvas a feat of creativity.
A graduate of Brighton Polytechnic College of Art & Design in 1983 and later completing a postgraduate course at the Slade School of Fine Art, Martin Mooney’s work is full of passion and direct honesty.
As a student of London’s prestigious Slade School, Mooney was selected by art historian and much vaunted critic Brian Sewell as one of the ten most promising young artists in Britain.
Sewell remained impressed by Mooney’s artistic development and for many years he acted as a mentor. After graduating, Mooney won the Richard Ford Award from the Royal Academy which allowed him to study at the Prado in Madrid.
With the support of the Arts Council, in collaboration with The Spanish Cultural Institute, Martin was able to establish a studio in Barcelona where he lived and worked for eight years.
Since then, Mooney has travelled the world, absorbing different cultural reference points that inform his work. He has had a lifelong passion for architecture greatly informed by his long friendship with the pioneering architect the late Jeremy Williams. His noted technical ability to infuse his work with an inner radiance reminiscent of the old masters, married with dynamics of Turner has earned him many distinguished followers since his first Dublin solo exhibition in 1990.
Mooney has been selected twice as the ‘Tour Artist ‘for HRH The Prince of Wales when he accompanied him on official royal visits to both the Baltic States and Russia.
As an artist, Mooney is accustomed to keeping such prestigious company. For example, four of Mooney’s oil sketches, painted on the spot during the royal visit to Russia, now hang in the newly refurbished drawing room of Hillsborough Castle. His paintings are also displayed on the walls of a number of private collections in celebrity homes, including HRH The Prince of Wales, Sir Anthony and Lady Chryss O’Reilly, the Rt Hon Christopher Patten, Dr Michael Smurfit, Mr Dermot Desmond, Sir Gerry and Lady Robinson, Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and singer Enya. Among the notable collections that feature Mooney’s work, he completed a very large commission for the prestigious Merrion Hotel in Dublin which has now been nicknamed ‘the ‘Mooney staircase.’ He has even had the pleasure of giving the legendary late Joan Rivers a painting lesson.
“It is the artist’s job to capture these fleeting moments of beauty and power, and that’s what I have tried to do in my new series,” says Martin, who is set to open his new solo exhibition entitled Colour and Light at the Charles Gilmore Art Gallery in central Belfast on November 14.
The exhibition will be opened by journalist and broadcaster Eamonn Mallie and features a series of work inspired by Irish landscape, nature and the elements.
The works in the new series have a strong painterly quality respecting the history of Irish landscape painting. However, the classic European art influences of Corot, Cezanne, Monet and De Stael, give Mooney’s work a unique, captivating vibrancy and daring modernity.
Mooney is noted for his soft golden hues, honey-enriched earth tones, brooding reds and expressive blues and in this new series he develops his palette and command of light in different ways.
“I’ve been working more expressively than previously and feel this is a significant turning point in my career. I’ve discovered that a greater use of colour has led to a stronger sense of light in the paintings,” he says.
Martin lives in Donegal with wife Aislinn and have five children between them. Artistic talent clearly runs in the family as his daughter Hannah has just had a sell out exhibition at the prestigious Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh.
fine art dealer Charles Gilmore is delighted to be welcoming Martin back for this exciting exhibition and he’s confident that the new body of work will have a huge impact on the art world;
“I am delighted to host Martins latest solo exhibition and his ‘comeback’ to the North. It is sure to be a great success as this is some of his best work to date and a great investment opportunity for art collectors.”
It’s been almost a decade since Martin exhibited in his home town, but he was determined to return in response to the increasing interest in his work and because Belfast was a formative influence in his early career.
“Belfast was a very different city growing up to how it is now. I suppose in many ways painting became my escape. I was born in 1960 and therefore I grew during the Troubles. My parents encouraged my interest in painting and sent me to painting classes when I was 12 years old. This was probably the best thing that could have happened to me as I knew I wanted to be an artist and this confirmed it,” he says.
“I love the city for the warmth of the people, and its straightforwardness. What you see is what you get. At a young age, I was inspired by the architecture of Belfast and made a series of drawings of the old Art Deco cinemas – sadly most of them no longer exist.”
And those are exactly the fleeting, but important moments, that Mooney has sought to explore and capture through his natural artistic intelligence and outstanding technical ability.
Mooney passionately believes ‘a country without art has no soul. Creativity throughout the centuries has expressed the life and history of its country’.
In Colour and Light we experience eternally shifting elemental transitions set against the solidity of ancient landscape – perhaps reflecting the current turmoil of the national soul.
l Colour and Light will launch in the Charles Gilmore Gallery at 1 Lanyon Quay, Oxford Street, Belfast on Thursday November 14. Visit www.charlesgilmore.com.