Full of irony and narrative, Sean Durkin’s work is simultaneously playful and powerful. Now an acclaimed artist with a loyal following, Sean’s path to becoming an artist is quite the tale, further adding to the impact of his work.
In 1972, his father, John Durkin, stole and held ransom a Lowry painting of Middlesbrough Town Hall and Saint Hilda’s Church from the local art gallery. In exchange for the painting’s safe return, he demanded that the Lord Mayor raffle his underpants for charity and that the gallery be installed with a better alarm system as well as be opened on Sundays “to allow the working man to get some culture”.
Only a boy of eight at the time, Sean recalls coming downstairs the following morning to find the stolen painting on the mantelpiece. He was fascinated by the atmosphere of the painting and the ‘matchstick’ people as they scurried around the scene. He did not realise it at the time, but the painting would have a profound effect on his life, and ultimately inspire him to become an artist himself.
Today, Sean’s atmospheric work pays tribute to the memory of that stolen painting. He enjoys creating rough, textured surfaces to suit the grittiness and mood of his paintings. His paintings are furthermore full of narrative, prompting the viewer to wonder about the lives of the ‘matchstick’ people within. Sean himself adds to this narrative by including a burglar and a policeman in every painting as a reminder of his father’s sensational stunt.
Sean's paintings continue to captivate audiences across the country, bringing him great success as an artist. In a rather ironic twist of fate, his work now hangs on public display in the prestigious Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) next to the very same L.S. Lowry painting his father once stole. Sean holds regular exhibitions in his native north east, and has been featured on BBC TV, as well as numerous radio stations and newspapers.