Last night a group of us headed into the Doorway Gallery on South Frederick Street in Dublin for the opening night of ‘Stag and Stallion’. ‘Stag and Stallion’ is an exhibition by Irish artist Tony O’Connor. As a fan of O’Connor’s work and a frequent visitor to his Facebook page where he regularly updates fans on his paintings and plans I was keen to meet both the artist and the art in the flesh.
If, like me, you have liked Tony O’Connor Equine Art on Facebook and viewed the images loaded on there you may feel that you have seen some of the paintings already. You have not. You cannot really appreciate these paintings until you view them in real life. Photos online simply cannot do these justice – they cannot show you the immense size of the paintings as you stand in front of them or how the eye of the horse seems to look from the linen into your soul. I soon found the painting I felt was my favourite – ‘Infinity’ in which a bright eyed horse peers out from the darkness.
Stag and Stallion features a series of paintings of horses and stags and includes several of dark Fresian horses. We were able to talk to the artist on the night and I asked if these were in fact real horses brought to life in a painting or horses derived from imagination. Tony explained that the horses are all real and are photographed and then painted. He talked us through how he likes to paint horses that have presence and are strong and powerful and how models such as Fresian horse Jasper fit the bill.
Two things struck me about these paintings – hair and coats. Up close each strand of each mane and forelock are so detailed and so real that you almost feel that you can touch it. You can see the strands of hair move with the horse and imagine the texture. Anyone who has competed at showing horses will understand striving to attain the perfect glossy coat from brushing and hand grooming to highlighting areas the light will hit. These paintings achieve a gleam that I would struggle to replicate in real life. The coats of the horses glow as if bathed in moon or sunlight. The clean backgrounds on the paintings allow the horses to shine through as the centre of attention.
Stag and Stallion will run from 29th May to 26th June at the Doorway Gallery – for more details visit http://thedoorwaygallery.com/