Kevin Mooney’s work locates itself between history and modern folk tales that can resemble a fantastical imagined world. The source of his paintings lies in an interest in Irish culture, history and folklore. Historical research into cultural migration has played a key role in developing his practice. The paintings explore a tension between historical fact and fictional narratives, examining notions of cultural fluidity.
Mooney’s research into cultural migration focuses on historical links between Ireland and the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries. Exploiting missing information in the historical record from this period, painting's ability to re-interpret history becomes a key part of the work. The works are a fictional exploration of historical fact, a re-imagining of Irish culture in collision with West African and indigenous cultures. “Primitive” marks are used in the execution of these paintings, exploring the possibilities of a new hybrid culture resulting from such a collision. The paintings can be seen as modern day myth, telling tales from our past with a contemporary relevance, compressing time and history into one space on the canvas.
Though informed by this research and its imaginative possibilities, the paintings also draw on various art histories and pictorial vocabularies. Pre-modern, Caribbean and outsider art references have been fed into the work as well as more mainstream, European ideas. Importantly, also included are real and imagined elements from Irish art history. In much the same way as there are gaps in the historical record, the dominance of language and musical traditions in Ireland have meant that there are also “gaps” in our visual art history. So, drawing on Irish visual culture also involves a re-imagining, a speculation on how a tradition and language of paint might have existed, separate and distinct from those of other nations.
This melting pot of information is transformed on the canvas through the use of many different painting techniques. Through these different approaches the work evolves like folklore. The narratives and possible readings change with the juxtapositions of motifs within works. Like an ever-changing journey, this transports the viewer through our past into our present and on to somewhere else.
Kevin received his MFA (Painting) in 2012 from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.