Cave paintings

Shane Berkery
June 22, 2020

The Molesworth is delighted to present ‘Cave paintings’, Shane Berkery's second solo exhibition at the gallery. 

The exhibition title was inspired by a casual remark from a friend of the artist who compared his practice to ‘cave painting’, so archaic does the process of painting seem in the digital age - to be still smudging colours on a canvas when the average person is assailed by a churn of images as fleeting as they are relentless. Reflecting on the comment, Berkery was struck by how remarkable it is that we can still see a hominid’s paintings 40,000 years after they were created, how the most analogue of human expression can endure, offering a glimpse into pre-history. Berkery felt an affinity with his cave painting antecedents, in the timelessness and the solitude of the painting process. 

The lockdown that has delayed the launch of the exhibition, originally scheduled for April 2020, only served to re-affirm this connection. Like the artist, we have all retreated to the shelter and protection of our ‘caves’ to slow the spread of the corona virus, and only now are emerging into a changed society. One thing is assured, however: painting, among the most primal modes of human expression, will endure.

The artist explores similar themes to his previous exhibition at the gallery, distilling an array of imagery into his work, ranging 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. He has also been selected twice for the Zurich Portrait Prize Exhibition (formerly the Hennessy Portrait Prize) at the National Gallery of Ireland.