Irish queer artist Brian Teeling's portrait of Declan Flynn nominated for major art prize

Teeling's incredible artwork was originally commissioned for GCN's Pride magazine.

A photo of a bench in a park lying on an unmade bed
Image: Brian Teeling

Irish queer artist Brian Teeling has been nominated for the prestigious Zurich Portrait Prize 2021 for his heartbreaking tribute to Declan Flynn.

24 Irish artists working across various disciplines have made it to the final selection for the major prize. Teeling’s Declan Flynn in Dublin was originally commissioned by GCN as part of a series of artists responding to important moments for the Irish LGBTQ+ community. You can find the rest of the series in the latest issue.

In September 1982, Declan Flynn was murdered by a group of young men looking to rid Fairview Park of “steamers”. His killing and the subsequent trial where his killers were acquitted became the catalyst for the modern gay rights movement.

When Brian’s portrait of Declan Flynn appeared in the magazine, he shared the story behind this heartfelt tribute:

“‘The Face That Never Changes Yields a Feeling That Never Changes.’

“I can’t remember exactly where the above quote is from, I think it might have been from Olivia Laing talking about the artist David Wojnarowicz.

“The difficulty with making work about Declan is that he has only ever been portrayed totemically, as that ‘face that never changes’. But beneath this mask, there was a person that lived in Dublin. Who was part of the LGBTQ+ community, a man who was dedicated to his family.

“Declan’s murder is often misunderstood as the origin of Pride in Ireland. It wasn’t, however it did serve as a catalyst for protest. When we think of Declan in emblematic terms only we lose the person who he was along the way.

“I’ve learned a lot about him following this commission. When I spoke with his brother Paul, I learned of Declan’s love of Elvis, Christmas in Dublin and his love for his brother Greg. How he would go to see Where Eagles Dare and Tora! Tora! Tora! repeatedly in the Casino cinema in Finglas. And how he was a quiet, shy man.

“When I spoke with Tonie Walsh I learned about Declan’s association with the community, with him working the cloak room of Flikkers at The Hirschfield Centre – which obviously influenced his love of disco and gave him a sense of place in our community. And also, how he was a quiet, shy man.

Declan Flynn in Dublin therefore, is what I wanted to portray about Declan in the present day. His absence.”

You can see more of Brian’s work here @brianteeling.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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