Valerie Brennan
Biography of Irish Contemporary Artist: Neo-Expressionist Paintings.

Pin it

For a general guide, see:
Postmodernist Art.
For late 20th century artworks,
see: Contemporary Art.

Valerie Brennan (b.1973)
Irish Expressionist Painter

Like many consumers of art, I feel more at ease with images that are easy to recognize. It's probably just laziness. After all, trying to understand a work of abstract art that has no obvious connection with the real-world can be slightly daunting.

But there are exceptions, and the Irish artist Valerie Brennan is definitely one of them. I simply can't help being entranced by her evocative imagery. It has a primeval quality, a sort of organic lusciousness that plays havoc with my retina. In fact, it's all based on Brennan's plein-air appreciation of the city at night, derived from her experiences in Cyprus and Mexico. Often working in the dead of night with only airliners in the sky for company, she captures the nocturnal world that remains alive when everyone else is asleep in bed.

• For other postmodernists in Ireland, see: Contemporary Irish Artists.
• For the world's best, see: Top 200 Contemporary Artists.


No 5 in the polyptych "Navigating
the Mega City." (oil on panel) (2008)

No 8 in the polyptych "Surfacing"
(oil on panel) (2009)

For a list of the leading Irish
painters, including exponents of
Impressionist painting, see:
Best Irish Artists.

The deserted (or pulsating) world of street corners, parks, traffic lights, winking illuminations - it's all there in her paintings, sometimes close-up, sometimes in panorama. It's a unique vision of the urban circuit-board - the surrealist night-map of neon signs, and street lights that we use to navigate the city. And Brennan expresses it forcefully, demonstrating a masterly use of impasto texture and drip paintwork, as well as a full range of gestural markings to convey her intensely personal response.

Call it neo-expressionist if you like, Brennan's work is brimful of energy and colour, just like the nocturnal cityscape she depicts. This is not the sort of boring cerebralist painting you find in minimalist art, this has lashings of subjectivity, emotion, autobiography, psychology, and symbolism.

And to be honest, I can't get enough of it.


I'm not alone, either. Brennan's works have been widely exhibited in both solo and group shows in Cyprus and Mexico, and appear in numerous private collections in Ireland, Cyprus, the UK, Mexico and Australia. In addition, she has been selected to participate in the December 2009 Florence Biennale.


Born in Limerick city, Brennan says she took the scenic route to her vocational destination, dropping out of third-level courses in order to create the portfolio that gained her entry into Limerick College of Art and Design. After art college she went into teaching, before moving to Cyprus in 1999 to complete a post graduate degree at the Cyprus College of art, in Lemba, Paphos. Although Cyprus remains her base, she is currently living in Mexico City, and will shortly be moving to Madrid. She is married to a diplomat.


Method of Work

As a painter Brennan is familiar with a variety of media, including acrylics and oils, but the latter remains her favourite. She uses wooden panels for support, because of its resilience. When drawing she prefers charcoal. All her compositions start from plein-air sketches which are then worked up in her studio.

Recent Works

Three of Brennan's recent works (2008-9) have been polyptychs:

• "Surfacing" (oil on 8 panels, each 100 x 50 cm)
• "Navigating the Mega City I-VI" (oil on 6 panels, 25 x 25 cm)
• "The Citrus City" (oil on 9 panels, 150 x 150 cm)

Each of these three large compositions derives from a single large-scale drawing, which is then divided grid-like into sections, with each section forming the basis for a separate panel. When completed and placed together, the panels form a single cohesive piece - a sort of visual map of the city. Furthermore, all the panels of the polyptych are worked up simultaneously, and this, together with the overall multi-unit format, emphasizes the dynamic relationship between the constituent parts of the painting.


In addition to the unique city scenery of Cyprus and, in particular, Mexico City, Brennan cites a number of influences, including the Irish artists Nigel Rolfe and also Brian McGuire for his loose gestural painting, as well as the expressionist impasto artist Frank Auerbach (b.1931), and the colourist Sir Howard Hodgkin (b.1932). She makes no mention of Georg Baselitz (b.1938) or Gerhard Richter (b.1932), although I see echoes of them in her work, and I mean it as a compliment.


Over the past five years, works by Valerie Brennan have appeared in both solo and group exhibitions, in numerous venues, including:

- Apocalypse Gallery, Nicosia, Cyprus
- UAM, University of Azcapotzalco, Mexico City
- Art:Raw Gallery, New York, Inaugural Exhibition
- Centro Cultural Manuel Gómez Morín, Querétaro, Mexico

- La Casita Municipal Gallery, Mexico City
- Bienal Chapingo, Texcoco, Mexico
- Palacio de Legislación, Mexico City
- Casa Jaime Sabines, San Angel, Mexico City
- Probert Gallery, San Angel, Mexico City

-Apocalypse Gallery, Nicosia

- Heliotrope Gallery, Larnaca
- Orpheas Gallery, Limassol
(with Alexis Vayianos, Kelly Norman, and Miriam McConnon)
- Apocalypse Gallery, Nicosia
(with Grahame Parry, Liese Webley, and Miriam Mc Connon)

- Heliotrope Gallery, Larnaca
- Orpheas Gallery, Limassol
- En Plo Gallery, Paphos
(with Grahame Parry and Miriam McConnon)

Further Information

To contact Valerie Brennan, or to see more of her exceptional abstract art, I strongly recommend that you visit:

• For more about contemporary arts, see: Homepage.
• For details of famous painters and sculptors from Ireland, see Famous Irish Artists.

Visual Artists, Greatest
© All rights reserved.