Exhibition

John Kindness, Night Canvass, 1987, Acrylic on canvas, 609.6 x 243.8 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.
John Kindness
Night Canvass 1987

In 1986, as Director of the Douglas Hyde Gallery, I invited the Northern Ireland based critic Brian Mc Avera to collaborate on an exhibition of Northern Irish artists whose work directly addressed the political situation in the province.

There were more than fifteen artists in the exhibition amongst them, Willie Doherty, Locky Morris, Una Walker, Victor Sloan, Diarmuid Delargy, Rita Duffy, Dermot Seymour and John Kindness. Kindness’ art employed satire and cartooning to expose the more outrageous acts of sectarianism on both sides of the divide. For the Douglas Hyde exhibition, entitled Directions Out, Kindness drew a large linear cartoon on canvas on the Gallery’s north wall. During the exhibition he worked each day at completing the image and also making himself available to discuss his work and the exhibition with the exhibition’s
visitors.

The title, Night Canvass, plays both, against the usual bucolic depiction of night, and, on the idea of door-todoor political canvassing. There are many references in the image, most directly, the light bulb and its radiating glow echoing Picasso’s great political painting Guernica, 1937. The flock wallpaper carries appliquéd ovals of Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley, at the time diametrically opposed hardliners.

In the past twenty–two years since this canvas was created profound changes within the Northern Ireland situation renders this work a product of its period. But in 1987, a total of 97 people were murdered in sectarian attacks in the province.

Patrick T. Murphy.