Conor Harrington: At the End of Decadence

Olivia-Jene Fagon
Apr 25, 2013 3:21PM

In a recent New York Magazine op-ed, critic Jerry Saltz quoted the art dealer Gavin Brown’s musings on the trend of giant art as driven by “an unconscious attempt to rediscover awe.” This immediately made me think of the monumental quality of Irish graffitist and abstract painter Conor Harrington’s large-scale oil canvases.

With an eclectic arsenal of styles and art historical references, Harrington glorifies former European Empires even as he signals their downfall, filling his scenes with both finery and excess (When We Were Kings) as well as animal carcasses and lifeless bodies (For Want of a Kingdom the Battle Was Lost). What might be considered archaic or patriarchal notions of valor, gallantry and honor, appear epic in these dramatic scenes. Holding themselves like contemporaries of a displaced color guard, the multi-ethnic principals of Harrington’s tableaus engage in acts of violence, diplomacy, and indulgent reveling. In his play on imperial decay and decadence, Harrington seems mindful of how “elevating one’s stature to heroic proportions” can mean sowing the seeds of your own destruction.

The artist has taken these giant scenes of 18th century interiors out onto street walls in London, Vardo, and Dublin.

 Check out Harrington's personal website here.

Olivia-Jene Fagon