Snap shots of Ireland’s nightlife tell their own story

The Nocturnes opens at the Linenhall

An artist’s life is hardly ever easy. Recognition, or pay cheques for that matter, are far from guaranteed, even after long months, and sometimes years, of hard work on a particular project.

But for 26-year-old artist Jack Hickey, whose new exhibition, The Nocturnes, is currently on display in the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, things are starting to fall into place.

The Corkman has generated a bit of a stir with his series of realist oil paintings on canvas, which act as a series of honest and insightful snap shots of the life of Ireland’s teens and twenty-something-year-olds on urban streetscapes after dark.

The exhibition has been extremely well received, and Mayo is the fourth stop on a nationwide tour of the work.

What’s more, the public are showing their appreciation for the works, with 10 paintings already sold from the collection.

Hickey says he came up with the idea to capture the social night life on canvas through his reflection on his own experience of “a party lifestyle”, from the age of about 18 to 25.

“I thought it would be nice to pay homage to that and go back and look at it,” he said.

Hickey found his research and observations for the exhibition led him to conclude “things are a little more extreme these days” on the social scene, even in the short few years since he first started enjoying a nightlife.

However, he didn’t want to “get on a moral high horse” with The Nocturnes. Instead, it is an honest look at young people socialising at night.

“I didn’t want to say drinking is bad - most people have a great night and go home,” explains Hickey. “But there are occasions where it doesn’t go to plan. I was trying to be honest.

“There are people having fun and people that aren’t having so much fun. There is no hidden agenda, it is just the way it is.”

The incredibly detailed, lifelike paintings in the Linenhall Arts Centre give the viewer brief glimpses of a scene which seems to tell a deeper story - a lone, feathered earring on a dark pavement, a few shards broken glass nearby; a faceless girl clasping a 50 euro note with a splash of wine marring her dress; a group of girls with bunches of balloons getting into a taxi, as seen from the wing mirror of a passing car; and an upturned shopping trolley beside a crumpled beer can.

Hickey says he hopes his exhibition is accessible to younger people.

“Younger audiences can go to the gallery and I think they can understand this straightaway. They don’t need to read two pages to understand what it is about.”

A short video installation accompanies the exhibition, which includes footage of Hickey at work, as well as video footage from pubs, clubs and the streets at night.

The video opens with a Vincent Van Gogh quote: “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day.”

The Nocturnes continues at the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, until February 28. Admission is free.

For more information on Jack Hickey, visit www.jackhickey.ie

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