Leonard Sheil is a collector. He collects facts and symbols.Facts about subjects and their characteristics
that have determined and been a part of his life. With new subjects too, they are arranged in his "imaginary library".
From this 'library' he creates endless variations. The techniques he uses also reflect the collector.
Layer by layer are added to,or dismantled. Time doesn't play any role the paintings, which are in constant alteration.
They do,eventually, reach conclusions.The result of this process is sometimes a hidden depth or profoundness.
The various materials and colours never stand alone. They always reveal a unity, where the artist's "imaginary library" becomes visible.  
 Ulla Reithmayr  Curator Kuntsverein Baden Austria
 

I have always been conscious of looking back at landscape from the sea.  Scouting outward towards the curvature in expectation.

Its not as territorial a place,but its particular Irish connection with land has held a significant role.

Charts and chart symbols,mapping out routes on a liquid surface.No perimeters,walls,or obvious borders.

Very old charts from 14 and 15th centuries had these directional lines that supposedly followed a certain route.

Unlike the land,although it shifts-but not quite to the same degree.

Is it hard to escape a theme. Returning to the sea and the idea of voyage over and over again. 

Perhaps its an unconscious decision to incorporate this concept throughout the work on an ongoing basis.

Drawing is a quieter activity than painting.The limitations of working on paper/card,impose restrictions with  drawings-

Paintings can endure far more abuse. There can be in indirect narrative, a line from drawing that can go towards painting and film

 

From early on  I was aware of a seagoing heritage. My grandfather,who I never met, Lieutenant Commander Richard Sheil R.N.R.

trained as a cadet on the ship Conway and had circumnavigated the globe twice on sailing ships by the age of twenty one. 

He was harbour master at Dun Laoghaire during WW2 and was highly respected in that role. 

My own father’s interest in the sea manifested professionally for a short period as a radio officer with Irish Shipping.

Having returned to land,to take up the role as a father,he continued his enthusiasm for the sea,initially dinghy sailing in and around

Dun Laoghaire,but as the family grew so did his ambitions for deep sea sailing.

He bought,restored,and sailed back to Ireland,an unusual one off designed 25 foot sailing boat .

It had a cabin,but by todays modern expectations and regulations,would be considered ‘cramped’ for six people-

two adults,two teenagers,and two small children,including all supplies.

Subsequent adventures, included circumnavigation of the coast of Ireland,the UK,Wales the Scottish coastlines and parts of Brittany,

French and Portuguese coasts.It was on one of these early trips we encountered the then little known author and adventurer Tim Severin,

two years later embarked on the epic Brendan Voyage across the Atlantic in a leather covered currach.

 He went on to complete many other expeditions including the Sinbad,Jason,Ulysses,and China voyages.

In 1995 I reconnected with Tim and he consequently invited me as voyage artist and quarter master for the 'Spice Islands Voyage'. 

In six months and covering 2,500 miles in a specially constructed traditional Kei Island vessel and we sailed among the eastern islands of Indonesia,

that victorian naturalist and explorer Alfred Wallace. His research and travel,provided Charles Darwin with vital clues in developing

his theory of evolution by natural selection.

 

Review Quotes

“Despite their diversity,the works share an interest in communicating the experience of moving
 through the world,rather than offering static representations of nature.
Their variation make them challenging,but their sheer beauty is astonishing”   
The Anatomy of Territory - exhibition review  Catherine Leen. The Sunday Times  
He has talked of moving on from the sea,but by no means clear- looking at his imaginative body of work,that choice is his.
To say so is not to suggest a criticism but to acknowledge how convincingly he has managed to embody a vast engulfing subject.
Aidan Dunne The Irish Times
 
...But Sheil’s subjects are metaphorically larger than simple seascapes. 
Voyages become transitions of the soul, from life to death or from one state to another.
Ambivalence is expressed in the translucence of materials, the exploration of edges and the use of disembodied
text in English and in German. What is perceived at first glance reveals more over time. True alchemy!    
Catherine Hammond
 
...Sheil's "Requiem for Tiananmen" is a work of art that makes people uneasy:
an anguished outcry of the most gruesome malediction levelled against humanity in China's
recent history.  from'Requiem for Tianamen’' in Turn-Berlin Gallery,Berlin 2009.  
Christian Schlierkamp EpochTimes Berlin
 
“What he has also created are works that change as you look at them, what you feel about them will probably
change are your emotions change. If you have just suffered the experience of someone close dying,
your views may change of how you look at these works.  They may be dark at first glance, but this darkness is very soothing for some.”  
Damien Tiernan Author/broadcaster
 
"It seems as if the work of Leonard Sheil is more a bid to express the whole complex experience of voyaging
and a personal relationship with the sea. To this end, the irregular textures, the rapturous burst of colour, and a sense of something grave,
deep, old, and overwhelming suggest approaches to sublimity."   Aidan Dunne. The Irish Times
 
Sheil is all about hidden depths. A key feature of his work is the role of the layer, both literally, layers of paint, plaster,
wax and varnish, and metaphorically, layers of meaning that embrace a lifetime of experiences. 
The former transfixes, leading you deeper into the labyrinth to the latter. Those in search of a visual sound bite will be disappointed.
“The clues are all there in the paintings.”  
Ross Drinkwater. Sunday Business Post
 
“When Tim Severin decided to take an artist along to record his Spice Islands voyage to eastern indonesia in 1996,
he could hardly have made a better choice. Sheil offers a dazzling show of watercolours and mixed media inspired by the journey.
Far more than previous shows,the sea appears to have been condensed into an idea rather than a collection of forms.
Whether in No Shadows which operatic reds and blues defy a snowy filed of spume,or in the more directly fervent America,
Sheil's painting remains an enticing voyage all by itself.   
Luke Clancy The Irish Times
 
 

 

Some Highlights

1980-1984  Dun Laoghaire School of Art and Design, Dublin.

1983   Competes and concludes cycling ambitions by finishing the Shay Elliot Memorial cycle race.

1985  Awarded scholarship to Beijing language Institute,and the Beijing Academy Fine art.

1986-1990  Stopped making art entirely. Working as a gardener,painter and decorator, and various courses including tourism and heritage.

1990  Established Gull Graphics specialising in architectural illustration and presentation drawings.

1995  First major solo exhibition in Dublin at the Guinness Hop Store,and  a substantial turning point in the work.

1996  Selected as voyage artist and quartermaster for Tim Severin's 'Spice Islands Voyage'. 

              In six months and covering 2,500 miles in a specially constructed traditional Kei Island vessel, It sailed among the eastern islands of Indonesia.

1998  The Spice Islands Exhibition,The National Museum,Dublin. Irish representative to the International Watercolour Symposium in Latvia.

              Awarded best conceptual work in the medium.

2000  Moves to live in County Wicklow. Takes up cycling again and in eight years cycles over 12,000 miles in and around the county.

2004  Produces first film, KISH; initially for a artist in residence project. A short experimental documentary,with two other artists

              Nigel Baker graphics and post production,and Martyn Taig, musician.

2005  Desert's Edge' an exhibition,using the wasteland of the desert as a metaphor for war and its repercussions.

             Studies made in Morocco used as initial basis. Artist in residence at Krems, The Factory, Lower Austria.

2006  Second film 'Hermitage' selected for the Samhlaoicht Film Festival. Hermitage,another short film about Skellig Michael,where between the 6th and 8th

              centuries was an important spiritual retreat and settlement of ascetic monks.

              Artist in residence  for a second time at Krems Lower Austria,and exhibits at the Kunstverein Baden,Austria.

2007  Begins to live and work in Austria for longer periods,but returns to Ireland each year.

2008  New body of work produced in Austria,exhibited in Ireland at the Catherine Hammond Gallery Cork.

2009  Exhibits 'Requiem for Tiananemen' on the the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Beijing,at the Turn-Berlin gallery,Berlin.

2012 ‘Lange Nacht des Film Festival’ Galerie Blaugelbezwettl,Zwettl, Austria.Both ‘Hermitage’and Kish films shown in a beautiful castle and artspace in Zwettl.

2013  Joint exhibition with Irish artist Tom Phelan master printmaker at The Merikor Gallery

2014  Elected member of Kunstverein Baden. Exhibits new work in ‘Remembering Tomorrow’ with other new members.