Rich with history, literature and culture, and the home of enchanting green hillscapes, Ireland is a country of inspiration and constant discovery. Seen by some as a magical far-off island, and by others as the vibrant home to some of the most influential artists of recent times, Ireland’s identity is rooted in so much more than its breath-taking vistas and turbulent past. Today, Irish artists are working at the forefront of the contemporary art scene, and whether drawing on their nationality, or participating is an expressive means of creating, they are forming the fabric of the contemporary art world.
Following in the footsteps of Francis Bacon, Louis le Brocquy, Mary Swanzy and Nano Reid, we showcase a range of abstract, figurative and expressionist artists working today. To help narrow your search, we have selected some of the most exciting contemporary Irish artists, making it easy for you to discover, explore and collect their art.
Top 5 Contemporary Irish Artists
Instantly eye-catching and persistently mesmerising, the large-scale paintings of Fintan Whelan add a new dimension to any setting. Inspired by the formations of natural landscapes, as well as by all things organic, Fintan’s work combines form, texture and colour to create paintings that are simultaneously otherworldly and familiar.
Works such as Floating Island and Supple River capture the movement in water and the breaks between sea form and the dark blue, whilst Leaving My Shadow and Down to Earth have an ancient and cave-like feel to them. Fintan’s use of colour, although minimal, uniquely captures the tones and hues of the natural wilderness. Paired with the layering of materials, shape and seeping of forms, Fintan uses a fairly minimal palette to make work that echoes the beauty to be found in the textures of the world.
Continuing in the abstract tradition, oil painter Aisling Drennan creates energetic and colourful paintings. Like Fintan, Aisling’s practice is often inspired by the surfaces of rocky terrains, yet her main inspiration lies in the work of the abstract expressionists of the 1950s. From her forms that clearly reference to work of Willem de Kooning, to her brushwork that echoes that of Joan Mitchell, Aisling’s paintings display a contemporary approach to the Abstract Expressionist style.
Aisling’s titles add a greater sense of depth to her paintings. Works such as Give It Stick and A Pause, A Happiness are instilled with mystery and narrative as they suggest human action and emotions.
Going down a more figurative route is Irish painter Tracy White Fitzgerald. Tracy is drawn to capturing the quieter realities of everyday life, as demonstrated in her paintings, Coffee Roasters and Yellow Chair. Combining a strong patterned aesthetic with warming and familiar features of the day-to-day, Tracy gives domestic scenes a sense of intrigue and a new dimension.
Whether depicting brutalist architecture or unassuming desk lamps, each of Tracy’s works capture the beauty that can be seen in the everyday. Together with her unique use of perspective, Tracy flattens her images whilst still giving them a sense of movement and vitality. Inanimate objects are instilled with life and character, just as backdrops propel forward into wildly colourful visions, presenting to the viewer a new way of perceiving the ordinary.
Adam Reid work lingers somewhere between the abstract and the surreal, at times sitting comfortably in the expressionist style. Many of his paintings are reminiscent of fellow Irish-born painter Francis Bacon. Like Bacon, Adam uses dark and somewhat unsettling imagery, and centres it in a theatrical light.
Adam’s series, The Forge is both ambiguous and undoubtably menacing, with the use of muddy and earthy colours alluding to some of Bacon’s later works. In this series, just as in his other works, Adam exhibits movement and action. There is a clear dream-like state to each of Adam’s canvases, as he transports the viewer to the realm of the imaginary, whilst imparting each work with an ominous tone.
Born into an artistic family, Gabhann Dunne grew up surrounded by art. Romantic yet mysterious, Gabhann’s paintings are characterised by their soft brushstrokes and muted colours. In a similar way to the work of Adam Reid, Gabhann’s paintings evoke images of the subconscious, as he surrounds his figures in the haziness of their backdrops.
Gabhann’s titles only work to enhance the poetic nature of his paintings. In works such as The Spirit Tree and Milk Owl, the titles give context to his works, and at the same time, contribute to their mystical nature. Constantly taking inspiration from the surrounding Irish landscapes, Gabhann wraps the viewer up in the realm of the imaginary.