Dublin

Mairead O’hEocha, Two Owls, 2020, oil on board, 24 3⁄4 × 33 1⁄8".

Mairead O’hEocha, Two Owls, 2020, oil on board, 24 3⁄4 × 33 1⁄8".

Mairead O’hEocha

Temple Bar Gallery + Studios

Mairead O’hEocha’s most recent paintings are strangely vibrant studies of dead creatures—brightly hued depictions of taxidermied beasts and birds at once gorgeous and ghoulish. Her subjects are the stuffed, posed, and lifeless occupants of antique display cabinets in Dublin’s natural-history museum, a Victorian-era institution that is itself, in its impeccably preserved, nineteenth-century style, frozen in time: a museum of a museum. Dubliners call it, with morbid affection, the Dead Zoo.

Such a setting—a place where natural forms are arrested and arrayed, fixed and framed for leisurely contemplation—is an apt inspiration for the orderly intricacies and time-stopping tendencies of O’hEocha’s art. Over the past decade and a half she has finessed a wide-ranging aesthetic of complex, bittersweet stillness. Her breakthrough work, from around 2007, introduced her as an amiably wistful wayfarer,

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