Sunday, 23 October 2011

Modern religious Art - Brian Whelan

The Martrydom of St Edmund by Brian Whelan

Some time ago I lamented that in Trinidad there are few people doing religious (Christian) art. In the greater world there are those who paint religious art, and Brian Whelan is one such artist.

Now I can't say that his art is fantastic. I leave that up to the crisics. What I know is that I love the photos of the pieces. And it has been my experience that if the photo is great, then the actual piece must be phenomenal.

According to the Independent news agency Brian Whelan is having an exhibition at St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, (london England) from 8 - 20 November. His art is described below:

Brian Whelan's paintings, much like the medieval art he admires, depict a sublime comedy of life's glories and tragedies on both religious and secular plains.

As a 'visionary painter', Whelan's religious works have been shown alongside those of Stanley Spencer, Peter Howson, Eric Gill and Marc Chagall, and can be found in public and private collections worldwide. His Martyrdom of St. Edmund permanently hangs in St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Other religious institutions where his work can be seen are in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Czestochowa in Poland; and Ohio in the USA.

In addition to painting religious subjects, Whelan, whose father hails from Dublin and mother from Kilkenny, feels compelled to paint London, the city he grew up in. This immigrant status and the theme of the journey inform the work: the street, the pubs and bars, the church, the underground, the train and the red bus.

Wikipedia has this to say about his art:

Whelan's propensity to merge both the sublime with the ridiculous is not always readily embraced. His paintings in the Window Gallery of St. Martins School of Art (London) were turned to face the wall after complaints were made from the public.

Seamus Heaney, Spokeof Whelan's work: "His work is bold and commanding."

Who is Seamus Heaney? Well Seamus Heaney he is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. who has received the Nobel Prize in Literature (1995), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread prizes (1996 and 1999). He was both the Harvard and the Oxford Professor of Poetry and was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1996. In 2011, he was named one of "Britain's top 300 intellectuals" by The Observer. So when Seamus Heaney speaks, many listen.

Sister Wendy Beckett described Brian When's work as: "Clear, strong, prayerful work with joy at its centre."

Sister Wendy Beckett is a South African-born British art expert, consecrated virgin and contemplative hermit who became a celebrity during the 1990s, presenting a series of acclaimed art history documentaries for the BBC.

Below is a series of Paintings from Whelan:

Album cover by Brian Whelan for the Band "The Popes"

Brian Whelan - CityScape (London)


  1. Hi Sean, I was googling St Edmund and came across your blog on my show at St Martins in London. Thanks for the kind words. Shame you did not get a chance to see the show in person. You may be surprised to learn religious art in the UK is also hard to find but I am doing my best to change that. I have two paintings in Trinidad bought by a native of your island when the family lived in London. I visited Trinidad a few years ago and even though it is below freezing here at the moment I'm still not attracted to the heat and humidity. If you want to see some of my work in person I can ask the owners if they would allow you to visit? Anyway click on the website to see more. I'm off to Santiago de Compostela in Spain in March with a new show. Bye the way I enjoyed what I read of your blog. Best of luck, Brian

  2. Hi Brian,
    Thank you for your kind words on the blog. My wife manages an Art Gallery and my mother in law is an art dealer and collector. I would indeed love to see the pieces you have here on the island. If it may not be too much trouble.

    Many Thanks

  3. Hi Sean, Isn't the internet amazing? Thousands of miles apart and organising a viewing of paintings. Send me your email address through my website and I will ask the collectors in Trinidad if they would mind contacting you directly.
    Kind regards, Brian