Wednesday 29 September 2021

Eamon Colman "Into the Mountain"

 A week ago I trekked (via car) to Thurles in Tipperary to The Source Arts Centre in order to see Eamon Colman's exhibition of recent work, Into the Mountain. The Source is nicely situated in the middle of town next to the river. I don't know how all those clouds made it into the picture, I thought it was a sunny autumn day...

Colman's work references poet/nature writer Nan Shepherd's paean to the mountains of Scotland, The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. The importance of Shepherd's belief in wandering and understanding the landscape, rather than just reaching a summit, is reflected in Colman's work by his use of colour, line, and the multi layering visible (and hidden too!) in both paper and paint. Colman has his own mountains to explore here in Ireland: he lives rurally and Slieve na Mban is visible from near his home. All of the works make some reference to both his explorations of nature and to his personal explorations. The large collage on the first wall is inviting as well as sublime: Into the Mountain gives an overview of the exhibition and each work thereafter allows the viewer a further chance to explore.

To breathe with birds is the only work that has a wall to itself (the second wall), which commands especial focus. This piece stands out for me through its rich, abstract musicality. As well as the birdsong implied by the title, my imagination takes the black and white oblongs as keys on a piano, and the yellow as a swaying, dancing skirt or bellows. I do not force structural images to be read in this way, but they are welcome to participate in my understanding of the painting. Bellows, of course, are full of breath, so again the title has directed me.

The third and fourth walls had grids of works that seemed to be in conversation with each other and with the several pieces not included in the grid, but on the same wall. (The picture below is from the fourth wall.)

The upper left piece in the picture below (from the third wall), put me pleasantly in mind of one of my favourite works in the Picasso Museum in Antibes, Nicolas de Stael's Le Concert (I've blogged about de Stael previously, here and here). The shape reminded me of a piano, and then, indeed Colman told me a story about finding a piano in the woods... 

This is a view of the same grid from a different direction. Although any photo does not do justice to the original work, as a painter I was drawn to the vibrancy of the colours and the sheer painterliness of the collages! 

The collage form allows for additional layering, whereby juxtapositions of colour become separately defined yet retain their unity with the whole painting. 

Collage allows for a certainty in the creation of a three dimensional space within an abstracted two dimensional work.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Rathfarnham Castle - wall textures

 A few weeks ago I was at Rathfarnham Castle to see the current exhibitions, which I blogged about here and here, but I also wanted to have some photos taken of the various wall textures. From previous blogs, about Rathfarnham Castle and other old and/or ancient sites, you will already know how these things fascinate me! As I am getting a small brochure made for my own exhibition, Memory Is My Homeland, in Rathfarnham Castle next spring, I decided I wanted some of the building's texture to feature in the background of the brochure, images of my artwork and information in the foreground. The first floor of Rathfarnham Castle, where the exhibition will be, features amazing walls especially in The Dining Room, where most of these pictures were taken.

This pic is from the same section of wall but leaving out the structural "framing".

I think this is actually outside The Dining Room near the stairwell, but I really love the way the plasterwork restoration has left some of the bare wall structure to be revealed.

Whether the peeling is from ancient wallpaper or paint jobs, I love the layering that has been left visible on the surface of the wall when the building was restored.

This area doesn't have as much layering, but there is a pleasant grittiness to the surface.

This is from the same section of wall as the previous.

When restoring the castle, the walls of other rooms were not left so distressed and there is a fabulous contrast in some of the fine plasterwork restoration with the walls of The Dining Room.

I remember seeing images of the work of Canadian painter, Andrea Bolley, back in the late 70s when I attended the Gallery School at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto (which I have previously mentioned here), and at the time her paintings were obsessed with layers on construction hoardings and billboards. I found this visual obsession with time really interesting then and I still do. Toronto is most definitely a new world city, though, and images of the passage of time can only be gleaned from the modern. Rathfarnham Castle is Elizabethan in time period, so this layering shows time on a much older level! For further information on Rathfarnham Castle go directly to their website, here.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Kingston Road: Waiting - painting finished!

I thought that the large Knockeen was going to be the last painting in this series, but then I had some ideas to do a few more, so got to work. The first of the new paintings was also going to be the largest, but considerably smaller than Knockeen and Kingswood. I decided I wanted the works to be stretched and in doing so discovered that pressed cloth is a lot more difficult to stretch than canvas! However, I do like the  unpredictability of painting on this material and think it is appropriate to the concept of memory as being sometimes blurry and unreliable, so I carried on.

I started painting, as usual, by working out the composition in yellow. I fully expect some of the yellow lines to show through in the final work and like the idea of revealing the process as I go along.

In the mid 1980s, when I lived in Toronto, I had a bachelor apartment on Kingston Rd, not far from where I grew up. Though this apt was technically in Scarborough, it was only several blocks away from Toronto, and about a 20 minute walk downhill to Lake Ontario. I was in my final years of university at the time. For an installation I was working on I painted sheer curtains, and it is those painted sheers that are hanging up in the windows (as they did) behind the figure.

The figure is, of course, a representation of the younger me, and the red checked table-cloth over my all-purpose folding card table had to make an appearance.

What I refer to as a "small" painting is relative, as is obvious by this working picture. That's Kingswood on the wall behind; I unrolled it and hung it over Knockeen, then covered the two with plastic sheeting so they wouldn't get spattered accidentally while I worked on the smaller easel paintings.

The painting in its final days. The xmas lights were a year-round thing, just as they are now in my house, though fairy lights are much smaller.

The finished painting -
Kingston Road: Waiting, acrylic on pressed cloth, 76 cm x 102 cm, 2021 

For all previous works from the Memory Is My Homeland series, please do a simple search within this blog (I have made many posts of the works in progress and completed). Also, the origins of this project may be found under the label The Home Project, as I called it when I hadn't yet decided on a name for the work.

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Pathos - exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle

I was initially planning to write something about the Pathos exhibition last week to follow up on my post about the Diana Copperwhite exhibition that was showing at Rathfarnham Castle at the same time. However, I got sidetracked by the Pluid: National Comfort Blanket exhibition at Farmleigh House, which I thought deserved more urgent attention. Anyway, I blogged about Diana Copperwhite's exhibition here, so now I will continue where I left off.

This is an overview of the Pathos group exhibition in the "Pistol Room", which is just off the larger rooms on the first floor where Copperwhite's work is displayed. I am not sure of the point of the show's title because, other than one particular piece of an empty room, I did not think the work largely connected me to feelings of pity or sadness.

This exhibition consisted of small works, appropriate to the size of the room and I like it when the false walls are arranged at angles to each other. I chose to look at the work in a clockwise direction.

 On the first false wall were two paintings by Sinéad ni Mhaonaigh (left) and a framed watercolour by Alice Maher (right). I am always pleased to see Maher's sensitive drawings, and the small watercolour entitled The Glorious Maid of the Charnel House, from 2016, was easily my favourite piece in the show.

At first I thought this piece did not belong in the show at all - the graphic simplicity of it made me think of an album cover or high class graffiti art. But after several looks at the posterised image I began to laugh. I had never heard of the Canadian artist or art collective, Royal Art Lodge, and was curious about the meaning of Chickens. There are definitely two stylised human images as well as the chicken itself but the context eludes me.

The final, largest display wall has a disparate grouping of paintings and a wall sculpture on the end wall. Again, I am not sure what brought these works together under the title, but it was an interesting little exhibition. 

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Pluid - The National Comfort Blanket

This week I had intended to write about the other exhibition, Pathos, at Rathfarnham Castle, but after seeing the Pluid exhibition on Sunday, I decided it was a priority because it is a fundraiser in which all of the works may be viewed here and many are available for auction in aid of Pieta House, a charity with a mandate for suicide prevention. I blogged about the Pluid Project back in April of this year when I decided to get involved; you can see that post here. While the initial intention of the project was to create a National Comfort Blanket where the individual contributions would be sown together into one giant work, it soon became apparent to the organisers, Claire Halpin and Madeleine Hellier, that both the variety of media and the number of artworks involved would make this an impossible task. Instead, the numbered works were laid out on a long platform and visitors to the exhibition could make their way around the table to view the squares.

Looking up the tables at the multitude of contributions! Admittedly it was a little overwhelming but also gorgeous to see. The two monoprints I submitted, Rosehips and Wild Rose (#81 & #82), are visible towards the bottom centre.

The brief was completely up to the contributing artist to interpret: so a 6 inch square encompassed both 2D and 3D work and any medium that could be thought of was used! I was particularly drawn to Ciara O'Connor's stitch-drawing image of a parent and child making pasta together.

There were three primary schools that took part in this project: Fairview NS (Dublin), Holy Family NS (Monkstown) and Gaelscoil Nás na Ríogh (Naas). This picture also shows a variety of textile-based work: knitting, crochet, felting, beadwork and quilting. 

Jenny Mahony's limestone sculpture (centre) is a beautiful example of a fully 3D artwork in the exhibition. As #56 - an early piece to arrive at Pluid headquarters - it certainly shows how impossible it would have been to stitch the works together as a literal blanket!

2D work took the form of painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and various types of printmaking. There were a few examples of sun-printed cyanotypes. The print at centre-right is by Val O'Regan.

I was thrilled to see a ceramic piece in the exhibition by Orla Kaminska (upper left), whose work I had seen at the annual Ceramics Ireland exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle in June (I blogged about that exhibition here). I was delighted to discover that Fungi (centre right), the beautifully debossed and gold leaf embellished hand-bound book by Fiona O'Grady, was a blank sketchbook! As someone who enjoys bookbinding myself it is such a treat to see what techniques another artist is using.

This picture again shows a variety of works in different media and techniques: painting, felting, photography, crochet and stitching. The gold embroidery on denim is an extremely delicate drawing of wild garlic by Mairéad Harrington, which to her were a comforting sign of spring. As I have wild garlic growing annually below the fuschia hedge in my front yard (from which I make pesto each spring), I delighted in this piece.

In many of my own art pieces I have referred to my "dream boat": an image of a red-sailed boat in the ocean that first appeared to me in a dream and which I have come to associate with my self. Seeing this marker drawing of the red-sailed boat (centre) by Laura Geragerthy brought a true smile to my masked face, like meeting an old friend.

Human touch, both painted and photographed, like these photos (top, black and white) by Joshua Sullivan, has such strong associations during this time of "social distancing". Hugging and holding hands, when possible, have become far more important and nuanced than at any other time in our lives. I was also delighted to see the mokuhanga print of Kate McDonagh. Stillness (centre) "reflects the solace [she] found in the quiet skies throughout the Pandemic particularly [during] the first lockdown when no planes were flying." I became acquainted with McDonagh's practice during one of Graphic Studio Dublin's "Artist Beyond the Studio" series of lockdown remote artist talks a few months ago. A recording of it can be watched here.

Comfort in nature was another theme found in various forms throughout the "blanket". I was particularly drawn to the bog cotton works by Pamela DeBrí. I used to live rurally in Kerry and the field next to me was where I first saw bog cotton, a sight which I thought wonderful and beautiful. It was a joy to see both the photograph of a cotton field and the real things immortalised on rag paper.

This picture shows varying 3D works by different artists. I enjoyed Grant McEwen's stainless steel Jigsaw Time (reflecting the overhead beams of the cowshed) and it gave my family the opportunity to do a squishy masked selfie. In front of McEwen's piece is the blue origami and graph paper work, Blue Pavilion, by Helen Barry and beside that is Nourishment, a driftwood and copper piece by Helen OBrien. Nearby I was struck by the altarpiece quality of Michelle Boyle's The Sun Rises in Spite of Everything, a mixed media work that includes gold leaf, granite and découpage elements to create something mystical. To the right of Boyle's work is a blue glass abstract landscape work, Bay, by Barbara Keneally.

There were a surprising number of glass works submitted and I was particularly drawn to the colourful works (centre) of Maresa Edwards, which were based on her daily walking routes.

Obviously it is impossible for me to feature every worthy artwork here - there are more than 1200 works! - so please look at the auction website, here, to view individual works and find out more about the artist's response to the theme of comfort. Altogether it is quite amazing how much thought and work and expression can go into a six inch square. Each artwork is so individual and so human - this is truly a project that has shown the depth of feeling that individuals are willing to show during this extraordinary time and to share their comfort with others. Brava Claire and Madeleine for intiating this project! Thank you.