Cian McLoughlin’s abstract crowd paintings tap into our need to belong



night mass

In his powerful and intense portraits, the face fascinates Cian McLoughlin but recent works explore the nature of crowds and mark “a change of scale, subject and technique”.

He turned to medieval altarpieces, Mughal art, cave paintings, Soutine, de Kooning, Amy Sillman, Cecily Brown, David Bomberg.

“I was on the dial, but they all tested the pictorial space differently from how I had treated it in my work until then. I wanted to get away from the illusory space and perspective of “realistic paintings” and these very varied references showed me the way, ”he says.

He read Stephen Reicher, Barbara Ehrenreich, John Drury, Clifford Stott on Crowd Psychology. at Elias Canetti Crowds and power was “the biggest influence … she beautifully captures the simultaneous excitement and stress of a crowd.”

This new show is Madness and the Cure for Madness for “madness always returns in the study of crowds”.

Text by Charles Mackay from 1841 Extraordinary popular delusions and crowd madness and Nietzsche’s belief that “madness in individuals is rare but in groups is the rule” also fueled McLoughlin’s paintings.

Its vibrant colors match Ehrenreich’s belief that “the urge to transform one’s appearance, to dance in the open air, to mock the powerful, and to kiss complete strangers is not easy to suppress.”

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McLoughlin’s background – his artist mother, his engineer father – meant that each of his childhood memories involved pencil, pencil, marker, paper.

He studied architecture but became disillusioned, he says, with “budgets, clients, regulations, planners, inclement weather, gravity” and turned to art.

He’s in his studio at 9 a.m. Then “a long period of procrastination, then annoyed, frustrated at wasting precious time in the studio, I finally get started, get into the action, work very quickly”.

“The speed doesn’t give you time to think, which helps fight the relentless self-doubt. If I work fast, the noisy internal reviewer doesn’t have as much time to hang on to me.

For crowd paintings, he thought of “images of intense emotions, the kind you see when you zoom in on an individual in a crowd, a face distorted by joy or rage”.

“Faces that you couldn’t imagine making people if they were alone. The larger image of the crowd has emerged as a metaphor for this loss of self, this feeling of belonging and this arena of expression of our strongest emotions.

Technically, these crowd jobs involve “stenciling, frosting, dripping, masking, pouring, pattern, texture, flatness, oil bars, chalk pastels, wet on wet, thick, thinly applied paint, scraping, sandpaper, belt sanders and no attempt to hide the way it was done ”.

Quoting Robert Frost, “like a piece of ice on a hot stove, the poem must roll on its own cast iron”, McLoughlin wants the same for his paintings, with “a sense of perpetual motion”.

In “Midnight Mass”, does Catholicism shine in the title or is the mass a dense aggregation? McLoughlin favors ambiguity.

“The titles are suggestive. I hope the viewer is not 100pc sure what is going on.

There is the physical crowd but he is also interested in “psychological group, something in common, the feeling of ‘we'” and wants “this relaxation and this fluidity of a figure which passes to the next”.

McLoughlin now wants to explore sculpture, cinema, textiles, quilting. He’s never been the type to follow the crowd.

Madness and the Cure for Madness at Molesworth until June 30;

Two to see


Passage (20.15) by John Noel Smith

Passage (20.15) by John Noel Smith

John noel smith

Passage, Fold & Multipolar

For John Noel Smith “the whole field of the canvas” is “a coherent structure, each part exerting the necessary pressure on the other” and his new exhibition at the Farmleigh Gallery in Phoenix Park in Dublin celebrates this dynamic.

Until September 5; Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Connemara tapestry weaving by Bernie Dignam

Connemara tapestry weaving by Bernie Dignam

Connemara tapestry weaving by Bernie Dignam

Bernie Dignam

Batik, felt, printmaking, copperplate engraving and tapestry are all present in Bernie Dignam’s studio / gallery in Tooreen, Moyard, Co Galway, where she presents her own work and that of other artists. Dignam explores a variety of themes including the land, bog and seascapes of northern Galway.

Visits by appointment; [email protected]


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