Echoes of History - A tribute to Picasso by Gerry Gleason)
an exhibition of mixed media at the Red Barn Gallery, Belfast

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881. He was a precocious painter who relentlessly re-invented the style of figurative painting. Influenced by his anarchist ideal, he tore up the rule-book by injecting savage, primitivism into his figurative work. At the vanguard of surrealism, he also played with myths and legends. As a Spanish painter, he wanted to comment on his native country. As an international painter, he was aware of world event. His turbulent personal life and fear of losing his powers can be guessed in his paintings.

For the past 37 years, Gerry Gleason has been producing figurative works inspired by Goya,van Gogh, Picasso,Matisse,Bacon, Rothko,Guston and Beuys At the Belfast Red Barn Gallery, Gerry Gleason's exhibition 'Echoes of History' documents in 46 pictures the turbulent times that took place in the 20th century world history and in Picasso’s own complex private life. The Vollard Suite (1933-1937), Guernica and the eve of World War II (1937-1939) and the French occupation (1939-1946). For both Gleason and Picasso, art represents an outlet comment on personal and political events. Picasso spoke little about his work. In 2013, Gerry Gleason chose to re-interpret some of Picasso's minotaur drawings. The Vollard Suite was displayed the year before at the British Museum. We watch the The Vollard Suite – Minotaur Series through Gerry Gleason's eye.

Between 1930 and 1937, Picasso produced a group of hundred monochrome etchings for Amboise Vollard, the Parisian avant-garde print-publisher. 310 sets and 3 more on vellum were completed by the printer George Lacourière in 1939. This mamooth project reminds us of 'Caprichos' and 'Disasters of War' by Francisco de Goya that other Spanish painter, the first modern master. Fifteen etchings from the Vollard suite are dedicated to the Minotaur.

The Roman poet Ovid describes the Minotaur as 'part man, part bull' . According the Greek legend, King Minos of Creta once asked the sea God Poseidon to give him a beautiful white bull. His wish was granted. When the god demanded that the bull be sacrificed in his honour, Minos sacrificed another animal, hoping Poseidon wouldn't notice. Things went wrong and as a punishment, a spell was put on the Queen Pasiphae to fall in love with the white bull and produce offspring. The Queen nursed the creature which was called Minotaur; the latter had the body of a man and the head of a bull. For a while Minotaur lived at the palace with his parents and King Minos until it became increasingly too dangerous. The Minotaur could not control its urges to devour humans. King Minos asked his architect Daedalus to build a prison for the Minotaur. Condemned people would be sent to the maze to be devoured by the Minotaur. The Minotaur is eventually killed by Theseus. In Dante's Inferno, a seminal book from the Italian renaissance, we find the Minotaur in the 7th rim of hell, when William Blake illustrates the book in the early 19thC, he adds centaurs to keep him company. The painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote that the Minotaur was also violent towards itself. Perhaps the Greek image of the Minotaur was inspired by Ba'al or Molech which was worshippped in the Middle-East.

Born in 1946, Gerry
Gleason is a painter from Northern Ireland who has exhibited all over the world. Here, in the Tribute to Picasso, he
 chose to depict a tryptich of mixed media drawings (56 x 75 cm ea) to charter the rise and fall of the Minotaur. It suits the intimate atmosphere of the Red Barn Gallery.The perspective is reversed (with etchings, the artists needs to work back to front)  colours  are added to accentuate the fleshiness of the bodies, the azure of the sea and the sand in the arena. Three key moments of the Minotaur's life.

In Minotaur Metamorphosis , we see the Minotaur as a sensuous, virile creature who is partying with a woman and enjoying a drink. When Picasso was making his etching, the Great Depression had replaced the Roaring Twenties, so we know that this moment was not going to last. The Golden Calf would lose his fortune. But for now at least, he is at the Court of King Minos.

The next scene is called Faltering Steps shows us a blind and demented Minotaur raging at the moon and being led away by a girl. Art critics say that the girl is based on Marie-Thérèse whom Picasso was fond of. His own marriage was faltering. Both Goya and Picasso have used the image of the bull to represent Spain. A strong, virile and muscular creature. The Minotaur's downfall can be seen as a comment on Spain's decline. Civil war was looming, art historians say that the civil war gavalnised his energies. For Picasso, the Minotaur is also part of his own personal mythology. The artist feared that his powers would desert him and that he would become blind and helpless. And we feel that tension.
In 'Farewell the Minotaur' , we see the creature in an arena being mocked and jeered by spectators. He has become the bull that is about to be killed by the matador and if the surrealist saw the Minotaur as a symbol of the unstoppable force of the subconscious, then what does this represent? Perhaps is it a scene where freedom of mind is being repressed? This makes this scene quite political. There is an element of Clockwork Orange in here as well. The cure is even worse than the urges. In Gerry Gleason's picture, one female character stretches her arm at the Minotaur. Perhaps this figure feels love or compassion for the fallen idol.
Echoes of History - A tribute to Picasso is Gerry Gleason's own interpretation of the Vollard Suite. It stands out as a work of its own in the same way as the Vollard Suite echoed Goya and classical mythology. A story retold for our times. We can relate to the Minotaur's changing fortunes because, in a way, they may echo our personal experiences. One day we are invincible and even careless, another we find ourselves helpless and compassion soothes us. Gerry Gleason writes: “My approach was oblique,to try to understand human nature and the human condition and society under extreme stress,loss of human life and in the end,the road to conflict resolution and power-sharing. I feel we were a microcosm of much larger events which I see in the wider world to the present, and perhaps the works could be of artistic value to others in similar situations. “
written by Dominique Hoffman
for more information about Gerry Gleason, please visit his website: you can find the Red Barn Gallery here
The Vollard Suite by Pablo Picasso at British Museum, click here