BRIAN O’CONNOR: MYSTIQUE WITH A MESSAGE unraveling tightly packed metaphor and analogy to discover resonance between image and experience in modern life.
The man bent over his guitar, A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, “You have a blue guitar,
Within O’Connor’s compelling pictorial energy — occasionally trance-like in its intensity of image and composition — there seems a steady fidelity to trying to make sense of the chaotic nature of the human condition. He paints, he says, in order to sort out the world around him, what he calls “the beautiful mess.” One is reminded in O’Connor’s work of Coleridge’s definition of art as “the subjection of matter to spirit so as to be transformed into symbols through which the spirit reveals itself.”
You do not play things as they are.” The man replied, “Things as they are Are changed upon the blue guitar.” And they said then, “But play, you must, A tune beyond us, yet ourselves, A tune upon the blue guitar Of things exactly as they are.” Wallace Stevens
In O’Connor’s fantastic narratives, real people and real objects are transformed by the artist’s own eccentric, playful, sometimes anguished but always deeply thoughtful blue guitar. One senses in his often complex scenes, and hidden within darkly clever humor and parody, a resolute if elusive search for meaning in a world that is often unintelligibly absurd and devoid of eternal truths or enduring values.
“The Man With The Blue Guitar” Brian O’Connor paints in oil — and fantasy in extremis. Yet his genius may well be to make the fantastic seem plausible. On O’Connor’s canvas — his own “blue guitar”— things as they are become the “things beyond us,” and those things — to eyes seduced by the artist’s painterly verisimilitude — seem also to become things exactly as they could be. The difference between what is real and what is imagined blurs even as the fervid contours of an enormously individualist imagination are revealed.
O’Connor thinks of his paintings as “a kind of theater where the acts are played out simultaneously… through the imagination, memory and experiences of the viewer.” He deals in his work with a range of everyday existence — physical, emotional, psychological and moral. The reality of his images is intensified by what is often a sense of the exaggeratedly decrepit; figures in states of distress or dream-like anguish that are simultaneously arresting and thought-provoking.
O’Connor combines a remarkable technical ability for realist painting with a highly contemporized variation of the neo-Gothic. At the hand of O’Connor, the realistic detail and atmospheric lighting of Dutch master painting reminiscent of Vermeer or Frans Hal engages the “terrible beauty” of William Blake and the exaggerated passions of Henry Fuseli. Tucked under the often whimsical veneer of O’Connor’s surreal or magically real scenarios are layers of inferable meaning that extend beyond the merely quirky. Close scrutiny is rewarded by the prospect for
In this regard, O’Connor’s pictures feature choice of image and tone that ranges from the purely familiar and comfortable to the wildly absurd and even disturbing. Scenes depict people in varying states of struggle, oppression, futility, torpor, despair, conflict, salvation, temptation, torment, languor. The images rarely include the overtly joyful 2