Crawford Art Gallerypermanent collection

Figure Silenced
Figure Silenced
Irish School
Acrylic on canvas
174 x 128cm


Acquired 1995
In Figure Silenced, Maguire has made a painting of an emotionally wounded person. Like most of his other works, it is not a specific portrait but rather an attempt to illustrate a state of mind, showing how society relates, or fails to relate, to those on its margins. The gag on the person's mouth can be taken as a simple metaphor for the silence of the dispossessed. However, in Maguire's work, the painting should be considered first of all in its own terms as a painting, and only secondly as an attempt to describe a condition of being or emotional state which the artist has experienced. He sets out to describe, not by providing a mimesis of perceived reality, but rather by allowing the paint to define its own reality, smeared, scratched and dripped. The artist in this case acts in a shamanistic role, providing a conduit for the experiences, thoughts and prejudices of the society he lives in to find expression through his art.


Lit. - Knowles, 1982 / Mayes and Murphy, 1993

Brian Maguire
Irish School

Brian Maguire is one of a group of contemporary Irish artists who came to the fore in the mid-1980s and whose work can be loosely described as New Expressionist. This categorisation is misleading however, as these artists, including Michael Kane, Patrick Hall, Patrick Graham and Michael Cullen, do not in any sense constitute a cohesive group, and work in relative isolation. There have been occasional exhibitions where their work has been shown together, most notably in the touring exhibition Four Irish Expressionists, shown at Boston College and other venues in 1986.

Maguire was born in Dublin in 1951. After secondary school, he attended a special art course given by Professor Owen Butler in Dun Laoghaire, before moving on the the National College of Art and Design, which he disliked. A growing political involvement with the left-wing Workers' Party interrupted his college years.

His philosophy as an artist is inextricably linked to his political beliefs. Maguire, for many years, has taught art in Irish prisons, attempting to recognise and foster talent among men and women despised by respectable society. Since 1987 he has served as artist-in-residence in jails in Limerick, Portlaoise, Dublin, Spike Island in Cork, and Masqui Prison in Vancouver. In addition to teaching in Ireland, he has lectured at Williams College, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Houston University in Texas. In 1986 Maguire's work was shown at Boston University and Northeastern University. He was also included in Divisions, Crossroads, Turns of Mind, the seminal exhibition of contemporary Irish art selected by Lucy Lippard, which toured in America in 1983. In 1990 he was awarded the O'Malley Art Award by the Irish American Cultural Institute.