Wednesday, 24 May 2023

rooftop archive 12 - the noughties

I think this might be the last post about the rooftop archive. For my penultimate rooftop archive post visit here and within that post are links to all the previous posts of the archive. Though this sketch is probably from 1991, I forgot to process it and post it in the correct decade of the archive so I decided I would include it in this post anyway! Although it is an undated sketch, I remember creating it in my studio in Toronto before I started the second group of paintings in the My Tower of Strength series. I have long since discarded the rest of the sketchbook (either an A4 or 8.5x11 inch) this sketch manages to survive all my various purges. I used a variety of media to create this sketch – metal leaf, oilstick and some turpentine brushed around some areas of oilstick.

In 2000 or 2001, I was still living in the middle of Bray on Florence Rd and was enjoying creating large plein air sketches in my tiny backyard. In this one I was regarding the upstairs window and the strange pipes surrounding it. I was sketching with watercolours and charoal on paper, 84 cm x 60 cm.

There was also a geranium plant out the back that had managed to survive untended for years before we moved in. Again this is mixed media on paper, 84 cm x 60 cm.

I think this painting of the flower lesser celandine is from 2001 (though I'm not entirely sure). It is untitled, acrylic on card, 88 cm x 50 cm.

One of the reasons I think these works are from 2001 is that I also did a very large painting of dying tulips on canvas that year, before I became pregnant, and these remind me of that work.

untitled, acrylic on card, 88 cm x 50 cm

untitled, acrylic on card, 88 cm x 50 cm

I haven’t eaten any physalis in a long time (I don’t know why) but for awhile I loved the fruit itself and also enjoyed drawing it – I especially loved the material contrast between the solid orange fruit and it’s delicate, papery wrapping. 

untitled, mixed media on paper, 60 cm x 84 cm, 2000

untitled, mixed media on paper, 60 cm x 84 cm, 2000

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

more from the "Lost" series

I am still working away on my Lost series of contact monoprints. So in addition to what I blogged about here and here, I am posting more in the series. Because the process can be very random, I can never be quite sure if the print is successful until the final lifting of the paper away from the plate. Sometimes I may have either over-inked or under-inked the plate so I put the print to one side to study if there is anything I liked about it and perhaps make more attempts with the specific image. I have limited myself to three tools for mark-making: a sharp pencil, an eraser and an old credit card. These three tools are giving me crisp sharp lines, soft blurs and sharp areas, respectively. I am very happy with my choices! All of the works are the same size, 12.5 cm x 18.5 cm (or 18.5 cm x 12.5 cm if they are vertical images), printed on Japanese mulberry paper.

Many things went missing from the shared studio

After thirty years abroad, they never regretted their return home

Despite the isolation, we made the place our home

There were only a few occasions when the whole family was together

The kitchen window offered a great view of visitors in the back yard

Wednesday, 3 May 2023

lunch pastries

I used to buy spinach pastries from a local bakery to have as my lunch, but then I found that too much salt was added and the poppy seeds were getting annoying as they always stuck in my teeth. I thought it would be simple enough to make them myself and regularly make them to take to work with me for lunch. Store-bought puff pastry makes it easy of course, and a roll of it provides enough pastry dough for four lunch pastries. They freeze well too, so I always make four at a time.

Unroll the puff pastry and cut into four pieces.

Decide on what you want to put inside: slice some cheese (I like cheddar or feta), some pesto (wild garlic is in bloom now, so here is my simple recipe for that!), and cherry tomatoes.

if including spinach (which I sometimes do if I happen to have it), be sure to steam it first in order to get out some of the water. In the past I have also whipped up an egg and divided it between the four pastries.

When the pastries are all folded and closed, I turn up the sides and gently slide the baking paper of pastries onto a cookie tray.

They bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes, till nicely browned and puffed. Please note, they do deflate a bit once they are cooled.

Sometimes I add too much cheese, or I have not properly closed the sides and the contents spill out. This is okay as once the pastries cool, any spillage (which is cooked) hardens and can just be cut and included with the pastry in the freezer container, to be re-heated later. These are always delicious and appreciated at lunch!

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Patricia Hurl at IMMA

Recently I went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) to see several exhibitions that were on, but most specifically to see the Patricia Hurl retrospective Irish Gothic. It was a gorgeous day, and the museum was especially welcoming with all the flowers happily in bloom, both on the grounds and in pots surrounding the parking lot.

The night before, I had prepared myself for the exhibition by listening to a conversation between Hurl and fellow Na Cailleacha member, Catherine Marshall (who was formerly a curator at IMMA). The conversation is available at IMMA's SoundCloud page here and is both a witty and insightful hour of chat.

Of course, photos of paintings do not show the urgency of the painting itself, but I was also delighted to see images from Hurl's life and memories, concepts which are close to my own practice.

Each painting had a personal didactic, in which Hurl disussed the work's content in such a way that the audience stepped into the memory and the very essence of the painting. I totally enjoyed reading the didactics as companions to the paintings and Hurl's voice was fresh in my head from listening to the conversation the night before.

As well as the large paintings from the 1980s, there was a plethora of sketchbooks and ephemera on display, along with more current works which were more intimate but nonetheless vital (such as the ageing self-portraits and the Warrior series). I had also seen some of Hurl's current 3D work, with the collective Na Callieacha, last year at a group show Bones in the Attic at the Hugh Lane Dublin Municipal Gallery. I blogged about that show here.

It was wonderful to see Hurl’s work collected together, and most especially great l to re-meet Trick or Treat, a painting that I had first seen at the GPA exhibition in either 1988 or 1989. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

"Lost" series continues

I have been happily working away on the Lost series of monoprints, a new body of work which I first spoke about in detail here. In addition to being happy with my work, I was delighted to receive the recent news that an image of my "breakthrough" print (the rainy bus image included in that first blog about the series) has been chosen to be included in the spring issue of the US literary journal out of University of Pennsylvania, The Penn Review. In the meantime, here are some more images from Lost.

The kids could play at anything in the back yard, monoprint, ink on Japanese mulberry paper, 12.5 cm x 18.5 cm.

When I was going through the rooftop archives, it was interesting to see that I had attempted, in the late 1990s, to use the gate in front of the house where I lived in Kerry as an artistic motif. I don't think my use of it was successful at that time but it is an image I have come back to. (Look here to see some of the image of the gate from the rooftop archive.)

The gate in front of the house led to a huge field, monoprint, ink on Japanese mulberry paper, 18.5 cm x 12.5 cm. 

Of course, I have used this image before in more recent work - most notably the small linoprints on silk fibre sheets that I made for Memory Is My Homeland (a search of this blog using that title will bring about works in progress as well as a virtual tour of the exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin, in 2022).

Field Gate, Knockeen, image size: approx 6 cm x 7.5 cm, sheet size: approx 20 cm x 26 cm, 

It really is just a blink of the eye, monoprint, ink on Japanese mulberry paper, 12.5 cm x 18.5 cm. 

The friends of 1975: where are they now?, monoprint, ink on Japanese mulberry paper, 12.5 cm x 18.5 cm. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2023

Rooftop archive 11 late 1990s

For previous posts from the so-called "rooftop archive" look at the most recent here, which gives links to all the others.

In the late 1990s there was a major fire at a printing company near to where one of my sisters lived. She told me that there was a big skip outside the establishment and reams of paper were being thrown into it. My husband (also an artist) and I drove over to check things out and came away with an abundance of grey heavy stock card, 88 cm x 50 cm, and large sheets of all-purpose cardboard. Because of this supply windfall, I felt very free to sketch on a large scale. In 1998 I had an exhibition planned for the following year, but was still unsure of what a new body of work would look like. I was fondly remembering my time living in rural Kerry, which had come to an end in the fall of 1996. One of the most amazing memories of this rural time was my sighting of Comet Hyakutake from the field in front of my house, Knockeen. On a clear night the stars in Kerry were magnificent. 

I must apolise for the sheen on these drawing/paintings, I was using gloss medium to thin the acrylic. I gessoed the grey card first and worked in thin layers of colour to build up a certain (unphotographable!) luminosity. In front of the house, there was a gate leading to a large field beyond and it was from this field that I viewed the comet above the outbuilding ruins beside my house.

I thought the gate itself was an important image and began combining it with other familiar imagery from my work. The figure here was the outline of a life size cut out I had made of my body using the all-purpose cardboard.

Again, this is an example of how I was combining past imagery with the image of the gate (which for me echoed the trellis that had appeared in earlier paintings and drawings).

Once I had started using flowers in my work, however, there was no stopping me. Grounding the heavy card with gesso, I decided to do some drawing with oilstick and graphite -- a combination that I still enjoy. I realised how much I like drawing and painting flowers and decided that this would be the subject of my next exhibition. I suspect that due to the size of this piece I could not afford the framing so it did not make it into Blessings, which showed first at Signal Arts Centre, Bray, in 1999 and then Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff, in 2000.

The exhibition Blessings consisted of large acrylic paintings on canvas, medium sized oilstick & graphite drawings on paper and very small monoprints of both wild and cultivated flowers. This is an oilstick & graphite drawing from that exhibition. “Honeysuckle”, 43 cm x 37 cm, 1999, is framed and hanging on the wall in my bedroom.

Wednesday, 5 April 2023

Rooftop archive 10 - mid 1990s

I showed some of the drawings from 1992 that began my obsession with windows and the stonework ruins in the rooftop archive post, here. In that post I also give links to previous rooftop archive posts. When I moved to Ireland in 1993 I brought with me a series of large paintings that I had completed in Toronto the previous year and had full intention of creating more in this series. This series became the exhibition My Tower of Strength and toured arts centres throughout the island of Ireland 1994-1998.   

Early in 1994 I relocated to rural Kerry where I was reunited with my favourite castle ruin, ie, Ballycarbery Castle near Cahersiveen.

I was offered an exhibition at St John's Art Centre in Listowel first and thought it was the perfect place to display My Tower of Strength (a former church, open stonework walls) but I wanted more paintings in the exhibition and got to work on these window drawings, which were studies for the Ballycarbery paintings. 

There were five Ballycarbery paintings altogether, but I'm not sure which of these six drawings did not make it into my final decision plans for what I would paint! It may have been this one, but I'm not sure...

The Ballycarbery paintings, which were the brightest (predominantly yellows, greens and pinks) works in the series and all completed in early 1994 before the touring exhibition began. Although St John's  was the first to offer me a show, the touring began in Siamsa Tire, Tralee, who also wanted the exhibition at a slightly earlier date.

Ballycarbery Castle had a great many intact windows to choose from and I enjoyed drawing them. 

All of these sketches are acrylic on paper and 76 cm x 56 cm.

When I moved to rural Kerry, I thought the phenomenon of drying peat hanging out of ruined outbuilding windows was most interesting. Surprisingly, I never took this concept further than sketches and photographs, especially as I moved to a house near Portmagee in 1995 and my husband stacked peat in ruined windows of our own abandoned outbuildings! As with previous window ruin drawings, this is acrylic on paper, 76 cm x 56 cm.

Wednesday, 29 March 2023

"Lost" - beginning new work

Although the sorting through and purging from the archive of rooftop portfolios and rolls has taken up a lot of my time these past few months, I have also been busy with some new work. In the autumn I received the delightful news that I would receive an Agility Award from The Arts Council/An Chomairle Ealion for my proposal of a new print series Lost. As often happens with new work, I certainly had moments of confusion and despair as nothing seemed to be working the way I imagined. I finally had my breakthrough moment in early February when everything worked as planned and I knew for certain that indeed I had chosen the right medium (contact monoprints) from which to create this new body of work. All of the works are the same size, 12.5 cm x 18.5 cm (or 18.5 cm x 12.5 cm if they are vertical images), printed on Japanese mulberry paper, which is both strong and delicate. The pictures are about memory and refer to lost moments, lost country, lost time, etc. I decided I wanted the titles to give a bit more information about the story behind the image, at least as a starting point.

Even on a rainy day, the bus might be on time

When I was a teen, I went on an amazing government-sponsored youth project, Educanada, which brought teens from all over the country to the capital to learn a bit more about their own country so there were day trips to Montreal, Quebec City, Upper Canada Village near Kingston, as well as local Ottawa tours of the Parliament Buildings, Rideau Hall (Governor General's home), national police headquarters, National Art Gallery, Museum of Civilization, etc. It was great! The thing that really stood out for me, though, was seeing the log booms floating in the Ottawa River past Parliament Hill. It has been many decades since the industry has transported timber this way, hence my inclusion of this image in my Lost series.

Log booms used to float down the Ottawa River past Parliament Hill

This image portrays a memory of my childhood playing with my little brother in the backyard of the house in Toronto’s east end. 

We used to play cowboy games in the back yard

On my first visit to NYC (back in the mists of time when I was at art school in Toronto) one of my friends, who shared a hotel room with me, was dramatising a teenager on the phone and giving me an art history lesson at the same time; I vividly remember that pop art was the topic so I decided to reference Roy Lichtenstein in my title. 

Well, Brad, let me tell you…

I did not meet my grandparents till I was about 9 years old when my family won a St Patrick’s Day competition from a magazine-type tv show in Toronto (as a matter of fact, the show was called "Toronto Today"). The prize was to bring two people over from Ireland for a holiday if you were picked as having the best reason to do so -- 6 of my siblings had not seen their grandparents since they emigrated and 4 of us, Canadian-born, had never even met them -- so we had a pretty good reason to win! I remember before meeting them that summer that I had been incredibly jealous of my friends who had grandparents and especially those who had a grandparent living with them. So when I met my Oma and Opa my adoration was unconditional. Letters that I have from them attest to the fact that they felt the same way. When my grandmother died in 1980, one of my letters to her along with the goodbye card I made for my grandparents, after that first meeting 11 years beforehand, was found in her purse and returned to me.

Although we only met a few times, they loved me and I adored them

I was born into a large immigrant family

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Rooftop archive 9 - early 1990s

Yes, this rooftop archive is pretty big, but it has served a purpose to go through everything that was there taking measurements and photographing past work, and best of all PURGING work that I don't need hanging around to haunt me! I have recently blogged about the archive (installments 7 and 8) here and here. In installment 6 - here - I have also given links to all the previous installments.

As this piece is undated, I am relying on memory and circumstances to suggest that it was either from 1989 or 1990. It was created after my first solo exhibition in Dublin while I was living with my parents in Bray. It is of course based on dream imagery except for the crazy complicated lightning bolts – lightning configurations that I actually saw during a storm in Ontario  in the 1980s! This untitled work hung on my Mum’s bedroom wall (which had been my room when I lived there) for many years and was returned to me after her death in 2016. This untitled, mixed media work is 157 cm x 150 cm.

In either the spring or summer of 1990, I returned to Toronto to be in a group show with nine other young artists. I created the sculptural element of a work to exhibit while I was in Ireland (a trellis table holding a house with a fimo figure dancing among stars who could be viewed through a bay window on the second floor of the house). Behind the sculptural element was this oilstick drawing, Two Waterspouts. Amazingly, I still had the huge roll of Strathmore paper my mentor professor (sculptor Hugh Leroy) gave me while an impoverished art student at York University, Toronto, some years before. I gessoed the paper before drawing the waterspouts, 107 cm x 63 cm. The sculptural element had live roses added to it for the exhibition; that part of the artwork was sold and I do not have any pictures of it! 

I was living in Toronto, perhaps in turmoil, when I drew this work on Oct 20 1991 (very specific date written on the back of the drawing!). Tornado, graphite on paper, 102 cm x 66 cm.

Two mediums I still enjoy a lot are combined in this drawing that I created while living in Toronto in the summer of 1992. Foxglove, oilstick & graphite on paper, 76 cm x 49 cm.

 In the early 1990s I was quite obsessed with stonework and windows in both ecclesiastical and secular ruins around Ireland. I think this obsession started when I was on holiday here in 1992 and visited a friend who had moved to rural Kerry and ruins nearer to where my parents lived on the east coast as well as ruins in Clones, close to where one of my sisters was living at the time. I did large, loose sketches of a number of windows using monotones from acrylic black paint and I later used these sketches as research for a new body of paintings that I entitled My Tower of Strength (taken from the motto on my family coat-of-arms). These painted drawings are all untitled, acrylic on paper, 76 cm x 56 cm (or 56 cm x 76 cm), the specific ruins that they are based on can be found in Clones (a church ruin), 

Kerry (outer wall of Ballycarbery Castle)

and Wicklow (Killadreenan near Newcastle). 

It is only the stonework in the drawing of the church window at Clones that I recognise as making its way into a future painting.