Kevin Mooney’s new exhibition, Fragments of San Borondon, gathers together artefacts from the little known, tiny Caribbean island of San Borondon. Currently uninhabited, the island was, in the 17th and 18th centuries, home to a rich Hiberno/African/Caribbean culture. This exhibition continues to explore the artist’s interest in myth, cultural migration and an alternative art history.
My parents were part of the mass exodus from Ireland in the 1950s, returning decades later. This background of emigration, and my early experiences as a UK born Irish person growing up in Ireland, has informed my painting practice. As a child, I was partly excluded from a “real” Irish identity as a result of this family history. This allowed me to develop an “outsider” understanding of Irishness.
Rooted in mythology and a semi-fictitious Irish art history, my practice is culturally specific. A key influence has been part of the last generation to experience a living oral tradition. This has been crucial in developing my work, which can be read as the abstraction of Irish folklore as seen through a contemporary lens. The work can also be viewed as a confrontation between mainstream European visual culture and “The Other”, in the form of Irish and African folk art traditions.
My paintings, sometimes made with rough heavy jute, or with surfaces bearing layers of varnish, play with the notion of history. Contemporary vocabularies of paint find their way into the work alongside a prehistoric symbolism and a medieval flatness, creating multiple temporalities on the one space of the canvas.
With this compression of time, the work can be read as a memory that maps, retraces, and re-imagines cultural history as an active interplay between loss and renewal.