Leaving Nineveh ~ oil on canvas ~ 200 x 200cm
Yes, yes, yes ~ diptych, oil on canvas ~ 180 x 280cm
Out of my great woe, I make my little song ~ oil on canvas ~ 40 x 40cm
From his natural home among the stars ~ oil on canvas ~ 40 x 40cm
Jonah and the whale
September 2nd - 29th, 2016
_ “It is Thomas Brezing’s insatiable curiosity - intellectually, spiritually and philosophically - and the remarkable generosity of will that he invests in his art and life that makes him such a considerable artist.”
Patrick Graham, artist
__ Like all contemporary artists, Thomas Brezing’s work responds to the world around him and his experience of living in it. While nominally a landscape painter, his work is not a straightforward depiction of mountains and valleys but rather an attempt to reconcile his understanding of the world and his interest in theology with the horrors of war, injustice and inhumanity which is the reality for so many. The recent media depictions of the plight of Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing war zones have informed his latest paintings. These events are not depicted directly but are viewed through the prism of biblical parables, reinforced by their re-telling in Herman Meville’s classic novel Moby Dick, the story of Captain Ahab’s lifelong obsession with hunting down a great white whale.
__ The exhibition title ‘Jonah and the whale’ references the scriptural passage where God directs Jonah to the faraway city of Nineveh to inform the sinful citizens that their days are numbered - ancient Nineveh was known for its lawlessness and violence. Jonah plays truant, fleeing in the opposite direction by boarding a ship at Tarshish. Shortly after it embarks, God conjures a mighty storm that threatens the lives of all on board until Jonah directs the crew to throw him overboard so that the ocean will cease raging. Instead of drowning, Jonah is swallowed by a divinely appointed whale in whose belly be remains until he repents and prays for forgiveness. Eventually delivered to dry land, Jonah submits to God’s command and travels to Nineveh - the remains of this ancient city are now contained within the suburbs of modern day Mosul, in Northern Iraq. This tale of Jonah forms the basis of a sermon delivered by Father Mapple in Moby Dick
__ Brezing also draws on another episode in the novel, which takes places in The Spouter Inn. Melville’s narrator Ishmael, describes a painting hanging on the inn wall, a ‘very large oil painting, so thoroughly besmoked and in every way defaced … it was only by diligent study …and careful inquiry of the neighbours that you could in any way arrive at an understanding of it’s purpose’. For Ishmael, the artist has sought to ‘delineate chaos bewitched’. Brezing’s paintings draw on the work described in the inn, working and reworking his surfaces to create a complexity of tones and textures. From the layers, discernible elements emerge - buildings, crowds of people, clusters of flowers in bloom, expanses of water and the large fish of fable and bible.
__ Brezing invites us to draw parallels between these scenes and our own lives as we avert our gaze from the plight of people in war-torn Syria and Iraq and the at-times medieval violence they are fleeing, like Jonah did initially from the travails of Nineveh.
___Thomas Brezing was born in Germany in 1969 and moved to Ireland in the 1990’s. He has had three solo exhibitions at The Molesworth Gallery in 2009, 2012 and 2014 and has shown at museums and arts centres such as The Irish Museum of Modern Art (group), the Lapua Art Museum, Finland (two-person), The Highlanes in Drogheda, Draiocht in Dublin, the LAB in Dublin, and at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (all solo). He has also contributed to group exhibitions in Germany, Wales, England and Belgium.
_ _Brezing was nominated for the AIB Prize in 2003 and 2010. He has also been the recipient of numerous Arts Council awards, Fingal Co. Council awards and residencies. His work is included in the National Portrait Collection and the collections of the Office of Public Works, Mayo County Council, Dundalk District Council and the Boyle Civic Collection.