Portrait Project

2019
  • Portrait Project 2019: Overview Blog
  • Wandering Rocks: Blog
  • Granary Art Exhibition: Blog
  • Gobi Heaven Intn'l Art Exhibition Blog
  • China Ireland Exhibition Blog
In the exhibition catalogue for ‘Odyssey the Return’ renowned curator Huang Du wrote about this portrait series.

In the exhibition catalogue for ‘Odyssey the Return’ renowned curator Huang Du wrote about this portrait series. ……As an artist with an awareness of “destruction” and “reconstruction” in the context of contemporary art, Niamh Cunningham has created the “Wandering Rocks” a series which consists of 22 small portrait paintings, inspired by the rich and curious literary narrative in the eponymous Chapter 10 of ‘Ulysses’. She paints these portraits of people living in Beijing and Ireland (families, friends, students, artists, curators, etc.) in which they are reconfigured, their images are transformed, reshaped metaphorically into different ‘wandering’ rocks. The artist uses a method whereby she layers photographic images to create an ethereal effect like water ripples, a way of combining real and virtual elements to provoke a sense of surprise in the viewer. Her paintings describe another way of interpreting the world. The images bear testimony to a real investigation into the way in which the living world actually exists. Rather than saying that she simply likes painting portraits, it is more accurate to describe these works as perceived thinking about the image itself and how to engage with cognizance which is habitual. In fact, each piece of work is a combination of the artist’s lived experience, her brush painting and materiality bound together using technological pre-sets. She combines the artistic language of painting with today’s lived experience in order to create a unique and personal visual language. This series of portraits embodies a range of experiences in its dynamic fragmentation, insubstantial images which evoke time, space, identity and memory. This fastidious way of painting is not merely a type of formal innovation, the creative process itself causes an actual disintegration of the painting’s subjectivity and internalizes this metaphysical rupture. In bringing together the perception of image and that of memory, a new image narrative which redefines the portrait, is created. At the same time, the artist has endeavoured to transform the act of painting, distancing herself from the pursuit of the classical, while at the same time incorporating photographic elements. So, the cropped image instantly establishes the connection between the subject and the experience/awareness of language. She uses alternative painting methods to deconstruct the existing rules of artistic creation and establishes a real intersection of two creative worlds: the visual and the literary…….