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Co Down artist Charlie Whisker passes away

Mr Whisker had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s


Charlie Whisker with his daughter Domino.

Charlie Whisker with his daughter Domino.

Charlie Whisker with his daughter Domino.

The death has been announced of the acclaimed Bangor-born artist Charlie Whisker.

Mr Whisker had been living in a nursing home after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 63.

He is survived by his three children, Domino, India and Ruby Mae.

Born in Bangor, Co Down, in 1949, Mr Whisker attended Belfast College of Art and taught NCAD in Dublin in the 1980s.

He later lived in Los Angeles where he worked with artists such as Bob Dylan, as a video director.

Fellow artist Mick O’Dea described Mr Whisker as a “gentleman” and a “true original”.

His work has been exhibited widely and is in the collections of the Ulster Museum.

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Mr Whisker’s former partner, Julia Kelly, spoke to the Belfast Telegraph in 2019 about their life together.

She recalled the shooting of Michael Brown in Belfast during Mr Whisker’s time at Belfast College, and how the artist came across the incident.

“While he was at the art college, Charlie was walking home on the July 11 after he'd been at a bonfire,” Ms Kelly said.

“He had walked through Pigeon Wood and he came across a boy who he later recognised as Michael Brown, the brother of a friend of his and a student where he was teaching.

“The boy had been shot in the head. Charlie sat with him and the boy died in his arms and then the people came back to see if he was dead and Charlie was able to identify them.

“The next morning Charlie brought the police back to the spot where the murder had happened and there were all these spent matches on the patch where he had been sitting and smoking.

“He used these matchsticks as a symbol for the boy and that symbol appeared in every one of his paintings for the rest of his career.

“It was a great comfort to the family that their son didn't die on his own and Charlie had been brave enough to stay with him. But he never received any counselling to get over it.”

Mr Whisker had to appear as a witness in the trial of the Red Hand Commando killers and was warned by loyalist paramilitaries soon afterwards to leave Northern Ireland.

“It hit him really hard and just the trauma of having somebody die in your arms - a lot of his paintings describe idyllic scenes, like a picnic where everything has been suddenly been abandoned, and it's describing that loss of innocence,” explained Ms Kelly.

“All his paintings contained pills and bungee cords and things like that to signify tension.”

After years in London teaching art Mr Whisker moved to Dublin and began working at Windmill Lane on various artistic overlays before moving to California for a job at Windhill Lane.

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