GORTA MÓR - The Irish Diaspora in Toronto
Coming off his successful show GHOST TOWN - 2020 in 20 PAINTINGS. In 2022 we will see contemporary realism painter Brandon Steen with his ambitious new series of nine paintings aptly named GORTA MÓR - The Irish Diaspora in Toronto. Brandon Steen will focus on something close to his heart the Irish diaspora in Toronto, a community of which he counts himself to be a part of. Brandon's story began in Canada during the Great Famine or Gorta Mór in Irish when his paternal Great, Great, Great Grandparents John and Frances Steen sailed in 1850 from County Cavan.
During the pandemic the artist admits he took strength in not only his ancestors surviving Gorta Mór in Ireland but all of the Irish peoples who survived; “if they navigated those atrocities surely, I can stay away from Covid and keep me and my wife Janie alive”. Between May and October of 1847 some 38,560 Irish arrived by coffin ships to Toronto. With this series his hope is to create dialogue using a little of this historical Toronto narrative of the Irish through his paintings. Considering Toronto then was merely populated by just less than 19,000 people. That level of immigration is astounding to which Brandon says “that openness is what lies at the core of a Torontonian”.
In GORTA MÓR - The Irish Diaspora in Toronto, will see Brandon capture Toronto’s history in vivid detail, employing a natural crisp light to bring these paintings to life. As 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 from Irish Mythology. This beautiful wolf is the mythical Irish Queen named Morrígan and Brandon has painted her traversing Toronto through locations of great significance to the Irish in Toronto. Brandon says “I always imagine an animal as a central figure in my art but this is not just a wolf but an Irish Queen from the Tuatha Dé Danann people of ancient Ireland. She was also a shapeshifter, a protector of her people and bringer of death and victory. Something deeply relatable to those first Irish”.