Mark Shields (b.1963)

Who Is My Beloved?

Acrylic on canvas

91cm x 71cm

Courtesy of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Mark Shields, born in 1963, studied at the University of Ulster where he completed a BA in Fine Art in 1985 and a PGCE in Art and Design in 1989. He is represented by the Grosvenor Gallery, London and currently lives and works near Belfast. His work has been exhibited with many renowned galleries including the Mall Galleries, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Ulster Academy and the National Gallery of Ireland. Additionally, his paintings have featured in international events such as the Florence Biennale of Contemporary Art, Galerie Brusberg in Berlin, and the Basel Art Fair in Switzerland. Mark has participated several times in the BP Portrait Award and the Hunting Art Prize Exhibition at the Royal College of Art. His works can be found in numerous collections including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Ulster Television Collection, the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland, as well as many private collections in both the U.K and abroad, and his commissioned portrait of the Prince of Wales hangs in the headquarters of the Royal Gurka Regiment.

This work is one of eight paintings from a series entitled The Folk Dress Series originally exhibited in Cape Town. In the series the garments worn by the figures represent a stock of traditions which, bring us back to what is most stable and permanent in society. The work explores the idea that clothing is the body’s shelter from mysterious spiritual influences, and that symbolic colours and natural patterns make the wearer magically immune. This mystical attitude to dress combines with the naïve simplification of the technique and increases the connection with a less complicated life. The psychological ambiguity raised by the poetic resonance of the title, sits in conflict with the ordinariness of the figure’s poses, hinting at a preternatural clairvoyance. The artist notes the figures in the series “conceal a deep enigma so ancient that it has for us in our turbulent humanity the value of eternity.”