Corby double Olympian has artwork selected for London exhibition

Brendan Reilly competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona as well as the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney

By Callum Faulds
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 6:00 am
Brendan Reilly with his artwork at the exhibition
Brendan Reilly with his artwork at the exhibition

Corby’s very own double Olympian Brendan Reilly has had his artwork on show as part of an exhibition in London.

His artwork was available to view in central London's Zari Gallery from May 9 to May 27 as part of their ‘The Art of the Athlete' exhibition.

One of the pieces of Brendan’s work that was part of the exhibition is a life size portrait of his hero Jesse Owens, an American track and field athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games.

Brendan created the portrait as a way to pass the time during lockdown.

Brendan said: “During lockdown I was bored and found a bit of lining paper in my garage that I then proceeded to charcoal/oil and gold leaf a life size portrait of one of my heroes, Jesse Owens. The stories of that man and what he did was just incredible.”

During the period that Brendan was creating his portrait the murder of George Floyd occurred, sparking the Black Lives Matter movement and gaining further international attention.

Brendan’s portrait of Jesse Owens features the message Black Lives Matter.

Some of Brendan's artwork. Flames of Glory: Usain Bolt

He said: “I did it as a symbolic message for my kids: get involved, don’t sit back.”

Brendan is a retired double Olympic high jumper who represented Great Britain at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona as well as representing Ireland at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

He said: “I was dedicated to jumping over sticks. I jumped for Great Britain in ‘92 but missed ‘96 with an achilles injury.

“Before the Sydney games my [Irish] mother was ill and I wanted to jump for her.”

Some of Brendan's artwork. Flames of Change: Caitlyn Jenner

During the Sydney games Brendan competed alongside his wife Sarah Reilly and walked in with her hand in hand during the opening ceremony.

He said: “There were officials telling me that I need to walk with the men but I said try and stop me.”

Born in Yorkshire, Brendan moved to Corby when he was seven and started high jumping at 14. The following year he broke the world record for 15-year-olds.

He said: “When I was 14 I went to the library and read a book on high jumping, learned all I could and that year got a bronze medal. I then contacted a coach and broke the record the following year.”

Some of Brendan's artwork. Flames of Passion: Lloyd Cowan

While Brendan showed a natural aptitude for the sport, he did have lots of training in the form of gaelic football which he took part in on the fields next to Rockingham Triangle.

Brendan now lives in south Yorkshire but still pops into Corby now and again.

He said: “Corby was a big part of my life and I’m a life member at Corby Athletics Club.

“I think the ‘Corby madness’ was part of why I was successful, I wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone.”

To read more about The Art of the Athlete exhibitions visit the Zari Gallery website.