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Beirut explosions ‘left city on its knees’ – Burren artist Richard Hearns

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*Richard Hearns.

A Burren artist has disclosed his feelings on the recent Beirut explosion which took place on August 4th, 2020, where a large amount of ammonium nitrate caused 192 deaths and over 6,500 injuries.

Beirut born contemporary artist, Richard Hearns. Brought into the world in the capital city of Lebanon, Richard’s story begins in the 1980s during the strife of civil war, where Frank, his guide and soon to be adopted father was serving as a UN Peacekeeper for the Irish Defence Forces as a UNTSO staff officer.

Growing up in Malahide, Dublin, Richard enjoyed a happy childhood, afforded the freedom of being raised in a seaside village, spending his days ‘as most Irish young boys do’, playing sports with his local clubs.

Fast forward to the present day, where Richard and his wife relish the benign beauty of the Burren, a place they have happily called home since June 2009. Richard sits down with The Clare Echo to shed an introspective light on his life, his art and the yearning desire to reconnect with his homeland of Beirut, referring to the recent tragedy as, ‘leaving the city politically, economically and environmentally on its knees.’

Richard recalls pursuing a keen interest in art with vigour throughout his early school days. Encouraged by both family and friends, Richard set his sights on art college, facilitated by the helping hand of his secondary school art teacher, PJ Carroll. Richard remains deeply indebted to his teacher, with a reference letter the key companion to his portfolio submission to art college.

“Four years at the Institute of Art Design and Technology and an intensive year at the National College of Art and Design left me wondering what to do next. I decided to travel. While travelling across Europe and Asia I thought about what I might return to work as – all the while drawing and developing ideas in my notebooks. On my return it was these simple notebooks that grabbed the interest of art enthusiasts, collectors and galleries.

“My first solo show in Ireland took place in 2005. Encouraged by a bunch of madly creative friends, I exhibited locally and garnered the interest and support of some of my first patrons. Fast forward four years, many successful shows, further experience in my field and my wife by my side, we arrived in Newtown, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare. Immediately and from that date forward (June 2009) we knew Ballyvaughan as home. In 2010 we set foot in New York City and thus began a love affair which continues to this day. Nearly annually I travel to New York and often have the opportunity to exhibit there. To date, I have held successful shows in New York, California, London, Paris and Barcelona to name but a few.”

Stylistically, Richard feels that his paintings and art practices over the previous decade are loosely based on American and European artistic formulas and ideas. Richard likens himself to a magpie in adapting and overcoming any and all stylistic boundaries. His daily objective lies in breaking free from outside influence and ensuring that his own, unique voice fully resonates and connects with the public. Richard is constantly looking to challenge himself and further expand his scope. In November of last year, Richard was planning a homecoming solo exhibit in a gallery located in his homeland of Beirut, Lebanon. A body of large abstract images entitled ‘Vestige’ was created.

“Through these works I had been, in some small way, beginning to rediscover something that remains from my own past in Beirut, Lebanon. The series attempts to echo my distant past; it traces my birth and childhood and attempts to describe the vestiges of separation that unites, creates a totality, and ultimately points toward the future. Alas, my exhibit was postponed. Then again in February of this year we had to once more postpone my homecoming. The recent tragic explosions in Beirut has left the city politically, economically and environmentally on its knees. It remains a dream of mine to revisit the place of my birth and connect with my rich heritage and culture there. Who knows what this experience might add to my artwork”.

Richard’s next solo show is scheduled at his representative gallery, Cadogan Contemporary, London, in June 2021. Until then, Richard is happy committing to the work he undertakes in his studio, located in the heart of the Burren.

An avid reader from a young age, Cian’s love of the archives has been shared by Clare Echo readers who enjoy his Reeling in The Years section. Charles Dickens, Terry Pratchett and Michael Crichton were his favourites writers in his younger years while he was always a fan of studying the opinion columns in The Irish Independent. A past pupil of Lissycasey National School and St Flannan’s College, he is currently completing his final year studies at the University of Limerick in New Media and English. From September, he will be commencing a Masters Degree in Journalism at UL.

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