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Sligo International Chamber Music Festival

Seán McSweeney (1935-2018)

Seán McSweeney (1935-2018)

Seán McSweeney was born in Dublin in 1935. An innate colourist, the roots of his style lie in abstract expressionism and he inherited the breath and energy of its brushstrokes. This combined with a deep feeling for landscape and light. His work can at times verge towards abstraction but never severs its tie with the landscape. Writing in the Irish Times just after his death on 2 June last year Aidan Dunne wrote 'He is rightly recognised as one of Ireland's finest ever landscape painters'.

His father was a master painter and decorator by trade and was electrocuted in an accident when Seán was five. His mother was from Sligo and as a child he spent all his summers there, for him Sligo represented freedom. He was self taught as an artist, he learned from looking at paintings, the Hugh Lane Gallery was close to where he lived in Dublin and he spent a lot of time looking at work there. He was free to experiment with his father's materials and learned to paint before he learned to draw. He began exhibiting in the late fifties and showed regularly in the Irish Exhibition of Living Art and the Oireachtas. He had his first solo exhibition in the Dawson Gallery in 1965 and had regular solo exhibitions there and with its successor the Taylor Galleries. In 1967 he married Sheila Murphy and they moved to live in Lugglass in Hollywood, Co. Wicklow. He spent a lot of time out in the landscape drawing. It was important for him to live in the landscape and to experience the seasons. In 1984 he moved with his family to his mother's birth place of Ballyconnell in North Sligo and his studio was the old school house his mother had a attended as a child. An area of cut-away bog close to his home and the shoreline became a constant source of inspiration for his work. He spoke of the Atlantic ocean being like a mirror reflecting light back.

His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in Ireland and abroad including Celtic Triangle, 1970, The Delighted Eye, A Sense of Ireland, 1980, Fourteenth Festival of Painting, Cagnes-Sur-Mer, 1985, Poetic Land, Political Territory, 1995, Seán McSweeney and Friends, Boyle Arts Festival, 2001, The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland from the 1900's to the 1970's, 2010 and Land, Sea & Sky with Sheila and Tadhg McSweeney in 2015. There were two major retrospective exhibitions of his work, in 1990 as part of Galway Arts Festival, the exhibition travelled to the RHA Gallery in Dublin and one organised by The Model in 2007. His last exhibition The Yellow River organised by the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan was a collaboration with the poet Gerard Smyth, it was for him a return to his father's home county of Meath. His work is in many collections including The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Boyle Civic Collection, Crawford Municipal Gallery, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin City University, Irish Museum of Modern Art, IT Sligo, National Gallery of Ireland, RTÉ, St. Patrick's Hospital, The Niland Collection, Trinity College Dublin and Ulster Museum.