John Dunne was born in Dublin, Ireland, but emigrated at the age of seventeen. He is self-taught, and has a deep interest in the relationship between art and theology. He holds a degree in theology.
His art has been influenced by that of the Far East, especially by Japanese wood-cuts and Kabuki theatre. He has traveled widely to Singapore, Borneo, and he has painted around the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Cyprus.
He is a figurative painter who works in several media including Oils, Acrylic and Pastel. In the past twenty years he has concentrated on producing a series of paintings based on children’s games and the Celtic legend of “The Táin Bó Cuailngé”. This latter exhibition traveled North and South of Ireland on the Táin Trail.
Religious themes in his work include the ‘Song of Songs’, ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ and ‘The Seven Last Words of Christ’ from the cross. He has completed a degree in theology and a master’s level certification in theology, art, and imagination (BA Theology and Philosophy, MA Cert in Theology, Art and Culture).
He has exhibited widely, and has paintings in public and private collections.
Catholic News Service | Published on Nov 6, 2014
Renowned Irish artist John Dunne speaks about how the work that flows from the artist has the capacity to touch the soul of the viewer and becomes a spiritual experience.
A Short History
John was born into a post war ireland of scarcity and unemployment and like many others of his generation he emigrated.
As an emigrating artist however, he chose somewhere more exotic than the neighboring island of England to settle. He went to the Far East and continued his art studies in Singapore, absorbing the many cross-cultural influences that existed side by side, especially that of China and Japan. These influences are still alive to this day in his work.
The momentum of travel continued and carried him to the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Cyprus and Gibraltar. Working and living in these beautiful countries left an indelible impression on his life and work.
He returned to Ireland a very different man than the one who had left. Now married with a wife and three children, to support he settled in Dublin. His art could not support a family so other work was necessary and the years trying to establish himself were difficult. Ireland was changing, galleries were full in Dublin, so provincial venues were tried and Wexford, Kinsale and Dunlaoghaire provided outlets for smaller work.
A three person exhibition based on a theme entitled ‘Aspects of Childhood’ and held in Dublin heralded a change in understanding and direction. Since that time, the idea of the thematic show has dominated his work and in the years that followed two further such shows were produced.
The idea of an exhibition travelling to different locations also occurred during these years and the second thematic exhibition called ‘The Tain’ took to the roads. Opening in Dublin, the show then went North. The paintings were large and expressive and it was a year later before he arrived home.
Five years later another theme saw the light of day in the shape of twenty large works based on the Old Testament poem called ‘the Song of Songs’. This exhibition was shown in Dublin and received excellent reviews.
John is an exceptional person. He is an accomplished artist, particularly known for four major series of paintings. One is based on the Song of Songs, one on the Dream of Gerontius, one on the powerful Irish Legend The Tain, and finally one on The Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross. Given his work, it isn’t surprising to find he has been awarded a degree in theology in recent years. He also serves as Chairman of the Association of Arts and Christianity Ireland (ACI).
Jim Malone, Trinity College Dublin and International Atomic Energy Agency at IAEA
John is a gentle-spirit, committed to the work of forming the new organisation, Arts & Christianity Ireland. He is passionate about both art and faith as well as about supporting other artists who are inspired by the faith/arts link in their creative work.
Donna Mae Linton, Adjunct Lecturer, Pastoral Theology Department at Pontifical University, St. Patrick’s College Maynooth
We have purchased several of John’s paintings, which grace our home. Some were works that John had painted on his own initiative, following a theme or capturing a particular landscape. Other paintings were commissioned to portray a subject that we specified. We find John very creative, with the capacity to explore very diverse themes.
Éanna Johnson, Independent Management Consulting Professional
Well, I didn’t exactly ‘hire’ John; but he graciously gave me permission to use images of a series of his paintings to illustrate a course of ‘Lent Lectures’ I gave in 2012. I found his work profoundly moving and inspirational, and I suspect many of my listeners preferred the pictures to the lectures!
Steve Weatherly-Barton, Minister – Gosberton Baptist Church
1965 -1967: Gibraltar (Calpe group)
1973-1976: Cyprus – three single person exhibitions
1977-1981: England and Scotland group shows
1989 (March): Knock Co, Mayo -single person
1988 (Sept): Dublin – three person show
1989-93: Dublin – single person shows
1989-93: Kinsale Co, Cork
1989-98: Wexford Opera Festival single person shows
1990-93: Royal Hibernian Academy Dublin
1992 (Sept): Royal Hibernian Academy (Banquet exhibition)
1992 (Sept): Brussels – single person show.
1994 May: Dublin Wyvern Gallery
1994 June: Derry Foyle
1994 July: Armagh St Patricks Trian
1994 Aug: Dundalk Basement Gallery
1994 Sep: Mullingar Arts Centre
1994 Oct-Apr 1995: Ulster History Park Co, Tyrone
1999 Oct-Nov: The Song Of Songs Exhibition Origin Gallery Dublin
2001: Single person exhibition, Origin Gallery Dublin
2003: Single person exhibition, Milltown Institute , Dublin
2007: Exhibition “Dream of Gerontius” Dublin
2009: Exhibition “Seven last words of Christ” Ministeracres
Board of Works
Ulster History Park, Co. Tyrone REHAB Ireland
Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin
Milltown Institute Dublin
Public and Private Collections around the world