Art Review:

John Behan: Man with Fish (Me and the Mudder-in Law)

The Lavit Gallery, Cork

4/5

John Behan’s current exhibition of bronze sculpture and monoprint at The Lavit in Cork, continues a long-standing union between artist and gallery that stretches back exactly forty years.

‘Man with Fish (Me and the Mudder-in Law)’, is both the title of the show and the title of arguably the strongest piece in the exhibition. The figure pays homage to local fishmonger Pat O’Connell — he who made the Queen of England laugh out loud while waving a fish at her during a visit to the English Market in 2011. The sculpture, pictured, mixes beautifully, lattice and lozenge patterns, as ‘Pat’ manhandles a huge fish in a mixture of deference and irreverence toward the unseen monarch.

But there are other wonderful pieces from this stalwart of Irish sculpture, such as the charming piece ‘Van Gogh’, which shows the Dutch artist as a forlorn figure trudging home from a painting excursion with easel, canvas and rucksack. A wide rimmed hat and over-sized clogs protect him from the elements. It’s a caricature of course, but Behan has somehow brought to life the essence of Van Gogh as if direct from the pages of Irvine Stone’s classic novel Lust for Life. The famine ship and famine tree series’ are here also, with their emaciated figures woven together to create Behan’s most iconic and best known work — and reassuringly they have lost none of their intricate beauty and haunting evocation of our dark history.Other staples such as bull, centaur and female nude populate the show also — while the monoprints, disappointingly, seem out of step with the 3D work. But the unexpected variety of colour in the bronze and the sculptor’s unquestioned skill in making the material come to life, more than adequately compensate.

Mark Ewart

Until Tuesday


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