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February - March 2021

Install Views

Locks Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of recent paintings and ceramics by Philadelphia- based artist Jane Irish (b. 1955).

Central to the exhibition is a series of new ‘tapestry paintings’ made of oil and distemper on hand-stitched linen and muslin. In these works, Irish uses two contrasting paint mediums and two types of fabric to create a hybrid picture plane that reflects the artist’s desire to construct and interweave multiple histories within a single painting. In the foreground of the ‘tapestry paintings,’ iconographical figures drawn from old masters paintings appear to float in milky ether across the surface of a traditional-looking pastoral setting. The foreground figures are painted with distemper, a chalky whitewash medium, using pastel blues, pinks, and yellows. The background is painted with oil paint that creates a deeper sense of space upon which the action of the painting occurs. The narratives in the foregrounds reference mythical and violent imagery from art history as well as moments of witnessing, prayer and mourning. The use of hand-sewn pieces of linen and muslin (a fabric traditionally used as backing for quilts) calls attention to the physical act of making and the analogous construction of multivalent meanings.


Each of the tapestries corresponds to testimony from the Winter Soldier Investigations of 1971, organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW)—the archives of which Irish has collected and re-typed word for word in a performative act priming her painting process. Explore parts of the accompanying catalog above, which has an essay by poet and art critic Raphael Rubinstein that explores Irish’s use of source material in her imagery.




Jane Irish's paintings create confrontations and coexistences between realms of history that rarely collide—such as ornamentation and political protest, art and warfare, poetry and architecture. Often employing the traditional medium of egg tempera, an ancient technique used in wall frescos and illuminated manuscripts, Irish's paintings fuse energetic images of sumptuous interiors with inscriptions of colonialism and resistance. She incorporates imagery from her travels abroad to historic sites and buildings (through France, Vietnam, Italy, and other places) where she paints on site alla prima and interweaves labyrinthine spaces with war motifs and poetry by Vietnam War veterans. In 2005, she organized the exhibition Operation Rapid American Withdrawal in response to the invasion of Iraq, which included works by over 80 artists. Alongside her prolific painting practice, Irish creates ceramic vases that further explore questions of beauty and violence and the construction of historical meaning through decorative patterns and traditional forms.

Jane Irish received her MFA in 1980 from Queens College, CUNY, and has exhibited at venues including Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary Art, PA; the Walker Art Center, MN; Delaware Center for Contemporary Art; Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Irish has been the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, a Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, a Painting Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, and a Painting Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work is held in public collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Irish lives and works in Philadelphia.

Click here to learn more about Jane Irish, and her CV here.

Click here to inquire about the works in the exhibition.

In the Studio
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