In 1991, while I still lived in Toronto, I began a series of works which later fell under the collective title My Tower of Strength. I took the title from part of the motto on my family's coat of arms (deliberately leaving out the reference to god). The series of works were based on both secular and ecclesiastical window ruins throughout Ireland and I exhibited the first group of paintings in the first "Me & 9 Others" exhibition in Cedar Ridge Creative Centre in Scarborough, Canada in 1992. When I re-emigrated to Ireland the following year, I had already expanded on the series and brought the paintings with me. I continued with this series and exhibited the paintings and works on paper throughout the country over the next 4-5 years.
When I dropped off a work recently bought by the Office of Public Works for the State Art Collection, I was asked by the person in the storage area if it was my first piece bought by the OPW. I was able to say "no" as I remember the day in 1996 when I was so excited to get a call from Jacquie Moore (the Art Advisor for the State) asking if a certain painting was still available for purchase. However, at this time I was unable to remember exactly which painting from this series was in the State Collection - no problem! The person in the storage area was able to reference my name and find the piece: The Holly and the Oak, acrylic on canvas, 122 cm x 91.5 cm, 1992. The window here is structurally (it's been a long time since I've used anything resembling BROWN paint!) based on a medieval church ruin on the side of Bray Head (Raheenacluig, ie, the Church of the Little Bell). At the time I remember reading a book about mythology and rebirth, The Oak King and The Holly King, which most certainly influenced my work.