Press Clippings




One to Watch
Editorial Team,
Fine Art Conoisseur,
May/June 2016

CONOR WALTON (b. 1970) says that, through his paintings and drawings, he seeks answers to the questions posed in the title of Paul Gauguin’s 1897 masterwork: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” This is heady stuff, made palpable in Walton’s

Born in Dublin, he grew up drawing, and earned a B.A. in fine art and art history from the National College of Art there. He went on to take an M.A. in art history and theory from the University of Essex in England, where study of past styles and iconography ultimately informed his own artistry. In the mid- 1990s, Walton spent a year in the Florence atelier of Charles Cecil, an American who has sustained the techniques and worldview of the Old Masters. For the past two decades, Walton has been painting full-time in Ireland, and now lives south of Dublin. In his quest to “explore issues of truth, meaning, and value,” Walton applies techniques from the past to contemporary concerns, arriving at allegories that subtly re-activate mythic characters, books, animals, and symbols. When it comes to figures, Walton can think big: he recently produced a 48 x 96-inch “superhistory painting” titled An Ape’s Limbs Compared to Man’s that overlays the iconography of science and progress upon the traditions of Christianity and classical humanism.
As live models are expensive and Walton paints slowly, he has also found a way to enliven the potentially dreary genre of still life: some scenes of fruits or toys may initially appear straightforward, yet closer inspection reveals that everything has been selected strategically
for both intellectual impact and formal appeal.

Walton starts with an idea, then makes studies with a model or arrangement, building up his oils on linen with impasto and a superb
mastery of light and shade. “Illusionism still has great artistic potential,” he believes, “because reality is something we find difficult
and threatening. I’ve heard it said that people can avoid facing reality, but they can’t avoid the consequences of not facing reality. I think
my work is very much bound up with these issues, with naturalism at one remove, with fantasy and disillusionment. In our culture ... affluence and industrialization have become weapons in a general war against reality, against nature. But nature’s still going to win.... We are not, nor were we ever, in control of our own destiny.”

CONOR WALTON (b. 1970), Phaethon, 2015, oil on linen, 36 x 36 in., private collection

This skeptical view of human progress is deftly conveyed in Phaethon, which shows one of Walton’s sons hoisting a fish from the sea as a rocket launches in the distance. The title alludes to the son of the Greek sun god, Helios, who insisted on steering his father’s chariot. Unable to control its horses, the boy (whose name means “Shining One”) imperiled
the well-being of the entire earth, so Zeus was compelled to slay him with a thunderbolt. Walton’s painting suggests we all be very careful what we wish for, and we certainly agree.

Walton is represented by CK Contemporary (San Francisco), and he will participate in a group show at Gormleys Fine Art (Dublin) June 9-30.

(from 'Three to Watch', Fine Art Connoisseur, May-June 2016,

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