Born in Dublin, George is a European painter. From Irish, Cornish and Breton Stock, he can call on a rich tradition of North European angst. Soutine is mentioned when people talk of influences, but the artist himself would consider Egon Schiele or George Rouault nearer the truth. Perhaps George is described best by Gerald Davis, gallery owner, writer and art correspondent: “His work exhibits a mastery that I have only seen previously in the work of the late Jonathan Wade. Allied to a quirky choice of subjects, he gives us a series of idiosyncratic tableaux of enduring fascination. George is above all a committed artist, he paints because he has to and, when we look at his work we see not a sophisticated distillation of multiplicity of styles of contemporary art, but a direct response to his own struggle with life and his attempt to understand it. It is this deeply felt involvement with painting and life that makes such work as this an important part of the exciting renaissance in Irish Art through which we are privileged to be living”.
George Dunne though born in Dublin, has always seemed more European than Irish. Admitting that he felt an outsider in his own city’s artistic circle, George says his admiration was for European art (notably Italian) and Artists. When asked his view of life, George admits he sees things through pessimistic eyes, fascinated by the darker, gloomier side of people and it is this aspect of humanity, which has become the soul of many of his most inventive and diverse paintings.
It is axiomatic that an artist’s work should speak for itself. We either like or dislike it for its own sake. We are attracted or repelled by his subject matter, colours, manner of treatment and, hopefully, if we like it we buy it. That is the raison d’etre for the gallery system – it provides a show-place for the artist to exhibit and sell his work. In a very special way, George Dunne is a maverick – he is a man who likes to work outside the system.
He started life in working class Dublin and had, according to himself, a ‘poor’ education. He has spent a large part of his life as a journeyman craftsman. He was apprenticed to the brassfounders trade, in which he was involved for several years, ran his own construction business and, like so many others of his generation, took the emigrant ship. He returned to Ireland in the late seventies and now, in his mid sixties lives in the Merrion Square area of Dublin with his wife.
From his late teens George Dunne interested himself in art. Because of his trade his early forays into creativity were in the field of metal sculpture and the eventual changeover to two dimensional work was largely dictated by pragmatics: “it isn’t very practical to make sculpture in a flat”. He first painted in watercolour, gaining a mastery over form and colour in this most demanding of media. He later experimented with oils and acrylics, eventually settling for the latter as providing the type of end-product he wished to achieve. His present works exhibit a mastery of this medium that I have only seen previously in the work of the late – and much lamented – Jonathan Wade. George’s ability to use acrylic paint with total conviction shows a rare talent. He can exploit its qualities of opacity and transparency, thinness and impasto with the confidence of a practitioner who is thoroughly schooled in techniques of watercolour and oil painting. Allied to a quirky choice of subject, he gives us a series of idiosyncratic tableaux of enduring fascination.
Dunne is, above all, a committed artist. He paints because he has to and, when we look at his work we see, not a “sophisticated” distillation of multiplicity of styles of contemporary art, but a direct response to his own struggle with life and the attempt to understand it. It is this deeply felt involvement with painting and life that makes such work as this an important part of the exciting renaissance in Irish Art through which we are privileged to be living.
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