Liam O’Neill’s exhibition couldn’t be more timely with the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival taking place at the newly-renovated Curragh Racecourse, Co Kildare this weekend from June 27-29. A love of racing and its high-octane ambiance infuses O’Neill’s energetic canvasses as well as a sense of place – that being his native West Kerry.
Tell us about your inspiration for this exhibition of new works.
My family and I moved back to Corca Dhuibhne, West Kerry nearly 20 years ago and for me, it’s like living in Hy-Brasil. That’s the mythical island which rises out of the Atlantic ocean at sunrise during the summer solstice. It can be seen from the top of the Three Sisters mountains – it’s been said the sun lifts the oceans and turns it into the island of Hy-Brasil. Listening to storytellers recounting this legend as a child I was convinced it was real. And I imagined horses of all colours – from blue to translucent white – roaming around freely on the island. That has remained my overriding inspiration for every exhibition.
In addition to landscapes, you depict many racing scenes – are you a frequent visitor to races?
Every summer we have horse racing on Ballyferriter Beach – regarded as one of the most beautiful in Ireland. I also visit the Dingle races, the so-called Cheltenham of the flappers, Killarney races under the beautiful blue mountains of Mangerton, and the Harvest Meeting in Listowel with its twin church spires in the background.
I try to capture the excitement of race meetings – the colours, the sounds and activities in my paintings. From the speed of the horses, the colours of the jockeys’ silks, the calling of the bookies, the sound of the galloping hooves, the candy floss and the roar of the crowd when the favourite wins.
As a self taught artist you have a distinctive style …
My technique has always been to use strong colours and wild strokes of the palette knife on very large canvasses.
Need to know: “New Works by Liam O’Neill” is currently on until July 11 at The Oriel Gallery, 17 Clare Street, Dublin 2; www.theoriel.com.
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