Poetry in motion as Jeffrey Morgan's Portraits and Other Paintings visit Belfast Naughton Gallery

By Rachel Burnett | 11 May 2009
a portrait of a man with grey hair

Seamus Heaney by Jeffrey Morgan. Picture courtesy Naughton Gallery

Exhibition: Jeffery Morgan: Portraits and Other Paintings, Naughton Gallery, Queen's University, Belfast, until June 20 2009

Prominent Irish poets including Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, Michael Longley and Medbh McGuckian star alongside affection portraits of the artist's wife, Patricia Craig, in this striking exhibition of 30 portraits by Jeffrey Morgan.

Held in the intimate space of the Naughton Gallery, the exhibition is the epitome of approachable art. There is a crisp sincerity to Morgan's work, achieved by using oil on linen in an array of tonal variation which is both arresting and meditative.

Morgan's friend, Peter Spratt, describes the artist as "a classicist at heart." His own favourite artist is Caravaggio, his favourite painting The Taking of Christ, currently on display in the National Gallery, Dublin.

The influence of Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro on the portraits is clear. Many of the sitters are positioned beside a window or outdoors to make the best use of light and enhance the artist's realistic use of soft shadowing of their faces.

Like much classicist art, the portraits contain a rich allegorical narrative, full of symbolic imagery representing the personality of each subject.

a portrait of a man holding a flute

Ciaran Carson by Jeffrey Morgan. Picture courtesy Naughton Gallery

In Between a Mountain and a flute shows Carson against Blackwood Mountain, a backdrop with evocative childhood memories for the sitter, holding a boxwood flute symbolising his talent and passion for music.

The pieces in the exhibition span from 1990 to 2009, and the portraits of Longley, McGuckian and the artist's wife were made during a series of sittings at Morgan's home in Ireland, allowing them to form a friendship with Morgan and feel unusually comfortable.

Admission free. Exhibition held in conjunction with the Ava Gallery in Bangor, which is showcasing further paintings by Jeffrey Morgan until May 30 2009. Visit the Naughton Gallery or call 028 9097 3580.

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