Easter Rising “1916 Portrait Collection”
by Rod Coyne at The Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow.
Exhibition launch is on the 13th of March from 4 – 6pm, the show runs till April 9th.
Rod Coyne has created an exclusive series of portraits remembering key faces of the 1916 Easter Rising. The artist blends contemporary and classical painting to draw together the vastly diverse photographic sources. The unity of style he achieves underlines the diverse nature of the Easter Risings’ protagonists and how they bound together in common purpose. This collection of portraits, currently available as 1916 Centenary Calendar and Easter Rising canvas prints, will be premiered as part of the Courthouse Art Centre’s Easter Rising centenary programme in March 2016.
“I remember learning the Easter Rising as a school boy, awe-struck and filled with pride. While back then the year 2016 seemed a fiction away, I now stand on the threshold still awe-struck and filled with pride.
I started out with a need to update the 1916 images I had known since I was a kid. The faces I admired for so long had become jaded in my eyes; they had been re-hashed continually in books and posters to the point where I couldn’t see them anymore. Using a palette of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna I have attempted to give the collection a unifying thread to tie them together. Each original photograph was completely different to the next; some were considered studio portraits and others taken on the fly. I decided not to trace from the photos but to process them through my own eyes, head and hand. I was trading “accuracy” for a chance to really commune with these faces until they started to become people again.”
“Those who know my landscape work might be forgiven for thinking I have made a radical side-step with this collection. On one had I have done just that, but on the other it’s just me going back to my roots. I have never considered myself a portrait artist, as there many who look after end of things so much proficiently than I ever will. I admire and enjoy their work.
From day one I have drawn by that primitive artistic urge to work with the head, face and figure. I guess it’s just that eternal fascination with the human condition. Indeed, during my early years in Düsseldorf the human condition featured heavily in a long series on paintings examining the Troubles. So the “1916 Portrait Collection” is very much a continuation of those, themes held on pause for a while, rather than a surprise anthology from left field.”
Creating the “1916 Portrait Collection” has been a steep learning curve for me. Not only was I forced to go back a re-read my history but I was obliged to drag my mindset into the twenty-first century. Ireland was a very different place when I learned about the Easter Rising in the early nineteen eighties. I never thought to question why apart from Countess Markievicz there appeared have been no women named in connection with 1916. And it was with the same school boys’ eyes that I started out on this project. Yet as I delved deeper I realised so many names had been left out of the script, and indeed Elisabeth O’Farrell had been airbrushed out altogether. So for my small part I have attempted to right some wrongs and adjust my twentieth century dinosaur brain to something more fitting to the new millennium. Thus, I have included many of the 1916 heroines and consciously airbrushed Elisabeth O’Farrell back into the picture.” – Rod Coyne.
The Easter Rising of 1916 was pivotal to the emergence of an independent Ireland. Only supported by a minority of the Irish population, the courage and sacrifice of those who led it would in time change their nation’s destiny. The story of how less than two thousand Irish men and women bravely confronted the might of the British army in Dublin remains one of the most compelling in Irish history.