York | 01904 634221
Sean Durkin: Protest and Paintings

Sean Durkin: Protest and Paintings

/ Saturday 9th of January, 2016

Artists take inspiration from an infinite number of places. For some artists, inspiration comes from the landscape. Others are inspired by light or movement. For Teesside artist Sean Durkin, inspiration comes from a more unusual source: burglary.

Sean’s path to becoming an artist arguably began one morning in 1972 when he wandered downstairs and discovered a small painting on the mantelpiece. Struck by the ‘matchstick’ people scurrying around the scene, Sean was utterly captivated by the piece. It was only later that Sean discovered the painting had been stolen by his father the previous evening.

The reason behind the theft is perhaps just as interesting as the source of Sean’s inspiration.  According to Sean, his father attempted to visit the local art gallery on a Sunday on numerous occasions, only to be greeted by closed doors. Perhaps letting his frustration get the best of him, Sean’s father made the decision to break into the gallery and steal and hold ransom ‘The Old Town Hall and St Hilda’s Church, Middlesbrough, Tees Valley’ by L. S. Lowry in protest. In exchange for the safe return of the painting, he demanded that the gallery be fitted with a better alarm system, the mayor raffled his underpants for charity, and that the gallery be opened on Sundays to allow “the working man to get some culture”.

Sean’s father was soon after apprehended by the police, and subsequently sent to trial at the Old Bailey where he was fined for his antics; but the impact of his father’s protest and the stolen painting has remained with Sean to this day. Sean strives to capture the same atmosphere of that painting he found on the mantelpiece as a young boy. And as a tribute to his father’s stunt, he paints a policeman and a burglar in each of his paintings, further adding to their ironic and narrative nature.

Today, Sean has established himself as a successful contemporary artist in his own right. Despite the similarities in style between himself and Lowry, Sean firmly insists that his paintings are not ‘copies’. "I like to think I'm doing the paintings he never got round to doing himself".


You can view Sean's available work here.