Sinead Breslin was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1986, and is now based in NYC and Fermanagh, Ireland. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions including Still Moving, Spiridinova House, Moscow; Painting is Dead/Long Live Painting at Motorcade Flash Parade, Bristol, UK and Pass The Salt at Secret Art Gallery, Moscow. She was recently selected as an artist-in-residence for the Palazzo Monti’s residency program in Milan-Brescia, Italy. This is her first solo show in New York.
Figures have long provided the central focal points in Breslin’s work. While some resemble symbolic figurines that function more as formal elements in a broader compositional logic than as representations of ‘real’ people, others – friends, family members, acquaintances – are painted directly from life, memory or old snapshots. Breslin is an ardent traveller who holds an unnerving, idiosyncratic mirror to the places she visits and the people she meets. This acute eye for the uncanny is reflected in both her choice of subjects and the diverse settings they’re painted into: a languid woman playing with a yellow rubber ring on a sun-soaked beach feels overwhelmingly alone in her own luxury; an unnamed pale young man standing in an inimitably British housing estate, its mundanity rendered heavy and weighted by a surreally brown sky; an anxious yet defiant redhead who stares from the greenest of lurid hilltops, her state of mind made all too palpable in the way she holds herself.
Breslin has a keen ability to bore into her subjects, to paint them in a way that cuts straight through any attempt they might make to represent themselves as anything other than honestly. She extends this facility to her depictions of groups or pairs, mining not only individuals’ psychologies but their relationships to each other – some pose rigidly together, their attention focussed on the viewer in the manner of a banal family snapshot or awkwardly revealing photographic portrait, others have a startlingly clear sense of familial closeness that is far more candid, while her depictions of groups of posturing men are subtly but inescapably emasculating.
The role of the figure in her work has become gradually decentralised in the last few years. In newer works, some of her protagonists have become entirely unanchored, cast adrift into vast areas of flat pictorial space – some filled with brashly painted marks or areas of not-quite-solid colour, others with intensely-worked patterns that seem to vibrate from the canvas. Other works don’t feature people directly at all, yet even her still lives, featuring half-consumed glasses of wine or sunflower-stuffed vases, are profoundly full of a very human potentiality. To Breslin, her figures and her painted environments are inextricably connected – colour, shape and form are an extension of the psychological worlds of her protagonists, in all their singularly vulnerable complexities.