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Féach Gach Treo (Look Bothways)

Acrylic, oil pastel and charcoal on wood
28 x 21cm


I recall once, a bashful Polish man on the topic of his native language’s distinct sound, remarked, “It is like chewing on beaten glass.” He continued in an interrogative tone, “Why would anyone want to do such a thing.” I laughed. I have always been drawn toward languages; their curious idiosyncrasies and the footprints they leave on their respective cultures. But I have always been escaped by my own.

Principally, my work is a revisitation of the Irish language - an under-the-lens exploration from a non-native speaker. The theory put into motion in James Joyce's 'The Dead', of the dream of Irish is a particular driving force in my own work. The painful failures of communication felt by many in English-speaking Ireland, that both languages spoken on this small island are not really our own; coupled with the idea of this occult and impalpable world residing in the West – where language, thought and feeling are at one. Irish persists in being a provocative ghost in my own mind, shifting between my own fixations of it being more of an idea than a place. The internal dialogue I experience is not that of a nationalistic one, but a feeling of estrangement with some deeper, unspoken language.

I find my work has become a portrayal of this place of purification or temporary punishment and the squabbles within its confines. A strange purgatory. In this state of intermediacy, I’d hope to speak my own vernacular until I acquire the one alluring me. I feel compelled to do this through the figurative narratives and parables as well as the unintelligible forms that make up my paintings. For me, they represent some of the frustrations I feel and have felt, whilst trying to reconcile Irish.

Try not at all avert your eyes to the rounded guise of the soiled street signs, that people here once knew And to any man that doubt his tongue - Bite hard (and chew) on the glass that greets you, and chew (and chew), until the window with a view. (greets you too)
'No longer new' Bairre Mac Ráighne 2020

Ag Dul Siar (Two Dubs Gone Backward)

Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
50 x 40cm

Gan Dia d'Éirinn (No God for Ireland)

Acrylic, conté and oil pastel on wood
85.5 x 122cm

Giollaí agus Dailtíní Tuathánaigh (Pot-Boys and Peasant Whelps)

Acrylic and charcoal on wood
85.5 x 122cm

Bairre Mac Ráighne’s practice centres on ideas of Irish identity, particularly concerning the Irish language and its status in Modern Day Ireland. As a non- native speaker of the language, Bairre's work is something of a portrayal of the painful failures of communication in a largely English-speaking Ireland - that both languages spoken on this island are not really our own. His paintings are at the same time an embodiment of the growing cultural shift between the dissonant East and the unassuming West of Ireland, and the suspicions they have of one another. The feverish, figurative scenes and sequences that make up Bairre's work are laden with themes of stagnation and punishment, and of estrangement and reconciliation - and are often comprised of contrasting gaudy and earthy colourations of matte acrylic paint; buttery swellings of wax residue; and leaden charcoal whiffs and trails.