Sean Molloy
Texts and Artworks

Sean Molloy lives in Dublin and has been receiving considerable attention since his BA degree show in 2011 at National College of Art & Design, Dublin. He was hailed as one of Ireland’s top painting graduates by the Irish Arts Review for the ‘formalistic delight’ of his work, which combines a passion for painterly tradition with intense formal experimentation. In 2011, he was selected for several group shows, including the RDS Student Art Awards, the Claremorris Open Exhibition and the Rua Red Winter show. In 2013, while finishing his Masters in Painting, he was selected for the international ‘Anonymous Drawings’ exhibition, which toured to Berlin and Eindhoven.


Group Show :
RHA Annual Exhibition, 2013-2015
Rua Red Winter show
New Living Art V, IMOCA, 2014
Lacuna 01, Taylor Galleries, Dublin, 2013
Carlow Arts Festival, Eigse, 2013
Claremorris Open Exhibition, Mayo, 2011
"Anonymous Drawings", présentée à Berlin et Eindhoven
Jonathan Swift Gallery (Kilkenny Arts Week)

Awards include the K&M Evans Painting Prize, RHA, 2014, long listing in Saatchi New Sensations, 2013 and the Thomas Dammann Jr. Memorial Trust Travel Grant, 2015 to assist part of his on-going research into the techniques of the European baroque masters.

Collections :
Collection OPW (The Office of Public Works Irlandais), AXA Insurance and De Blacam & Meagher architectes.







As a painter, Sean Molloy's key concern is to investigate the relevance of painting in a digitally-mediated world. This body of work, which has emerged out of a two-year time period, has been constructed the through a process of experimenting with a series of traditional baroque-inspired themes, spliced together with over-painted elements associated with digital-based imagery. The traditional elements have been appropriated from sources within the Dutch, Spanish, Flemish and Italian baroque painting canon, combined and juxtaposed to create a series of capriccio-type fantasy scenes and miniature tondo portraits. The digital elements overlaying these have been inspired by a variety of sources (C.G.I., games, image manipulation software, glitch-art, etc.).



'Pentimenti' refers to the underlying mark-making, choices and corrections that the painter would make, usually discovered by restorers, and now, even more accurately, through the technology of reflectography. 'Pentimenti' also reveal when the painter's original work has been later over-painted, often in response to socio-political, moral or fashion imperatives – or simply through complacent restoration. Thus the 'definitive' (often canonical) work reveals itself as something which is not a solid given, but the outcome of a fluid, changing dynamic. In today's world, there is also a certain impermanence to digital images – they can be deleted easily, they degrade over time, we can alter and manipulate them up as we wish.

Molloy's initial access to most of the reference material explored in these paintings was via the internet. With the assistance of a Thomas Dammann Jr. Memorial Trust Award, he was also able to travel to see the actual works of the baroque canon in situ. This offered him the opportunity not just to examine the works close up, but also to make mental comparisons between the digital versions and the original works ? a process of analysis, deconstruction and de-composition which he then mapped on to the actual making of the paintings.

In the sometimes ludicrous extremes of the high baroque (e.g., Pietro da Cortona), viewers were offered an illusion of total immersion in a painted world – echoing the immersive experience presented at any moment today through a variety of digital portals. In these works, Molloy seeks to create 'Neo-Pentimenti' – deliberate corrections, alterations, interventions and degradings/decompositions of the paintings underneath. By using the over-painted elements to disturb the three-dimensional painterly illusion created by the brush-stroke, he introduces visual interventions which both repel and attract the viewer's attention, creating a new aesthetic to subvert the often didactic and singular reading that traditional figurative painting presents.

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Sean Molloy’s paintings reference artists such as Velasquez, Dutch Masters, and 19th and 20th century figurative painters. His knowledge of the painting canon is extended by his interest in photography and reproduction. Sean was long-listed for the 2013 Saatchi New Sensations Award following his exciting MFA presentation at NCAD earlier this year.

“I suppose when I think about 19th century painting I think of it in terms of its relationship to the invention of photography.  Painting suffered a sort of usurpation by the new invention, but what I find interesting is the reciprocal exchange between the ancient practice of painting and the subsequent responses by early portrait photographers to mimic certain aspects of the works of the old masters”.

The quote above is from an interview with Sean Molloy on Trebuchet. He is currently showing in Lacuna at Taylor Gallery, Dublin and other images can be found on his website.


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My painting practice currently centres on the development of a series of quasi-allegorical paintings. This involves appropriating imagery from the baroque, rococo, neo-classical and early 20th century figurative painting canon, which I reconstruct into large/medium-scale works and miniatures. The larger works indirectly reference the history painting genre with its grandiloquent narrative structure.
I then overlay the underlying image with optical devices in the form of compressed parallel lines, Ben-day dots and digital pixel-like patterning. These optical devices refer obliquely to mechanical image-making techniques associated with reprographic print technology and ‘glitch art’ via databending. Functioning like brushstrokes, these overlaid devices play a constituent role in creating the illusion of form. Over-painting the 2D graphic on top of the painterly illusion is a play on medium specificity; creating visual interventions subverting the often didactical reading that traditional figurative painting presents to the viewer. The textures of the new mediums leave their traces on the old, creating a palimpsest-like effect; one that symbolizes the chronology of the development of digital image processing coupled with the seductive quality of painterly form.


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Sean Molloy is a Dublin-based fine art painter and received a 1st class BA in Fine Art, Painting in 2011 followed by a MFA in 2013, both at National College of Art & Design, Dublin. Previous to this he studied at the University of Brighton and the Glasgow School of Art, 1998-2000. In 2011 the Irish Arts Review hailed him as one of Ireland’s top painting graduates. Awards include the K&M Evans Painting Prize, RHA, 2014, long listing in Saatchi New Sensations, 2013 and the Thomas Dammann Jr. Memorial Trust Travel Grant, 2015 to assist part of his on-going research into the techniques of the European baroque masters. Selected group shows include; RHA Annual Exhibition, 2013-2015, New Living Art V, IMOCA, 2014, Lacuna 01, Taylor Galleries, Dublin, 2013, Carlow Arts Festival, Eigse, 2013 and Claremorris Open Exhibition, Mayo, 2011. His work is held in the collections OPW, AXA Insurance and DeBlacam Meagher architects.


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News, News Winter 2015    
Decompositions by Sean Molloy

In his latest body of work Sean Molloy takes on the Baroque: a time when artists didn’t do things by halves. Bernini, Borromini, Pietro da Cortona and El Greco used all of their talents to create theatrical effects in the service of the Church or their patrons. Be it sculpture or painting the baroque had a dazzling effect – usually on a large scale with perspectival tricks employed to allure. Molloy overturns the large scale – his paintings on panel are just 16cms – just over 6 inches – and uses an intimate roundel framing device, borrowing his subjects from Van Dyck to El Greco and manipulating the image with digital motifs and the marks used by picture conservators to identify areas of investigation: The digital elements overlaying these ‘Decompositions’ have been inspired by a variety of sources (C.G.I., games, image manipulation software reflecting Molloy’s first contact with the reference material – accessed via the internet.

The resulting series was made possible by the Thomas Dammann Jr. Memorial Trust Award, which allowed him to travel to see the actual works of the baroque canon in situ.

Gerry Walker discussed Sean Molloy as a graduate to watch back in 2011 – see Post-postmodern advance, Irish Arts Review, Autumn 2011, p95.


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Old meets new… and they fall madly in love! This is the work of Irish artist Sean Molloy … he paints very traditional, formal subject matter below the surface, and then POP! – graphic, colorful patterns right on top of all of it. Ah yes, a beautiful marriage of past and present. LOVE!

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Sean Molloy lives in Dublin and has been receiving considerable attention since his BA degree show in 2011. He was hailed as one of Ireland’s top painting graduates by the Irish Arts Review for the ‘formalistic delight’ of his work, which combines a passion for painterly tradition with intense formal experimentation. In 2011, he was selected for several group shows, including the RDS Student Art Awards, the Claremorris Open Exhibition and the Rua Red Winter show. In 2013, while finishing his Masters in Painting, he was selected for the international ‘Anonymous Drawings’ exhibition, which toured to Berlin and Eindhoven.

Since completing his Masters, Sean’s work has showed at the NCAD MFA graduate show at Moxie Studios (‘the most accomplished exhibition overall’ – Aidan Dunne, Irish Times), where his large-scale painting ‘NMT’ was purchased by the OPW. He is currently showing as an invited artist at the RHA Annual Exhibition, which has led to his work ‘L.O.T.W’ being selected by the International Association of Mass Communication Research conference as an example of contemporary Irish Art. Most recently he exhibited at the Jonathan Swift Gallery during Kilkenny Arts Week, alongside the work of highly-regarded artists such as Louis Le Brocquy, Brian Bourke, Anne Madden and Neil Shawcross.


In being long-listed for Saatchi New Sensations, Sean follows the footsteps of successful NCAD alumnus, Amanda Doran, who was short-listed for the Award in 2012, leading to her work being purchased by the Saatchi Collection. The judges for this year’s Award are the artists Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin; Nick Hackworth, founder of Paradise Row, London; Ossian Ward, formerly visual arts editor of Time Out; Tabitha Jackson, Commissioning Editor, Arts, Channel 4; and Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator, Saatchi Online and Director, Saatchi Gallery.

SEAN MOLLOY – Press Quotes


‘Sean Molloy’s paintings provide an eloquent treatise on the activity of remembering and are grounded in interpretations of psychology and art history… the totality of the experience of these works is happily a formalistic delight. They combine vibrancy with understatement, constant thematic engagement with reflective restraint and they manage their not inconsiderable substance with skill and authority’ (IRISH ARTS REVIEW, AUTUMN 2011).

‘In Sean Molloy’s work (NCAD), portraiture and formal abstraction meet to suggest the impossibility of capturing likeness or presence in an image’ (IRISH TIMES, JUNE 2011)

‘Sean Molloy… [is] among those who paint well with one eye on the past and the other on the future’ (SUNDAY TIMES, CULTURE SECTION, JUNE 2013)

‘It’s hardly surprising that the most accomplished exhibition overall is NCAD’s master-of-fine-arts show at Moxie Studios. If you’re going to see just one graduate show, make it this one.’ (IRISH TIMES, JUNE 2013)

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