Drummer Boy, 1986
Mixed media on paper
136cm x 80cm
Courtesy of the artist
Painter, sculptural installation and mixed-media artist, Gerry Gleason was born in Belfast in 1946. His work responds to social, political and historical conflict, as in The Ulster Saga 1994-5, in the collections of Newlyn and Middlesbrough Art Galleries and in 1989 Gleason designed colour illustrations for Brian McAvera’s book Art and Politics in Ireland. His Monumental Head was used as the image for the 1990 Yeats Theatre Festival at Abbey Theatre, Dublin and in the same year he received awards from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin. A founder member of Queen Street Studios, Gleason’s work has been widely exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Europe and the USA.
Gleason’s images and palette could be described as rich, primitive, and powerful and he works across disciplines including painting, mixed media, drawing, photography and installation. Redolent of stained glass or an illuminated manuscript, The Drummer Boy could almost be described as medieval in feel. The iconic image of a drummer leading a parade or a call to arms is typical of the subject matter and use of materials in Gleason’s work from this time. The work is composed of fragments of drawings integrated into a coherent form with subsequent layers of paint forming and defining the image. The work responds to the artist’s experience of the political unrest of the early 1980s when violence was a daily or weekly occurrence. His city centre studio was shaken by a car bomb and he watched shards of glass falling into the street below. The fusion of the fragmented elements into the realised work Drummer Boy is a call to arms for the coming together of communities to end, rather than continue, the ongoing destruction.