The Journey

If you like people watching, you'll love this exhibition at the Alley Arts Centre

People watching is my favourite hobby, and it is something that artist Anthony Pilbro has managed to perfect and transfer through his impressive and detailed paintings.

His latest exhibition, entitled The Journey, is made up of strikingly observant scenes from everyday life, which are dotted throughout the Alley Arts Centre’s exhibition space, giving any reality TV show a run for its money: it's dramatic, eye-catching and thought-provoking.

The Mayo-based artist also took some inspiration from WH Auden’s poetry. In particular, the theme of ‘The Watchers’ is something Pilbro has been analysing for a number of years – the dilemmas and drama which arise from everyday life.

Having studied at The Slade School of Fine Art and Croydon Art College in London, Pilbro’s work has been displayed in Europe and has won several awards both at home and abroad.

It is easy to see why. Viewing his work is an interesting, enlightening and somewhat addictive experience. Pilbro’s intention was to make the exhibition as life-like as possible and it is a great achievement.

Spectators can expect to view the work as if they were strolling down the street or peering through a window whilst enjoying a cup of coffee, deep in thought; an on-looker catching glimpses of situations, snippets of conversations and scenes, seeing things through the corner of their eye.

Some of the scenarios are quite dream-like, but most of the work features ordinary looking people doing quite ordinary things. The viewpoint continually changes as you travel through the exhibition space, giving the impression of continuous drama. Pilbro’s skill as an artist is commendable; his pieces keep the viewer on their toes.

In many of the paintings here, Pilbro breaks up the surface and uses multiple perspectives and a variety of materials to create unexpected paint effects and some very obscure but fascinating images.

The most interesting aspect of his work is often the activity taking place in the background. Ambiguous figures or objects are found lurking behind the main focus of the image, such as blindfolded men, darkened individuals climbing staircases, and eerily lit houses, all adding to the drama and heightening curiosity.

While you might expect there to be an overall narrative or story behind The Journey, the pieces on display do not appear to be connected. As such, we are to view each situation as a stand-alone event, it seems.

Some of the titles highlight the vast array of themes Pilbro attempts to address in the exhibition, ranging from ‘The Father and Son’, to ‘The Window Cleaner and the Kite (the Immaculate Conception)’, and ‘The Refuge’.

The work is all available for sale, and prices range from £350 to £800. While they do seem quite expensive, bear in mind that the lucky owner will have the opportunity to people watch from the comfort of their own living room.

The Journey runs at The Alley Arts Centre, Strabane, until Friday, August 19.