Contemporary Irish Artist Kevin McAleenan
County Down native Kevin McAleenan graduated in 1985 from Ulster University with a Bachelor of Honours in Art and Design. After graduating he spent 15 years working as a Commercial Illustrator, becoming one of the best in the country. Now with a young family to spend quality time with, and the juggling act he faced between his passion for Fine Art and work as an Illustrator, it was time to make a choice, and a change.
And so leaving the safety of illustrating behind, Kevin embarked on his new journey of Contemporary Artist. That was 20 years ago, and with collections of Kevin’s work to be found in the Office of Public Works Dublin, The Open University, Queen’s University Belfast and in a number of private collections worldwide – it’s easy to understand that he made the right decision to follow his heart and passion.
Painting is like a hi-wire act for me, constantly balancing what I see on one side with what I feel about it on the other. My paintings aim to actively shift before your eyes, teetering on the tensions between realism and abstraction to keep the balance.’
– Kevin McAleenan
Artist Kevin McAleenan’s work is beautifully unique. His use of colour, and form, the way he allows us see the wonderful scenes set out before him, from landscapes …
… to seascapes, cityscapes to figurative works. Beautifully balanced blocks of colours that bring the light and the dark.
A rainbow infusion of colours that play with your imagination and catch your attention each and every time.
Here Kevin speaks about his works ‘Ha’penny’ and ‘Liffey Street Lower’, completed during the harshest isolating periods of the pandemic:
James Joyce famously said of his novel Ulysses “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” I can now see it wasn’t as much about capturing the flow of the iconic arch, it was about my longing to be in Dublin, freely among the flow of people. The paintings had formed an emotional bridge to Dublin when the possibility of visiting had “suddenly disappeared” during lockdown.
It’s a honour to feature Irish Artist Kevin McAleenan on The Life of Stuff Irish Art Q&A Series, and we’re privileged to feature examples of a number of his paintings, some of which are now available to buy as Limited Edition Prints.
Q&A’s with Irish Artist Kevin McAleenan
1. What was your inspiration to become an Artist?
I graduated in 1985 with a ‘BA Hons Art and Design’ from Ulster University and was a freelance commercial illustrator for 15 years, primarily for advertising agencies and publishing houses – illustrating children’s favourite ‘Horrid Henry’ was a career highlight. Although I loved illustrating, I was always answerable to someone else’s creative brief. Deep down I wanted full artistic control — to follow my own path and be free to choose what interested me.
2. How did you ‘officially’ become an artist?
With three young children I had to initially balance between commercial illustration and fine art until my paintings began selling regularly with respected galleries. This is now my 20th year painting as a fully professional artist.
3. Where do you take creative inspiration from for your work?
I paint what interests me and my antenna is always on, seeking out interesting relationships between abstraction and realism, past and present, light and shade, people and places — in Ireland and beyond. The work of other artists work inspires me continually.
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In the studio I listen to music while working, usually a single genre, group or artist per day. Classical, jazz, Steely Dan, The Gloaming, Van Morrison, Sinatra — the list goes on… Although I’ve been drawing and painting professionally for 35 years, I really look forward to the life-drawing class that I attend weekly in Belfast — it definitely sharpens the eye! The social aspect is really important too — continual Covid lock-downs have certainly brought this home to me.
4. What’s the wackiest request you’ve had to date for commission work?
My client’s request, simple — a view of a both sides of her town, split by the river running through it. I found myself in the middle of that deep and fast flowing river, balancing precariously on stepping stones while trying to capture the perfect composition.
5. Where would you love to exhibit your work – the dream?
Being free to continually paint is my only real dream. Having someone connect with a painting they exhibit in their own home over a long period of time, finding something new in each viewing is reward enough for me.
6. What are you working on now? Any exhibitions coming up?
I’m working on a large scale commission of a muted interior with figures drifting in and out of focus as your eye wanders across the surface. In general, I like to repay the trust galleries have placed in me by supplying them regularly with new works. I completed several new pieces for the recent Winter show at the Sol Gallery, Dublin.
PIN: Irish Art: Questions and Answers with Artist Kevin McAleenan
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