Art in Focus: Mick O’Dea – Robert Pinsky

The artist painted the poet’s portrait during his Kilkenny Arts Festival residency

Robert Pinsky, painted by Mick O’Dea in 2015: the artist is known for the conversational informality of his approach

Robert Pinsky, painted by Mick O’Dea in 2015: the artist is known for the conversational informality of his approach

 

What is it? A portrait of the American poet Robert Pinsky painted by Mick O’Dea during Kilkenny Arts Festival in 2015.

How was it done? Over three years O’Dea took on an unusual challenge, agreeing to be the festival’s artist in residence. It was a time when, under the artistic direction of Eugene Downes, the festival stepped away from being all things for everyone and reconnected with its musical roots. But one nonmusical strand continued to flourish: the literary, embracing fiction, poetry, commentary and history. O’Dea’s brief was to make portraits of many of the musical and literary participants when they visited Kilkenny, and he amassed quite an inventory of portraits of cultural figures, both Irish and international. Among the subjects are the novelists Yiyun Li and Colm Tóibín, the poets Paula Meehan and Paul Muldoon, the musicians Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and Iarla Ó Lionáird, the actors Marie Mullen, Stephen Rea and Simon Callow, the archivist and writer Catriona Crowe and the psychiatrist Ivor Browne.

Where can I see it? The painting is included in Kilkenny Festival Portraits, 2015-17, at the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, in Dublin, until June 30th.

Is it a typical work by the artist? Yes and no. On the one hand O’Dea is a portrait painter of long standing, known for what might be termed the conversational informality of his approach, a relaxed, candid engagement with the sitter. On the other, he does not habitually work, as he did in Kilkenny, in a theatre-like setting in the presence of sizeable public audience and, more often than not, while maintaining a lively conversational commentary involving audience, artist and sitter – performance art in the high-wire sense of the term.

Born in Ennis, Co Clare, O’Dea became fascinated by the process of drawing early on, and that fascination has never diminished. Some years ago, working to complete an MFA in Barcelona, he looked at changing the direction of his work, experimenting with a more sculptural, even conceptual approach. It was, to some degree, a diversion. He remains at heart committed to drawing and painting in a more traditional sense, making representational work in the areas of portraiture, interiors and landscape.

Drawing is the armature on which his paintings are built, and the overall effect is usually vivid, direct and lively. He did, ambitiously and very effectively, make a series of large paintings based on documentation from the Easter Rising and the War of Independence (including some fine sculptural pieces), but for the most part he tends to prefer working with a subject matter that is directly in front of him, be that a person, place or thing.

He brings formidable energy and determination to all of his projects. Even so, the multiple demands of the Kilkenny Festival residencies were exceptional.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.