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 →
This piece was written for the current issue of the Connemara Journal, out now.
The 2014 Sea Week Festival celebrated its 30th year this year with a series of events that brought the village of Letterfrack on to the national stage. It began on the 17th October with a visit by President Higgins who opened the Letterfrack Poetry Trail and Small Works Exhibition in the National Park.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina at the launch of the Poetry trail with Leo Hallissey and David Keane, photo by Aoife Herriot.
The Connemara Environmental Education and Cultural Centre commissioned nine poems by nine of Irelands most eminent poets for the occasion. The poems are carved onto plaques made of native larch, designed by Conservation Centre Letterfrack. They are mounted on slate from the old industrial school and strategically placed around the National Park, Connemara West centre and village of Letterfrack. Some of the poems are specific to their site while others are more general in nature. Together they make for a most enjoyable and thought provoking walk for the community and for our visitors. The poets are Theo Dorgan, Paula Meehan, Rita Ann Higgins, Joan McBreen, Moya Cannon, Michael Gorman, Louis de Paor, Mary O’Malley and Eva Bourke. Letterfrack is a thriving centre of education today but it has always acknowledged its troubled history in a spirit of openness that is respectful to those who lived here in less happier times. If you haven’t been on the Poetry Trail yet, go out and enjoy it soon, it is well worth a visit.
President Higgins views the work with David Keane, photo by Aoife Herriot
The Small Works Exhibition is an annual event that is a gem of an idea brought into fruition by Leo Hallissey, the driving force behind this festival. It has become an integral part of Sea Week and it is unusual because the artwork is shown anonymously, allowing the viewer to decide what he or she likes without being influenced by a name. It is also unusual because each painting is made available for sale by the artists at the knock down price of €90.00 or €120.00 for a framed piece. The generosity of spirit at the heart of this collective makes it special and this is shared by the artists and by everyone who purchases an art work.
One of the artworks at the Small Works Exhibition
‘The Move away from the Coast’ – painting at the Small Works Exhibition
David Keane prepared this years brief which was entitled ‘Time and Tide.’ Artists living in the community were asked to reflect on the fragile nature of existence on the edge of the Atlantic, bearing in mind the impact of last Winter’s storms. The show was skillfully curated by visual artist Mary Hession and artist and wood turner Angie Williams – no easy task with literally dozens of artworks encompassing a wide range of styles. President Higgins took time to view each piece before he shared a few words with the assembled crowd. The president and his wife Sabina were presented with a hand bound copy of poems from the trail, transcribed by the poets themselves as well as two beautiful productions from Artisan House and a wooden bowl made by Angie Williams.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina with Mary Ruddy from Artisan House and wood turner and artist Angie Williams, photo by Aoife Herriot
These two events were highlights for me but they were just part of a rich and varied programme that celebrates the sea through music and dance, walks, workshops, a spectacular ‘After the Light’ parade and much more. Congratulations and thanks to all those involved for making this years festival such a great success.
Letterfrack’s annual Sea Week festival is underway. It’s an exciting programme of events – music workshops, conferences, walks and visual art all of which have the subject of the sea at their core. This annual celebration is running for many years now under the guidance and boundless energy of Leo Hallissey and it is always a welcome opportunity for the community to reflect on the gift of our natural surroundings here in Connemara. Last Saturday night, I went along to the opening of the Small Works exhibition taking place in the Connemara National Park. This year the theme is the ‘Island’ and this exhibition is a collective whereby artists who are living and working in the area are invited to participate. The really interesting thing about this show is that everyone presents their work anonymously. In this way, established artists ( some known on an international scale ) are shown alongside much lesser known artists and the viewer is invited to see each piece on it’s own merit, without partiality or bias. Another distinctive feature of the show is the prices – everything on view is for sale at the agreed price of €90.00 unframed or €130.00 framed. This idea of bringing art to the people by making it affordable is supported by all of the artists who allow their work to be shown at a low value and it gives people here the opportunity to buy an original artwork, some perhaps for the first time. Leo introduced the show with this in mind and he spoke about it as a ‘hymn of hope and generosity’ and a ‘reclaiming of values’. These things are worthy of praise, what we are left with really after the shock of the last four years and the excess that went before it.
‘Where Sea meets Sky’
Music is always an important part of the evening and this year was no exception as we were treated to a number of tunes from young local musicians before Galway city arts officer James Harrold took the floor and officially opened the show. He spoke about the islands in terms of mythology and dreams, as symbols of life and interesting places to explore. He was full of praise for Letterfrack as a thriving community of artists and a place of enormous energy and diversity, characteristics which make this small place shine out among other larger western towns. He also spoke about our unique landscape and coastline, how privileged we are to have the sea at our side and how enriching this is for our community when so many counties are locked in by land.
‘Detritus of my studio arranged as an Island’
My own first impressions of the exhibition took account of the way it was presented and all credit to the meticulous eye of curator and artist David Keane and painter Mary Hession. The show has a real sense of cohesion in spite of the enormous variety of work and scale, framed and unframed pieces. I recognised some of the artists by their style of painting and drawing and in some cases by their chosen materials. However I was unable to pin down most of the pieces and I really enjoyed the sense of mystery that this brought about and the close examination of each piece that it prompted. I found it inspiring to see such a variety of responses to one theme, like a chorus of quiet separate voices singing together. Some of the pieces can be clearly read as island forms, other paintings suggest it with colours and other imagery. All of them made me look at my own work in a new way and question how I might explore new materials in the future.
The artists participating in this exhibition are – Barrie Cooke, Margaret Egan, Bernie Dignam, Mary Donnelly, Debbie Watkins, Alice Coyle, Brigid Sealy, Laura Cull, Jill Scott, Angie Williams, Oilbhe Scanell, Gavin Lavelle, Margaret Irwin West, Tania Gray, Mary Hession, David Keane, Leah Beggs, Will O’Kane, Karina Heaslip and Dorothy Cross.
Don’t let this one pass you by, it’s well worth a visit and it runs till October 29th.
Cover image by David Keane
I visited an art exhibition in the National Park in Letterfrack this week as part of the annual Bog week celebrations that are held here. This year, four artists were invited to contribute to a show with the theme of the Boglands in mind. The artists in question are all living locally so just as the exhibition champions the Bog week festival, it also recognises and salutes some of the artists who live and work in this area.
This year Bog week celebrates the work of Laura Cull, Gemma Coyne, Jay Murphy and Bernie Dignam.
Bernie Dignam is a textile artist and printmaker whose tapestries and woven batik and silk hangings resonate a long tradition and colourfully portray the subject.
Jay Murphy presents a variety of work for this show which includes some large paintings of old boats in mixed media as well as some small square landscapes on board in rich pastel hues.
Gemma Coyne has produced a series of photographs as well as a video installation. Her photography captures her placement of wood and felted objects in the natural landscape. All of these artists have paid homage to the theme in a sympathetic and creative way through their work but I have singled out the paintings of Laura Cull here as they resonated with me especially.
Here is an example of one of Laura’s paintings below.
I love the sinuous lines and delicate colours of these. They are so strongly evocative of the Bog but in a light and ethereal way. They make me think of precious remains – perhaps those uncovered bog bodies or some ancient fabric belonging to an old chieftan.
Here are two more paintings below – similar textures but this time with vivid greens and browns.
These green paintings seem tangible and organic – perhaps some piece of ground observed under a microscope. They connect well with the blue shadowy paintings and bring diversity and depth to the collection of works on show. I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition and it continues over the holiday week end until June 4th. Go see if you can!
This week, I attended the opening of a joint exhibition of work by two artists from Connemara. The title of the show is ‘Tales from the West‘ and it takes place in the
Peppercanister Gallery in Herbert Street in Dublin.
The first artist is my husband Gavin Lavelle and so I have watched the progress of his work for this show at first hand. Gavin studied fine art painting at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin from 1986 – 1991. He paints full – time as well as running his own gallery (The Lavelle Art Gallery) in the old family home here in Clifden.
His work is a mixture of collage and paint, sometimes applied on flat surfaces but also on wooden discs, icon shaped panels of board and specially formed domes of wood. The cut outs come from a multitude of sources – maps, printed work, texts, architecture, art history and religious imagery. These blend with paint and ink to form strange worlds of the imagination where opposing themes, histories and influences merge.
Here’s an example below simply called ‘Large Triptych Box’.
Rosie McGurran is also living and working in Connemara in the village of Roundstone. Rosie grew up in Belfast and studied fine art at the University of Ulster. She is a member of the Royal Ulster Academy of the Arts and she has worked in residencies in Rome, Australia, Iceland and New York. She discovered Roundstone and the island of Inishlacken in the late 1990’s and this ultimately led her to move here permanently, establishing Connemara as her home and also as the inspiration for her work. Rosie’s paintings describe the landscape, buildings, winding stone walls and field formations that make Connemara unique. A female figure commands the presence of some of these – she gazes outwards with a thoughtful, questioning look and she seems to gather houses and ruins in her skirts or on her head. These paintings are a response to the communities who live here and to those who are long gone. Rosie has a special affinity with the abandoned island of Inishlacken just off the shore of Roundstone. This was once a lively community which thrived from its own natural resource – the sea – but now it is a shadow of that time, it’s people dispersed, it’s houses abandoned except for a few Summer homes.
This painting of Rosie’s below is of Inishlacken.
The opening night was very enjoyable and there was a lively and welcoming atmosphere thanks to gallery owner Bryan Murphy and a thoughtful and eloquent introduction provided by Mr. Frank X Buckley. The show runs until June 2nd 2012. Go see it if you can.