I’ve always been fascinated by the eye that turns to face us; be it in a photograph, a snapshot, or one of those wonderful Elizabethan or Dutch portraits. For me, these kinds of images tend to come laden with a kind of strange ambiguity.

At one level they appear to be a simple record of a moment, a little piece of truth if you like, a record of the physical presence of someone who once existed. And yet we know next to nothing of the mind that lay behind that gaze, a mind full of desires, wants and needs as well as knowledge, consequently, what we’re left with is a blank space waiting for us to fill in the gaps.

In many, if not most of my paintings, we find people of all kinds turning to regard us the viewer. They’ve stopped whatever they were doing and appear to be looking out at us the people who live somewhere in their future as we in turn examine them.

Paintings, by its very nature, can only present us with a frozen moment in time. It’s a little like having just one page, or even a sentence from a book. We know nothing about these people before or after that page, so it’s down to us to try and create a character with a rich life history going on behind that mask. I’m not saying its easy, after all, the only tools we have are a gaze caught in a slices of time and our own, boundless imaginations.


Having been raised in Southern Ireland, the world I grew up in was dominated by two very powerful Stories. The primary one was Catholic, with its cast of angels, virgins, and a passive God who was put to death for our sins. The price we paid for believing in such stories was to repress most of our natural instincts, sexuality being high amongst them. In return for this sacrifice, we were offered the promise of a peculiar kind of after life, which seemed to consist of sitting about on clouds playing harps.
The Pagan side of the coin consisted of late night tales told around the fire, shape shifters and talking birds and animals, stories of nature goddesses and dying kings, not to mention the various little people who might be friend or foe as the mood took them. Unbeknownst to me, this palpable tension between the Christian and Pagan  versions of the hidden world was busy laying the foundation for the kind of work I found myself producing in later years.
Little wonder then that my work is full of contradictory images. But then I’ve always felt that Myth is not a static thing consigned to the imaginations of ancient people, but rather a pliable set of emotional and physical; albeit often illogical responses, to the way the human psyche continues to interpret the world around it. Today, modernity is threatening Christian and Pagan ideas alike, nevertheless, I still find the tension that exists between them an Iconic feast that  I can’t help returning to.

The paintings present a frozen moment in time. Many of the people turn and look out at us, we who exist somewhere in their far future. What were they doing before we turned our gaze upon them, and what will happen when we turn away? There are no explanations; all we have are a few slices of time and our own endless imaginations.













David Shanahan studied painting at Kingston School of Art, and later, as a mature student at Dartington Collage of Art.

TSW Open Award winner
Mixed 1978
Plymouth Art Gall and Museum.
One man 1979
Birmingham Art Centre
One man 1980
Billian-De-Contemporain, Paris.
Mixed 1980
Will Stone gall, San Francisco
One man 1982
Blue Moon Gall, New Mexico
One man 1984
Bon Echo Gall, Tsuymama, Japan.
Mixed. 1989
Red Dot gallery, London.
Mixed 1997
Broomhill Gallery, N, Devon
One man 1998
Goldfishbowl gall, St Ives
One man 2001
Affordable Art Fair, London @ New York.
Mixed. 2002
Biscuit factory, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Mixed 2004
Imagine Gallery Long Melford Suffolk   Ongoing

Private Collections, Eire, USA. Denmark> Holland. Germany. Canada. Japan. Australia
Ben Kingsly, Lord Weymouth, Lord Bath, Lord Sawyer, David Bowie.

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