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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Brian Whelan: The exchange of conversation and creativity

Brian Whelan is a raconteur and an artist. As such he goes against the accepted norm of artists by being very ready to talk about his paintings including actively striking up conversations with those who visit exhibitions. His current show, Mystery of the Message, is in the Crypt Gallery at St Martin-in-the-Fields. The Mystery of the Message refers to the cognitive space between the viewer and a work of art, or the distance the pilgrim may have to travel before the journey gives up its meaning. Every figure, plant, animal, inanimate object and gesture in the painting points a way.

Whelan's convivial personality and dialogical practice has resulted in a fascinating book, The Exchange, which is the record of a conversation by email with Lutheran pastor Jeff Frohner about his work. The correspondence between the pair "took on the qualities of a conversation that seemed so authentic that it wasn't long before we were buying symbolic 'pints' for each other as we settled into a comfortable rhythm of meaningful debate."

There is a sacred space, they suggest, created between art and the viewer where "angels and demons sit side by side and join in the conversation"; conversation which continues the life of Whelan's paintings as they are used "to see not only ourselves, but each other, the world and even God more fully." Whelan thinks that "a work of art is only completed when it is shared" and that the work of art exists between the artist and the viewer with the creativity of the viewer enhancing the understanding that the artist has of the work.

In his work Whelan brings together collage with painting; through paint he forms fragments of found objects - sweet wrappers, wrapping paper - into iconic images of characters from biblical, church, mythic and national history which shine through the strength of his colours and from the play of light on his shimmering surfaces. His paintings combine the profundity of play with the original intent of icons to create images which possess both deep past resonance and contemporary surface and shine.


The Pogues - Lullaby Of London.


Greg Gardner said...

I love the art! Your blog site came up in my Google search under the search for "Advent Dinah Roe Kendall" (another fantastic artist). I'l so happy to have discovered Brian Whelan. Do you feature other art / artists in your blog posts? Thanks-

Greg Gardner / greg.r.gardner at gmail dot com

Jonathan Evens said...

Great that you've found my blog and discovered Brian Whelan as a result. I post regularly on the visual arts and have alot of material already on the blog. The following post is a useful index to some of these posts - I'm also part of an arts organisation called commission4mission which has lots of interesting artists among its members. Artist profiles and news of our work can be found at