contemporary, painting, portraiture

Zachary Walsh – Greek Street

August 6, 2009

Published on Culture 24
Zachary Walsh – Greek Street, Ink_d Gallery, Brighton, until August 23 2009

Zeus has you fixed with a hard stare. It’s a surprise to meet him in the flesh like this and he looks avuncular, somewhat amused, yet quizzical. It’s definitely him because stretching out behind are eagle wings and to his side is an old-fashioned dial telephone marked with the word God.

The father of Olympus could look alive and well for two reasons. First, he’s painted in a contemporary style with a bold graphic background. Second, the sitter really is alive; the subject is also father of the partner of artist Zachary Walsh.
A picture of a painting of a woman in a white gown with a telephone in front of a cross

His wife, naturally, is painted as Hera. She too looks very much like someone you could meet in the street tomorrow. Walsh gives us a sense of her (slightly world-weary) personality, so that her realism comes as a shock. It’s not what we expect from our gods.

In fact all the models for this show are friends or relatives of the artist. It first took two to three hours to photograph each before working out their immortal counterpart. Needless to say the results are flattering. They also breathe new life into Greek myth.

Hades is cast as perhaps a louche, aging rock star. Persephone is a woman just past her prime. Hades and the Abduction of Persephone, as painted here, looks tender, touching and and entirely consensual.

Most of the settings in this show are flat plains of colour. Walsh also uses photographs to build on his interpretations. Hades is flanked with dinosaur skulls. Orpheus poses with a double bass. Of all the birds sacred to Aphrodite, she is here shown with the swan.

Walsh says his interest in Greek myth comes from the way each story offers psychological clues about every living human. “Even after millennia this insight is ever relevant, but really I just love the magic,” he adds.

The magic continues upstairs with some eleven pictures of Cyclops along with Medusa, a sparrow-like siren and Argus, the giant with a hundred eyes. These monster paintings are smaller, uglier and appear not to be portraits of friends and relatives. But if only they were.

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