GORTA MOR - The Irish Diaspora In Toronto by BRANDON STEEN
Coming off his successful show GHOST TOWN - 2020 IN 20 PAINTINGS. In the year of 2022 we will see contemporary realism painter Brandon Steen happily returns to painting large scale works for his ambitious series aptly named *GORTA MÓR - The Irish *Diaspora in Toronto. The Irish diaspora in Toronto is a community of which he counts himself to be a part of.
During the pandemic the artist admits he took strength in not only his ancestors surviving the Great Irish Famine but all of the Irish peoples who survived horrific horrors; “my wife has a severely compromised immune system, bringing Covid home would be fatal for her. So if they navigated those atrocities surely I can stay away from Covid and keep me and wife Janie alive”. In 1847, dubbed Black 47 the total population of Toronto totalled less than 19,000 and from May to October of 1847 some 38,560 Irish migrants arrived by coffin ships to Toronto on the very sight of where Ireland Park sits today. That level of immigration is astounding to which Brandon says “that openness is what lies at the core of a Torontonian”.
Through the paintings in this series his hope is to create dialogue using the rich historical Irish narrative of Toronto’s history. GORTA MÓR - The Irish Diaspora in Toronto, sees Brandon capture Toronto’s history in vivid detail, employing a natural crisp light to bring his paintings to life. As it is true with all of his paintings this series will see a central animal as the protagonist. That animal will be the majestic Irish wolf, however there is a twist from ancient oral Irish mythology. This beautiful wolf is actually the mythical Irish Queen named Morrígan. Brandon says “she was also a shapeshifter, a protector of her people and bringer of death and victory, something deeply relatable to those first extremely brave Irish”.
The artist has envisioned the Irish Queen traversing Toronto from the original site where the Irish migrants stepped off coffin ships in a painting titled ‘ARRIVALS’, to a vestige of time in one of the original five wards of Toronto with a painting titled ‘ST. PATRICK’. She will proceed to take you to houses once occupied by early Irish new comers in Toronto’s distinctly Irish neighbourhoods of Cabbagetown and Corktown with two paintings titled ‘THE HOUSES ON PERCY STREET’ and ‘ONTARIO STREET’. Next comes the Daniel Brooke building, a historic building of great significance to Irish history in Toronto. That building stood witness to a tragic death in 1858 of a young Irishman during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This painting aptly named ‘1858’ will bring focus to it’s history. She ventures down an old lane way named after the great Irishman Eugene O’Keefe in a painting titled ‘O’KEEFE LANE’ and past to two Irish pubs titled ‘THE FOGGY DEW’ & *‘BÉAL FIERSTÉ’. Lastly Brandon will see Morrígan occupy a setting thousands of Irish both worked and died at, the railway. In a painting titled ‘BALLYNAHINCH’, a painting named after his own great grandfather whom emigrated to Canada from the town of Ballynahinch, County Down only to be tragically killed working as a *“navvy” on the railway crushed between two trains.
All media enquires can be directed to owner and gallerist Elaine Fleck of The Elaine Fleck Gallery at
* GORTA MÓR (The Great Famine also known as the Great Hunger)
* Diaspora (the scattering of people from their homeland)
* BÉAL FIERSTÉ (Belfast)
* Navvy (A labourer employed in the excavation and construction of a road, railroad, or canal)