William English Bequest

John Renwick (1959–)
Acrylic and gouache on paper, 50.3 x 75.3
NSPCI; UL
RTE archives, interview by Teresa Mannion, https://www.rte.ie/archives/2017/0921/906448-du, accessed 5 August 2018; William Gallagher, National Self Portrait Collection, Vol. 2, 1989–1999, pp 204–05; Patrick Murphy, cat. essay for exhibition at Project Arts Centre, 1988. NIVAL has a file about him under the name ‘Kyntrich’ with John Renwick as ‘variant names.’
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John Renwick is not as widely-known as he should be, almost certainly because he has worked under two names. Born in Yorkshire in 1959, he came to Ireland as a child and lived in Kilkenny before going to Canada in 1963. Having returned to Ireland in 1968 he studied at Dun Laoghaire School of Art, 1978–81, and later at NCAD from which he graduated with an honours degree and a Seán Scully Award in 1985.Renwick’s career has been marked from the outset by his initiative and individuality. As a student, he held a solo show in the Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre (1979), and continued a practice of bringing art out to audiences by showing in non-conventional spaces such as the Dun Laoghaire labour exchange (1991) and, two years later, a group event at the Pidgeon House, former power station, Sandymount, Dublin, in which the artworks by the five participating artists were offered for sale for a uniform and accessible price of ten pounds.He was included in EV+A in 1980 and the Irish Exhibition of Living Art, where he won the Banner Design Award, 1985. He has shown his work at the RHA and Project Arts Centre where he had solo shows in 1986 and 1988, and in shops, streets and windows. Referring to his installation Dole Exchange during Dun Laoghaire Arts Week in 1987 he told RTE’s Teresa Mannion that ‘Generally, the message given is that the work is here to be seen by people, it’s not to be valued financially, it’s just to be looked at.’ Using the name ‘Kyntrich’ he produced a series of installations for the Galway Arts Festival, 1997 made from waste materials, placed afresh every day to look as if assembled by the tide and removed by it each evening.William Gallagher thought that the ‘sense of impassioned expressionism’ in his self-portrait in the NSPCI at the University of Limerick, ‘cannot be taken at face value’ because it was ‘too deliberately constructed for that.’ The portrait included Letraset lettering and was overlayered on an existing drawing. The use of Letraset, an “I” stamped on the eye, and a bloodied Q-tip coming from his ear, indicate an artist who does not wish to be taken seriously all of the time. But when considered alongside his use of waste materials, sculptures of his clothes covered in concrete and paintings of his dole card, they point to concerns about social justice. That political edge was also evident in Fish out of water/Salmon of Knowledge which he created for the Right2water protest, in Dublin on April 2, 2017. Renwick/Kyntrich lives in North Wexford and is a founder member of Art Bank, Bunclody, which helped to win the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Award for the town in 2017. Infinity Theme, no 3, part of the William English Bequest which was given to the museum in 1986, may have been part of the work he showed in Limerick, at EV+A, in 1981 and ’83, completed before he had graduated from NCAD. The work plays with notions of abstraction while employing a motif that references living organisms in a repeat pattern that fills the picture plane, in a playful, dance-like rhythm.