Brian Palm was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1957 and moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1977 to attend the National College of Art and Design. During the late 1970s and 1980s Palm documented much of the social change taking place in Dublin, focusing on urban street photography with an emphasis on the inner city youth culture, urban decay and architectural demolition. Using a camera as a tool for collecting information, he has said, "At the time I considered my photography to be an essential part of an art making process rather than an artistic end in itself". Since then, Palm has been creating contemporary cityscapes of Dublin using clearly identifiable personal imagery in a process which is uniquely his own. Combining photo-collage and oil paint Palm has created a large body of artwork, developing and perfecting his unusual technique over a number of years.
Palm's unique style and technique has developed from a process of trial and error. He describes, "I have developed a technique which allows me to directly use my original photographic imagery as an integral part of a painting's visual and physical structure. On an ordinary black and white photocopier, I greatly enlarge details or sections of my photographs creating a grainy 'drop-out' effect. This step takes ordinary photographic imagery into an altered, abstracted territory and gives it enormous graphic strength". He cuts and reassembles various elements from several pictures into one, or from one into several. Buildings, figures, streets, furniture etc. are intermingled and collaged together to create imaginary compositions based on reality.
When soaked in a diluted PVA solution, thin photocopy paper has many of the properties of rice paper, and when applied to a primed wooden surface it adheres well and the image remains permanent. Protected from the damaging effects of oil paint by the PVA seal, the paper will not rot and the collaged surface gives an actual three-dimensional aspect to the picture plane. The skies, clouds and streets are built up with luminous layers of oil paint and varnish on wood then finished and sealed with several coats of matt varnish. The process has allowed him to combine photography and painting in order to produce emotionally evocative, atmospheric pictures. The work is intentionally challenging to the viewer in both content and technique while remaining aesthetically attractive. Through the combination of paint and photo collage, the pictures are specifically intended to question our ideas and attitudes in relation to what does or does not define a contemporary "painting".
There is a subtle political and moral content to the narrative of Palm's work. "I have attempted to document the massive changes that have taken place in the city of Dublin during the past twenty years physically, spiritually and emotionally, and have commented on what I found. The figures that inhabit my paintings are often the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society; the poor, the elderly, and children. Lost in contemplation, oblivious to the viewer, they go about their daily routines amid the rapid developments engulfing them and their community". His work also addresses "the larger question of the collective thought process of our society as a whole, and how our personal values, beliefs and decisions directly affect the lives of others around us. While addressing serious issues, I would like to think that my paintings leave the viewer with a positive sense of optimism, resilience, and affirmation".
Palm has lived in Ireland since graduating from NCAD with an honours BFA in 1981. Palm has regularly shown his work in solo and group exhibitions throughout Ireland, including the Royal Hibernian Academy's Annual Exhibitions, Royal Ulster Academy's Annual Exhibitions, Eigse Exhibitions, Galway Arts Festivals, Iontas Exhibitions, and many others. He was a committee member of the "Independent Artists Association" and exhibited annually in the "Irish Exhibition of Living Art". Palm has been the recipient of several Arts Council of Ireland awards and bursaries, and has participated in a number of residences at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annamaghkerrig and the Cill Rialaig Project in Kerry. He recently participated in the RHA School Atelier Programme and held a successful exhibition in Studio One following his residency. Palm's work is represented in numerous public and private collections in Ireland and abroad.
Brian Palm was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1957 and moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1977 to attend the National College of Art and Design. During the late 1970s and 1980s Palm documented much of the social change taking place in Dublin, focusing on urban street photography with an emphasis on the inner city youth culture, urban decay and architectural demolition. Using a camer... Read Full Bio