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Conor Harrington: Dead Meat

The Irish artist mixes his classic painting style with modern themes in his latest solo expo

Conor Harrington effortlessly blends themes and periods from history, with present day references and cultural significance, to create mash-ups which are rich in dialogue and detail. From walls, to tunnels, to his up-coming show, Conor likes to switch things-up. He is part old school with new school cool, and this new body of work is set to bring him to the attention of an even wider audience.

I like all the big guns, especially Caravaggio. The costumes for this show are from a couple of hundred years later but we lit the show to reflect the darkness of the Baroque

Dazed Digital: How many pieces are you exhibiting and how long have you been working on it?
Conor Harrington:
 There will be eight large paintings, up to about 10 ft and a number of smaller drawings and studies. I directed a photo shoot for reference material last year and I've been working on the paintings for the last nine months. 

DD: Why 'dead meat', and what themes are you exploring?
Conor Harrington:
 I'm interested in empire and cycles of power and how we're seeing a shift away from European dominance. I'm also interested in how today's culture is obsessed with consumerism so the dead animals in these paintings are a metaphor for waste and excess. 

DD: It is a departure from your signature style of charging soldiers on horseback, was it a natural progression for you to explore another times and characters in history?
Conor Harrington:
The subject of my work has always been the present day but I choose to portray it through a historical lens. For this body of work I set up a photo shoot in my studio with two photographers, six models, period costume, furniture and taxidermy. It has given me greater control over what I want to say with more scope for storytelling.
 
DD: Can you tell me the inspiration behind the piece 'Three Wise Men', I believe you used props and live models to create the scene?
Conor Harrington:
I like to reinterpret historical themes, so for this painting I wanted to create a mash up between religious style renaissance painting and a hip hop music video, the title is a reference to the Three Wise Men but I have created a more contemporary multicultural feeling to the traditional image of Christianity I was presented with growing up. 

DD: Did you do a lot of historical research beforehand, and why do you think that you are drawn to the past?
Conor Harrington:
I love art history but I can't claim to be an expert in history. I looked at a lot of paintings, particularly those involving feast scenes but I also looked at a lot of contemporary photography as the photo shoot formed the basis for the show. 
 
DD: Are there specific characters / old masters that you are fascinated by?
Conor Harrington:
I like all the big guns, especially Caravaggio. The costumes for this show are from a couple of hundred years later but we lit the show to reflect the darkness of the Baroque. 
 
DD: You keep the past alive but incorporate a contemporary twist  - do you think it is important that we don't lose sight of the past?
Conor Harrington:
In a funny way we've never been closer to the past, history is at our fingertips thanks to the Internet but at the same time the Internet and technology are the things obliterating it. 
 
DD: What one message would you like your audience to take away from this show?
Conor Harrington:
It's been nine months in the making, sub zero temperatures in my studio, frequent power cuts to my lighting, at this stage I'm looking forward to a few beers at my opening and to hearing some feedback from people with fresh eyes, mine are tired, time for sleep, goodnight. 

Text by Helen Soteriou

Conor Harrington: Dead Meat, Lazarides Gallery, March 2 - April 12, 2012