Happy Hour – 2015

Happy Hour is a large figure painting in which four people are depicted sitting outside a bar late one summer afternoon. Meanwhile, in the background, demonstrators confront police in a scene taken from an event that I witnessed in Parliament Square.

Happy Hour
Happy Hour, (diptych), oil on MDF. 122cm x 244 cm

I originally planned to have those in the foreground sitting on a beach somewhere in the Indian Ocean, while Paradise was undergoing a radical change. It was an idea which did bear fruit later.

However shortly before I began this painting I visited the National Gallery. I wasn’t looking for inspiration, but simply to pass some time before returning home. On leaving, I heard a commotion and saw demonstrators marching past Trafalgar Square. They were protesting against government cuts to education. So I followed them and began taking photographs.

By the time I reached Parliament Square, black clad anarchists were confronting police, and one of the Black bloc gave me the bad eye.

Black Bloc Bad Eye
Black Bloc Bad Eye

I kept clicking until he and the others withdrew. Then all became calm. The crowds melted away, and there, standing alone, making a phone call, was my son Jack. He held a banner in one hand and a phone in the other.

At that moment I realised I had a new backdrop for my painting. Consequently it seemed appropriate that he should make an appearance — on the left — of Happy Hour.

Jack McSweeney
Jack McSweeney

This painting depicts a clash of polar opposites. It unites two scenes, one set in summer, and the other in winter.

Natural or Unnatural Light?

I have used two light sources in this painting, a technique I have employed in other work, notably Blood Money.

The foreground figures are illuminated from the left. Whereas the background figures are illuminated from the right.

Natural light has its place in painting, but I think it has limitations.

Happy Hour is, I think, one of several paintings I have made that have a sense of theatrical staging.  I spent 11 years working as a theatre technician, so it seems natural for me to work in such a manner.

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