Look what pulled up outside our gallery this week – Gavin managed to get take this picture, which is unhindered ( miraculously ) by the usual clutter of cars and vans on main street. A very large french family disembarked from it straight away – hard to believe such a car could make the journey this far west. We’ve been reliably informed that it is a Citroen Traction Avant Commerciale 11CV. These cars were built in France between 1952 and 1957 – I’d like to think that our 2006 Toyota Rav 4 will last as long but I’m not so sure..
‘Blue Cow’ by Aaron Holton
We are delighted to welcome three new artists to the Lavelle Art Gallery this summer – Frances Ryan, Dave West and Aaron Holton. Continue reading →
2016 has been a year of false starts and I have found it difficult to settle into a good working routine. I messed up a couple of paintings early in the year and it was all the harder to get back. There is always a countless number of tasks to hoover up my time when I allow them to. Then there were the usual winter related flus and viruses, one particularly nasty one has just made it’s way through three members of the family, myself included and here we are it’s May already.
If I have learned one thing over the past few months, it is that I need to allocate some time every week to painting and stick to it. Then I must use the time as efficiently as possible. I cleared out my painting studio a couple of weeks ago and this helped to make a fresh start. For me, it’s a question of focus and confidence. I visualise what I want to do and then I set about getting it down on canvas. I don’t worry too much about making mistakes, I just keep going until the painting is finished and it is usually fairly clear to me when I can’t do any more with a piece.
The inspiration for this painting came from a photo I took near Maam Cross in January. I used this image for the basic composition – the large mountain in the background, the strong cleft through the landscape and the swirling grasses.
This is how the piece started out. I took the photo late at night so there’s some reflection. I thought afterwards that the mountain looked a bit too like Eyre’s Rock so I scaled it down a bit at the next stage.
This next stage is interesting because the inks and paint are still very wet – the ink has bubbled where I’ve applied it. I’ve put in lots of contrast – blue to dampen down the background and dark brown to highlight the blue channel and some shadows in the grasses. I’ve tried to introduce lots of movement in these grass shapes with each application of colour.
This photo was taken once the paint had dried. The colours have died down, although the movement is still there. At this point, the piece is almost ready for varnishing.
I added some red paint in a few places before varnishing as I felt it needed a bit of warmth. I’m happy with this one and glad to be back to work.
Cover image ‘Sweet Song of Spring’ by Mary Donnelly
(This article will feature in the February edition of the Connemara Journal 2016)
Mary Donnelly has lived and worked as an artist in Connemara for most of her adult life. She has received many accolades throughout her career, among them the Oriel Gallery Award for a landscape of distinction at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 2004. She also received the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2013 and she has had solo shows in Dublin, Australia and New York. Her most recent show was in the Paul McKenna gallery in Omagh last autumn.
Originally from County Louth, Mary uprooted her painting studio from Dublin’s Temple bar in 1991 in search of a new landscape. She found in Connemara ‘a place of extreme weather and sublime beauty,’ conditions that would combine to feed her artistic practice here for the next quarter of a century. Mary takes her inspiration from the contours of Connemara, often seeking out quieter places – a small copse or field, rather than the dramatic mountainous peaks you might usually associate with the West of Ireland. Mary describes her landscapes as ‘groundless’ and many appear to exist without a distinct skyline or depth of field in the traditional sense. More significant for Mary is the metaphor this provides for an exploration of the transcendent nature of landscape. She views the line of the horizon as a sacred place where Heaven and Earth come together. The surface of her paintings appear suffused with a silvery light, the half-light of winter, Mary’s favourite season of the year. It is under this delicate film, that the land and it’s timeless mysteries are revealed – the hidden furrows of another era or the gentle arch of an animal grazing, as animals have grazed here for centuries.
‘Dusk, Cow with Calf’ by Mary Donnelly
In some paintings, the activity of man is evident in the form of a telegraph pole or the faint outline of a building, but it is always unobtrusive. Others paintings contain an object within the work – a wire strung across the canvas might indicate a fence. Mary explains that the external nature of the additional material may serve as a gateway or threshold for the viewer.
‘Frosted Darkness’ by Mary Donnelly
The poetry of Patrick Kavanagh was an early influence and Mary cites the poems ‘March’ and ‘Wet Evening in April’ especially. The lines from ‘March’ continue to resonate with her most current work –
‘There’s a wind blowing
Cold through the corridors,
( Patrick Kavanagh 1904 – 1967 )
Music fills Mary’s studio, helping her to focus. Currently she is listening to ‘Stabat Mater’ by Italian composer Agostino Steffani and the music of contemporary mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli. Mary quotes the words of William Blake who said that poetry, painting and music are ‘the three powers in man of conversing with paradise’
Most of the paintings are worked on for several months at a time, in some cases up to a year. Each begins with a drawing and layers are built up slowly and carved away to create the sense of a surface that has been revealed. Mary tells me that the best advice she has been given in relation to her art is to hold on to the adage to ‘never give up.’ I ask what advice she might give to aspiring artists and she replies; ‘to understand that being an artist is a privilege and to always remember that you are a seeker of truth.’
Mary’s work may be viewed in Clifden at the Lavelle Art Gallery or online at www.lavelleartgallery.ie
It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my painting and this is largely because I haven’t done a lot of studio work since September. This combined with the fact that our computer hard drive broke down, so I can’t process my photos as I normally would. Life has been been demanding in all sorts of ways since September that I could not have predicted. I have found myself embroiled in a variety of matters associated with a number of committees and other groups that have taken up far too much of my time and energy. My resolution for the new year is clear – I’m not going to take on any more battles and I am going to spend a lot more time painting. How wonderfully simple is that?
Getting back to being creative after an intensive period of work is always difficult and I think that there is a natural cycle of creativity – a time for industry and inventiveness and a time to slow down and prepare for the next busy period. I feel like I am somewhere in between at the moment as I am thinking about my next body of work but also keen to finish some pieces before Christmas. We sold the last of my seascapes a couple of weeks ago in our gallery and this has forced me to focus my attention in this direction. I wanted to make some winter seascapes, dark brooding ones that reflect the weather at the moment which is stormy and unpredictable. I imagine myself out at sea reaching back towards a shadow of land in the distance and in another piece, the sky is the dominant feature, broiling and curling over the waves beneath. Here’s a few photos – the quality isn’t great as I took them with my phone.
I’ve kept this image small as it is slightly out of focus and this is accentuated when it is reproduced larger – insert another pledge for the new year – sort out my computer!
Both of these pieces were worked over a relatively short period. I find that the work improves as I gain confidence with my ability to express a mood as freely as possible and this often happens during short energetic bursts of work. If I get bogged down in technicalities, the paintings lose this energy. I need to give myself permission to be in the landscape ( or seascape ) while I am working and to feel what it is like to be there. This might sound like fancy, but it is simply where I am at the moment with this work.
Photography by Mark Furniss
I’ve been away from this blog for a while, caught up in catching up since my exhibition in September. Fortunately I have the Connemara Journal to bring me back to writing and this piece is in the the current November edition. It reflects what we have been seeing here in Connemara for the past few weeks, although we have had some wintry moments since. Today I’m looking out at clear skies and cool sun and I’m glad of it. I will post about my painting soon. Continue reading →
My Studio on the top floor of the gallery
As our season reaches something of a lull during the back to school period, Gavin and myself are busy making work for two forthcoming exhibitions. Gavin is finishing some large paintings for an exhibition to be opened shortly in the Toradh Gallery in County Meath. Collectively, it is the largest body of work that he has produced since he developed his collage/painting technique about six years ago. Continue reading →
My studio has been slowly filling up with paintings for my forthcoming exhibition for Clifden Arts week 2015. There’s nothing quite like a deadline to focus the mind and I’ve been taking advantage of any free time available to get some work done. Continue reading →
It’s been a busy few weeks and I am looking forward to having more time very soon – school starts in about two weeks and I will soon finish my part time job which will have lasted almost eight weeks. In the meantime, I’ve been burning the midnight oil at the studio in an effort to get some work together for my next series of paintings. Continue reading →
Summer is always busy in Clifden and this year is no exception, in spite of the atrocious weather. There is a multitude of demands – children to be occupied, ferried around, fed and watered ( yes the basics, ) gallery business to be attended to, a new part time summer job ( teaching art at the Elm Tree Centre in Clifden which is an absolute joy for me ) and last but not least, paintings to be made. Continue reading →