Contemporary Paintings: Shane Berkery
For his debut solo exhibition at The Molesworth Gallery, Shane Berkery distils an array of imagery into a group of new paintings. These images range from an archive of family photographs, documenting his Japanese-Irish heritage, to the stream of posts assailing him via social media feeds. Visual references are sampled, spliced and refracted through the prism of his very distinctive palette of Vandyke brown, white, ultramarine, cadmium yellow and permanent rose.
A first-class honours graduate of NCAD, Berkery was awarded the Hennessy Craig Scholarship and Whyte’s Award at the RHA Annual Exhibition in 2016, and the NUI Art and Design Award in 2015.
In the field of contemporary art, there's an emphasis placed on viewing paintings as allegorical objects. To approach a painting with the question ‘What does it mean?’ can of course enrich the work, but too often this interpretative process becomes the main or only concern. I feel that this exclusively intellectual approach is a reductive exercise that overlooks the experiential quality that differentiates visual art from the other art forms. What interests me most is the sensory experience of viewing a painting and the affective properties that come with it; that non-linear, atemporal sensation that text, film or music can’t quite deliver.
My paintings primarily deal with the human figure, as I find the expressive capabilities of the face and body to be unparalleled. I also believe that the figure provides the most relatable reference, becoming an access point for the viewer into the painted world.
I currently have several streams of work which are informed by my own photos, including old family photos from my Japanese side. Using these different sources of inspiration, I seek to create figures that evoke a sense of ‘realness’ in a way that the spectator can feel their presence there in front of them. I view my work as an accumulation of studies into the visual mechanisms by which this is realised, and in each painting the relationship between the various languages of paint (representation, abstraction, colour, composition and degree of completion) are scrutinised. From the purely representational figures in my photographic source material, I intend to extract the sensation of presence and distil it into viscerally ‘real’ beings on canvas.