Recent commentaries on Charlie Whisker's work...
Charlie Whisker has been included in the recently-published Dictionary of Living Irish Artists by Robert O'Byrne. In the Dictionary, Charlie's art is described by art critic Aidan Dunne....
'Whisker's paintings usually map out in- between spaces, both psychological and physiological. With their tracts of open ground, tidal strands, deserted parks or domestic interiors depicted in the early hours while the world sleeps, they are charged with the sense of expectation and, on occasion, anxiety!'
'Whisker has produced not so much paintings, as a series of playlets or silent dramas, rather Beckettian and enigmatic.(Brian Fallon, Irish Times)
'There is a nervy intensity to Whisker's way of putting all this together. He likes stark graphic effects and a cold raking light, with occasional burst of strident colour.'(Aidan Dunne, Critic)
'Consilience' - February 2007, Solomon Gallery, Dublin
by Geoff Morrow, Senior Conservator of Art, National Gallery of Canada.
Looking at Charlie Whisker's paintings can sometimes disturb. The effects of this surprising incapacitation then seems to distill into subtly provocative recognition within our own formulations of what they're about. The unaddressed lack of clarity of our own everyday lives, our narcotized normalities, gathers within them as hauntedly compulsive existential themes of private damage and disappointment.
Like all worthy but difficult art, they may very well be good for us. On the other hand and perhaps more powerfully, they may not. They should probably be viewed slightly medicinally, as enhanced narratives of metaphysical hope. The interaction between us and what was left on the canvas connects with those chosen traces of the artist's own changes and their eventual, thankful, acceptance.
Nothing exists outside the mind's representation of it. Everything we know is reconstructed within the senses after the neutral fact. In that dark cave, thoughts, like thousands of fast flying velvety bats, never seem to touch. Enigmatically undeafened by their own powerful voices, invisible vibrations ethereally bind them within the same language and purpose, but pull them clear of each other in the last nanosecond by intuitively understood echoes.
They are then allowed to emerge into the light.
If these works of art are the visible echoes of another human being's searching, why are we so astonished to find that they can also act as guides within our own stygian darkness; can help clarify and secure the sometimes stony pathways lying before us?
These paintings are the hard-won avatars that attempt to defeat the shameful taboo of our personal isolation and powerlessness. They resonate with a desire for another, better way of being. Like Rimbaud, they believe that;
"Your finger taps on the drum dispersing its sounds and a new harmony begins".
In Charlie Whisker's preserve people are represented only by the detritus they left behind. We are them, looking back at scenes we decided to leave. It's hard to know whether we had any choice. What seems certain is that troubling questions remain atomized into the atmosphere of each painting. In them we find ourselves walking on the bottom of an unfathomable, unbreathable substance whose deck is strewn with the debris of some mental shipwreck, alien to the everyday and ordinary, yet, somehow of the essence. The pieces lie scattered over the ground, or they float abandoned in metaphorical isolation on a vast ocean of dark anxiety. Beckett would have understood these images with a wry smile.
Baked beans and Battenburg dream cakes, strung out, barely hanging on by a bent nail hammered into the vertiginous Jungian inscape of his codified artifacts and signifiers; these soundless settings belie the percussive ballistic realities which seem to have caused them. The half-eaten sandwich, the crack of a bullet; whatever happened is over and leaves only the deafened vacuum of imploded pressure and excoriated shrapnel of everyday life for Whisker to ponder and decipher like a cosmopolitan shaman. That may be his main role here, but while he tries to do himself a favour, he does us one too, by letting us in on the joke. Things have always burnt out, fallen over or disappeared into the shadows, but even in the face of that, he's telling us that what's left behind can still be valued, can still bring succor as we grieve the loss.
It may be harder to breathe in Whisker's milieu with its low fog of recurring multi-layered memories, its cacophony of syncopated voices melted into the melodies of other existential hunters in his tribe. The grunts of Mingus echo in the cool of Miles. The word rhythms of Hopkins and Eliot turn up again louder in Dylan's sardonic sneer. The soul of Morrison lubricates the dry death rattle of Burroughs, invisibly communicating, as Bacon put it, "Directly from one nervous system to another".
In the correlative visual diaspora of Whisker's painted complexities and cruelties, these turbulent times are reflected in cleverly essential codes for survival. One minute they appear tongue-in-cheek, the next deadly serious. Offering us a rare measure of support, even sympathy, in silent witness to our enduring life itself.
by Geoffrey Morrow, Senior Conservator of Art, National Gallery of Canada
Charlie Whisker lives in Dublin, Ireland. He is a highly regarded artist whose work is in the collections of the Arts Council, Allied Irish Banks, the Ulster Museum and private collectors such as members of U2, Steven Soderberg, John Boorman, Paul McGuinness, Lord Henry Mountcharles.
He taught Painting at the National College of Art and Design and worked as a Video Director in Los Angeles. His work has won International awards and he was nominated for a Grammy for his video work with Bob Dylan.