Terry Bradley

Published: 01 October, 2008 - Featured in Skin Deep 165, October, 2008

If you're looking for some original artwork to brighten up your tattoo studio or home, you could do a lot worse than opting for one of Belfast born Terry Bradley's paintings (or prints if you don't happen to have 10K going spare)

Terry’s unique style of painting has earned him a place as one of Ireland’s most recognisable and successful artists; his contemporary European feel and modern classicism creating a unique ‘Bradley Tradition’ admired by collectors and fans alike. Not bad for an ‘accidental artist’ whose debut exhibition was the result of a bet. Born in Belfast in 1965, Terry’s artwork reflects a dark and dirty, sexually provocative and beautiful underworld as experienced during his time spent in the fashion and modelling worlds in which he moved in Dublin in the ‘90s. More recent work focuses on the world of burlesque in both New York and Europe, a subject that sits easily with Terry’s themes and style. While honing his skills, Terry’s paintings have consistently featured tattoos, with the subjects of his artwork steadily becoming more and more heavily tattooed. Most acceptable, I think you will agree!

Morning Terry, how did you get into art and become a painter?
I started out painting an exhibition for the owner of Dublin nightclub, The PoD, after a drunken bet that I wouldn’t do it. I set up the first exhibition and it was a complete sell-out so that was me.

Were you formally trained?
I’ve never been trained as an artist although I’ve never known a time when I didn’t paint or draw. I think having no formal training has allowed me to develop my own style without someone telling me I wasn’t doing it right, which would have had a hugely stifling effect.

Tell me about your style.
Nearly all my early work was of women. I paint very strong, confident women who know who they are. I admire women’s inner strength. I recently visited the New York Burlesque Festival which influenced the women I painted. Then I discovered a dockland area around Belfast, which used to be called Sailortown, and I started to paint the dockers who came from there and the tattoos I imagined they would have had.

What influences your work?
Movies, music and personal experience. I observe people around me all the time and am a voyeur by nature.

Why the tattoo theme?
I think tattoos are a good way of getting across an image. Imagery has been a very negative thing in Ireland’s past and I like to portray strong imagery in a more positive way, especially with the dockers; women have a sexier message.

What is the significance of the tattoos in your work?
I see tattoos themselves as an art form and I love designing them. It’s another way of getting my message across.

Have you any tattoos or involvement in the tattoo scene?
Yes, I designed my first tattoo a while ago but I intend to get more. It was done in Tommy Gunn in Belfast.

Your paintings are very dark. Is there a reason why?
The paintings change depending on my mood. I do paint lighter ones but I don’t have a lot of control over that, it just feels right at the time.

What is your interest in the burlesque scenes depicted in your work?
I love the history of burlesque, the old world of velvet and colour and Paris. The history of Sailortown has a similar romance for me.

Where are you recentley exhibiting?
I will have had my next solo exhibition at the Art Lounge in Birmingham at the beginning of June.

What are your future plans?
I am hoping to exhibit in Los Angeles before the end of the year - I’m in the process of setting it up.

Do you have any interest in exhibiting at tattoo conventions given the content of some of your paintings?
Maybe at some point, I’m planning to visit my first tattoo convention later this year so I’ll have a better idea after that.

There has been recent debate over the role tattoos/tattoo artists play in the art scene as a whole. What are your opinions regarding this?
I think it’s a fantastic art form all of its own, it has an important place in the art scene.


Interview by Rebecca Burton


Skin Deep 165 1 October 2008 165