Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Exhibition of unseen Hector McDonnell works on show at Belfast gallery

Alan Wray, Hector McDonnell and Toby McMurray

An exhibition featuring thirty unseen works by one of Ireland’s greatest living artists opened in Belfast gallery, James Wray & Co, James Street South on the 24th November, for one month.

The artist is Hector McDonnell, one of the most respected painters working in Ireland today. His works have been exhibited all over the world and regularly sell for thousands of pounds.

He is the youngest son of the Earl and Countess of Antrim, grew up in Glenarm Castle and was educated at Eton and Oxford. Not your stereotypical down-at-heel artisan eeking out a living from his artistic talent.

Alan Wray, director of James Wray & Co gallery said: “The pieces we have in this exhibition are very exciting. I have never seen Hector paint as well as he is at this time and I have known his work for many years.

“This exhibition features beautiful scenes from Italy, Spain, New York, Ireland, to name a few, showing colourful kitchens bursting with food and life, moody streetscapes, wonderfully realised snapshots of cafes, bars, featuring characters which draw you in and make you question their role within the work.”

Hector lives part-time in New York, a city he first visited in 1985, where he keeps a loft apartment and studio from which he produces hauntingly atmospheric paintings of the iconic city in all its guises.

Hector McDonnell said: “My inspiration for my New York paintings comes from the sheer intensity of life there, in part its endless contradictions, in part its vital force.”

The artist was greatly affected by the terrible events on September 11th 2001.

“It would take a great deal to express my feelings in words about that time and the several return visits I made over the subsequent weeks. It aroused a sense of deep horror and a feeling that we were witnesses to something that, in some way we could not define and that was of enormous significance to our world's future.”, said Hector.

But it is in the minutiae of life, family and everyday existence where the artist is most at home.

“It’s personal experiences, things that move me that make me want to paint. To try and convey my feelings, in that moment with some paint and a brush is the continual challenge I set myself. I am always touched by the poetry of everyday life.”

Hector is also a keen traveller and has painted in Tibet, India, China and Rwanda, resulting in a series of etchings and facsimile sketchbooks which document his exotic travels.

He has exhibited widely in Europe; Munich, Brussels, London, Stuttgart, Vienna, Paris, Stockholm and Madrid. In 1979, he won one of Germany's most illustrious art prizes, the ‘Darmstadter Kunstpreis’ which resulted in a major museum exhibition at the Kunsthalle Darmstadt, featuring over 200 of his paintings, drawings and etchings. In December 2003, a major retrospective exhibition took place at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

His latest exhibition at the James Wray & Co gallery, James Street South in Belfast takes place from the 24 November for one month.

You can contact the gallery on + 44 2890 313013 or log onto www.jameswray.ie for further details.

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