Neil Shawcross

b. 1940, Lancashire, UK

Neil Shawcross was born in Lancashire, England in 1940 and has been a resident of Northern Ireland since 1962. He trained at Bolton College of Art and Lancaster College of Art. He has exhibited steadily throughout Ireland for more than thirty years in various galleries, including the Tom Caldwell, Belfast; Peacock Gallery, Craigavon; Bell Gallery, Belfast and the Sligo Art Gallery. He has also exhibited internationally in London, Hong Kong and U.S.A.

Shawcross was Professor of Painting at the College of Art in Belfast until his retirement in 2004 and is now in the happy position of being able to devote his entire energies to the creation of art. Already he has carved out a unique position for himself in the hierarchy of modern Irish painting.

Shawcross’ practice is dominated by portraiture and still life. His influences are primarily French and include Bonnard, Matisse and Cezanne. He is considered one of the most innovative and exciting figurative artists working in Ireland today. His figures are a veritable tour de force where gestures, movement and volume are revealed with a minimum of brush strokes. This aspect of his oeuvre got prominence in the recent annual exhibition of the Royal Hibernian Academy with splendid single-sitting portraits of fellow-artist Graham Gingles and art historian Bruce Arnold.

Shawcross sources his still-life subjects from his surroundings, his home, local coffee shops and advertising. When representing a subject as simple as a cup and saucer or a bowl of fruit, he translates the mundane domesticity of this object into a painterly statement invested with character. Objects are demarcated by thick outlines in black or bold colour and the work is characterised by a remarkable control of medium. A noted colourist and technical innovator, his still-lifes exude vitality and demonstrate a freshness of approach to this much loved theme which he has subjected to intense scrutiny over the years. The results are extraordinary. Recent workings of this subject matter have been grid based with fluent images of teacups and saucers, often collaged and in relief, against backgrounds of sumptuous green, yellow and red brushwork. Shawcross is renowned for his distinctive imagery and economy of artifice where his trained eye looks beyond the subject’s surface to capture the very essence of the moment. Similar to the approach of Vermeer and Chardin, he imbues still life with a timeless and contemplative quality while still maintaining his distinctive simplicity. He takes this time-honoured theme and translates it into a succession of infinitely varied and magical modern images.

He has been the winner of a number of prestigious awards and is five time recipient of Royal Ulster Academy Gold Medal. His work is represented in many private and corporate collections, including the Ulster Museum, Ulster Television, AIB, Aer Rianta, the OPW and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.