Figurepinklores30th May – 27th June

Vibrant and vital paintings and linocuts by prolific local outsider artist.

Press Preview Friday 29th May 6pm – 8pm

John Sheehy lives alone in a basement flat in Upper Holloway and paints and draws. He plays the flute and banjo and writes poetry as well abut mainly he paints. And he paints and he paints.

Much like the artistic compulsivity of ‘the dot lady’ Yayoi Kusama he cannot stop painting. It’s compulsive and obsessive and it’s fascinating.

The urge to create is stronger than any other force in his body. The result: his one bedroom flat is bursting at the seams with stacks of his work, piled high all the way to the ceiling – his art fills every surface, orifice and vessel – including the bath.

Earlier this year founder of the Atom Gallery, Mark Perronet, met John J Sheehy and was inspired by his works, his method and his compulsion and was determined to give him his own show. Now, Sheehy is set to make his first big splash in the burgeoning new North London art scene with this exhibition:

“John is a genuinely driven artist, as he says, he has to do it. What he doesn’t do is any sort of selection, that task came down to me. It has been a great pleasure choosing work from the thousands of pieces he has in his flat for this exhibition, this will be the first time most of these pictures have been exhibited anywhere.”

John was born in South West Ireland in 1947 and came to London as a young man, where he worked in the building trade.  He has had mental health issues and he has been homeless. Through selling The Big Issue he became involved in its art group and started painting at the age of 51, and since then he hasn’t stopped.  

He paints and draws in his flat and at centres such as Project 240 and Crisis Skylight.  A lot of his subject matter comes from memories of Ireland, horse fairs, farm animals, folk musicians. Other subjects are London streets which often include words, as if they are shop signs or advertisements and sometimes simply things which John associates with the places.

Of his work, John says:

“Like a hurricane, blowing very fast. It’s like desperation to get the paints on there. When I’m in it I’m not really worried whether it’s dried or whatever, it’s the action, it’s the movement. I can’t describe it. I have to do it you see. I’m not trying to do a great piece of art. It’s something I have to do. I have to do this.

Yes I’m compelled to do it. I have to do it. It’s a necessity. It gets me through the day, see. It’s a must. If I don’t do it then my day is going to be a bit rough, like. It’s like entering another planet.”

signature of john j sheehy