Wednesday 20 May 2020

Knockeen - preparations for new large painting

I am getting ready to embark on another large painting for the Memory Is My Homeland series. After moving to Ireland in the winter of 1993, we moved to Kerry early in the new year of 1994. We rented a house at Darby's Bridge and got married the following year. I think our landlord was very worried that we were getting too ensconced in our little village (the whole village celebrated our wedding, both before and on the day!) and pulled the rug out from under our rental. As we were not ready to leave Kerry just yet, we had a fair bit of help (both human and supernatural!) in finding another place to live. Knockeen, just outside Portmagee, was our rural home for the next year and a half. It is representative of the huge part of my life as an emigrant, getting settled, living rurally, being married, and continuing with my creative life. My Dad also died in 1995, which precipitated my return to civilisation the following year. But in the meantime, there was so much that I remember about this place: the brisk swims in Portmagee Channel (behind our house), the most amazing blackberries from our own boreen, the fuchsia hedges on the roadside, the brilliant red-orange montbretia and wild roses winding and beneath those hedges, the ubiquitous and mischievious cows, the smell and look of grassy wedges of unprocessed turf, the phenomenal night sky with no light pollution - perfect views of the river of the Milky Way and Comet Hyakutake, and so much more. Of course, even for a large painting I have to pick and choose what concepts will be represented.  I sketched the composition I had in my head. I inluded blackberries, calla lillies (I saw these for the first time in rural Kerry gardens and used them in an installation tribute to my Dad; I blog about that here), fuschia, wild roses, the buildings of the house, sheds, and ruins, the gate that led to the field at the front of the house, the night sky, and of course several cows.

I envisage this as mostly a daylight painting, but insist that Comet Hyakutake and the night sky must make an appearance. When I was in Venice last October, I visited the Peggy Guggenheim collection and this Magritte painting, Empire of Light, has night and day together, so my painting won't be the first to introduce such an anomaly. Whereas Magritte's painting is disturbing and somewhat menacing, I am adding the night sky in recognition of it's magnificence - the feeling of natural awe.

As everything is blooming at the moment, it was easy enough for me to simply go outside and sketch some of the foliage from the wild rose in the front yard. It is the same plant that was across the road from our house in Darby's Bridge, which we brought with us when we moved to Knockeen and planted beside the gate, then uprooted it again to bring with us when we moved back to Bray in 1996.

There is a wild fuschia hedge in the front yard too. The wild cuttings overtook the garden varieties when we planted them outside the current house when we moved here nearly 18 years ago. Each year the hedge grows to a massive size, which the bees love, and gets cut back in the winter.

I did a colour composition sketch that has all the elements and general placements that will appear in the final painting. I was looking at some previous work I have done related to Knockeen here and here. In the earlier image of the comet, it appeared in the sky at a different angle so I will probably be changing that in the final painting. A few more research drawings and I'll be ready to start!

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