The Molesworth Gallery

John Hearne


Installation shot, the artist's studio


Middle Kingdom

September 9th -26th


This exhibition is drawn from an archive of images assembed by John Hearne on an extended journey around China. These images were trawled through, edited and mediated through painting on his return to Ireland. The final distillation of the images - the finished paintings - are stripped bare of the iconography of ‘sightseers’ as opposed to ‘travellers’. Instead, we are offered meditations on time and place that might otherwise be forgotten or ignored. Hearne looks at the overlooked on our behalf and the overlooked looks back at us, because unlike many other contemporary artists, who document urban spaces where human presence is implied rather than shown, Hearne’s paintings don’t shirk from depicting their inhabitants. In certain paintings, one or more figures stare back at us, shortcircuiting any passive observation of the work and forcing us to engage directly with the subject matter.


Dianhua ~ oil on canvas ~ 89 x 133cm


Working out of a large disused warehouse on the outskirts of Waterford city, the artist is afforded the space to explore his subject matter on a larger scale. Detail and a restrained colourism can be submerged beneath a harmonious surface image. This submerged visual information is allowed to percolate to the surface over time, as we become voyeurs of other people’s worlds, of another people’s world. For in spite of the architectural trappings of Western cities, the scenes depicted are of a country undergoing transition from rural to urban, albeit the most spectacular in human history; from a centrally-planned communist economy to the behemoth of 21st century capitalism; and from a collective ethos, pre-dating Mao, to the rampant individualism fostered by the free-market.

The shimmering twilight of many of the paintings and the primary colours muted by layer upon layer of glaze, which Hearne skilfully uses to render the fug of pollution wrought by China’s rapid economic development, visually mimics the notion of a country in the throes of tranisition.


Jaio Bu ~ oil on canvas ~ 100 x 150cm


China is known as ‘Zhongguo’ in Mandarin, an appropriate English translation of which is ‘middle kingdom’, the title of the current exhibition. But Middle Kingdom also hints at country between cultures and between economic paradigms.

Ronan Lyons, August 2008

A fully-illustrated catalogue is available from the gallery.


Hua Zhuang ~ oil on canvas ~ 89 x 135cm


John Hearne

1993 - 1997 National College of Art and Design
2004 The Florence Academy of Art

Solo Exhibitions:
2008 - Molesworth Gallery, Dublin
2005 - Molesworth Gallery, Dublin
2003 - Molesworth Gallery, Dublin

Selected Group Exhibitions:
1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007 - RHA Annual Exhibition, Dublin
2007 - Boyle Arts Festival
1998, 1999 - Oireachtas Exhibition
2003 - Waterford Arts Festival

Axa Insurance, Treasury Holdings, Bank of Ireland, Bennett Construction Ltd, Waterford Arts Healing Trust, Boyle Civic Collection

2007 - Don Niccolo Caracciolo Medal and Award, RHA Annual Exhibition

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