Exercise – Repeat – Exercise…

Large drawing on newsprint with acrylic.

It’s been a difficult period over the last year and a half or so. Creatively, for many artists – myself included – the closing down of society and normal life has impacted the ability to think clearly, and make work.

In previous times with work and/or personal setbacks, when I have struggled in this way, I have gotten some satisfaction from lending a hand with studios, working with artists and the Gallery Interlude team , lobbying for the arts – anything in short that makes me feel I am making some meaningful contribution. It’s not perfect, but it makes me sleep easier.

Being unable to do these things in the last few months have forced me into a time of introspection, querying why I am not using the resulting time for more studio work?

Fragment of larger drawing in charcoal and acrylic, and 6 quick gestural charcoal studies.

It’s not as easy a question as it may sound. Many times over my years in Contact Studios, new members would come in, and it being awhile since practicing, would be apprehensive about whether ‘it’ would happen i.e. whether the old creative spirit and abilities would return?

My advice was uniformly the same – don’t put pressure on yourself – you don’t want to turn your time in the studio into something you dread. Begin with drawing, using low quality materials with which their is no expectation, and hopefully this will reignite your latent abilities. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, fall into a schedule that works for you, be it morning, night, afternoon – whatever.

I’m taking my own advice over the last month, getting back to basics. I began with drawings on newsprint, with basic paint and rubbish brushes (forces you to use them better, and avoids intricacies). The subject is beside me – an adjacent studio space and its contents. These I do repeatedly, trying to understand them in a visual way – their weight/mass, negative and positive shapes. Colour is left out of the picture so to speak, as it complicates matters with too many options and concerns.

Initial layering on canvas – bag of plaster.

As I went on I became most interested in the form of a bag of plaster – trying to convey its weight and the tension on the paper wrapping the heavy dust. Moving on to working on canvas has been the next step, with its more complicating factors of under-painting, colour and all the micro actions when working with oil. It is of course early days, and as ever, time will tell whether they will work out or not, but we’re back in the saddle at least, and re-learning.

Initial layering on canvas – bag of plaster (2).

For now, we’ll ‘keep on keeping on like a bird that flew’ as Bob Dylan says, and see how we get on.

A grand Stretch

It’s been a while since I have put together stretchers – wooden frames over which canvas is stretched – certainly not since being in Contact Studios Prime, maybe 15 years ago or more.

The main reason for that was the technique I employed for a long time of pouring glazes, was unsuited to the surface. As can be seen from the above picture, taken in my studio, the base frame consists of 2×1 timber (baton), while a thinner piece (beading) is used on top, keeping the material taut and away from the baton surface.

The canvas needs a little ‘slack’, as the warmed up glue solution – ‘size’ – that is applied (above) adds extra tension, while also acting as a preservative and pre priming coat.

It’s a new primer I’m checking out, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the surface is to paint on.

Reports will follow!

Squealer, 2008 (?) – 2021

I regretfully have to report the passing of my good friend, and frequent Muse, (Old) Squealer. She is survived by her two daughters, Mandy & Mindy (pictured below her), and more than likely, other felines I am unaware of.

She lived to a good old age of 13, and it gives me no small comfort to say that she had a fairly good existence, particularly from when we officially began to associate i.e. when she overcame her natural feral instincts to become friends.

She was a particularly majestic cat – an imperious mane growing in the winter time. Though of a small stature, her paws were very large, and needles(s) to say, she was fond of sticking her claws in to a leg on frequent occasions.

As can be seen from both the photo and painting above, Ol’ Squeal had her own blue cushion. As a very wild cat, providing her with a seat solely for her own use – with the back door open of course – was my way of giving her the confidence to sit awhile. Within a year or two, she was confident enough to sleep indoors. In fact, she wasn’t too fond of going out a lot of the time, and the cushion came in handy to ease her out, without the scrawb and numerous hisses!

Indeed, like all wild cats, she was pretty skittish, particularly with visitors to my home. With three cats of this mind, once one cat runs the others duly follow. She did mellow over the years, and would happily sit beside myself and select guests- well, one, Aunty Belle. She was also very fond of her Uncle Paul, who would look after the house and the cats while I was away, and was very happy to have her fluffy belly rubbed by him also, while rolling around. She was also fond of times when her Uncle Seán would stay and indulge her, though a bit freaked by his height!

Not a few tears have been shed over my old friend, and I miss not having her interruptions post-shower, or indeed anything bathroom related as Paul will attest! No more squeals will be heard, but she will be fondly remembered.

Special thanks to all our friends who provided for her when I wasn’t around, Rose, Paul, Hugo, Mary & Rina, Ciarán and Declan.

An especial thanks to John and staff at Treaty Veterinary, who were kind and sympathetic to us both, when Old Squeal’ went on her last journey, and her final sleep.

Tá súil agam go bhfuil áthas ort i do plás speisialta a Squealín!

Coladh sámh xxxxxxxxx.

Limerick Connections at Limerick City Gallery of Art

No Repro Fee Mayor Michael Collins pictured with Carl Doran of Limerick City and his work at the new exhibition in the Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA) highlighting the links between artists and Limerick over the past half a century. Limerick Connections is an exhibition of works by artists associated with Limerick from the 1970s to the present day. A total of 67 artists are included in the show with a strong emphasis on painting. The diverse nature of the exhibition gives a full appraisal of how techniques and subject matter have changed over the last 50 years but the fundamental gesture of painting remains the same. Pic. Brian Arthur (courtesy I Love Limerick).

It’s always been a great pleasure to present work to the public, and moreso perhaps when you don’t have to go to the effort yourself of putting it up! Fantastic news therefore when I was informed my work that forms part of the Limerick City Gallery Collection, would feature along with 66 other artists with strong Limerick Connections.

Given these strange times, and the gallery being closed until not so long ago due to Covid, it had a comforting resonance – much like Matisse compared great works of art with a comfortable pair of slippers. (I am, as some might know, a bit of an authority on slippers).

Hard to credit it really, but I have now lived in The Treaty for 25 years – over half my life, since coming down to complete a Painting Degree in LSAD.

We were fortunate as it turned out not to be in the dilemma that faced graduates this year, unable to attend college to complete the last few crucial months of the Academic year, and then a virtual show.

Despite being no fan of the looong speeches from the podium, the Graduate show is a highlight of the year for myself and many, many others – a chance to see ideas and art, perhaps to buy work, and meet friends and potential new friends and colleagues.

It was super to see that LCGA and independent staff members took the initiative to exhibit work from the newly graduated artists in the show previous to this – it is a real public service, and I am delighted for all.

I cannot understand how a showing of graduate work cannot be hosted on the Clare St. Campus in a safe manner, be it in the (vast) Church Gallery, or even outdoors on campus. It is certainly something the very upper echelons of the School should urgently attend to, in the interests of completing the Artists’ education and experience.

Go n-éirí an bóthar libh to all the graduates!

Interlude – Interlude -Interlude

Studio still life on wonky Hugo surface, featuring wonky Hugo surface

It’s been a strange few months – perhaps the strangest myself and most have encountered. Along with the vast majority (on the planet perhaps!), our places of work are off limits, our ability to meet, travel and have gatherings has been completely curtailed.

There are I’m sure, artists who will thrive in this atmosphere – where there will be no unexpected, or indeed expected visitors or phone-calls, or outside activities and jobs demanding their attention. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the majority I have talked to, no more than for myself. An unclouded mind I find the most conducive to creativity, and this current uncertainty and lock-down most certainly isn’t relaxing.

Still-Life goes on though, as in the above painting I began a few weeks before everything wound down. It’s an oil painting from life in the new studio space I moved into last January in Wickham St., with a bit more to do to finish.

It is more in the vein of an ‘Interiorscape’ I guess than a Still-Life. As the title suggests, I am using a donated surface from my very good friend and Contact Studios Alumnus Hugh (Hugo) Mc Mahon, which adds a bit of ‘character’ to the piece. It depicts whatever happened to be in the corner of the studio the day I started. I do hope to finish it very soon.

With everything up in the air these days, we are unclear on the how’s or when’s of Gallery Interlude as it stands. The world will be a different place when all this finishes, but that does not change or alter the need for our message, and the need for promoting local arts and indeed business.

If anything, we will have to redouble our efforts, and think even further outside the box.

‘Change, this is a restless Earth’ I heard someone say on an Ali G USAii show, and there is no doubt about it.

I don’t particularly relish it, but myself and the Gallery Interlude Team, and indeed our friends, artists and partners, will certainly do our best to rise to the new situation.

Go mbeirimíd beo ar an am seo arís agus slán!

Meandering Inklings by Kevin O’Keeffe at Gallery Interlude Opening Friday February 28 7-9pm until Monday March 2

Poster by Interlude member Isabella Walsh

A (belated) happy and prosperous New Year to all from myself and my ‘Interlude friends!

We hosted a plethora of amazing shows in partnership with our friends in Lucky Lane last year – 8 shows with 9 artists and a distinctive feel and aesthetic evident in each. This year will be no different, and we have a few surprises in store for the Limerick Public, with some announcements to be made on the occasion of Kevin ‘The Spaceman’ O’Keeffe’s first solo Limerick exhibition this coming Friday.

Kevin (Caoimh) has been working hard to produce a new body of work – paintings/drawings on odd and discarded pieces of canvas and paper, all revolving around trees. The works themselves, which I had the pleasure of encountering last week for the first time, are playful and investigate the random nature and reactionary properties of materials i.e. just where will paint travel if left to its own devices?

Kevin has been a very influential figure on the Limerick art scene for many years – behind the formation of Fiasco&Co, an original member of Wickham St. Studios, a member of Faber Studios (and Contact Studios!), and among other things a key member of Occupy Space.

We’re super happy to host this proud Corkman, and member of Luggage Doors Operating, and do hope you will join us on the night or over the weekend!

Our sincere thanks to all at Lucky Lane, and our sponsors Art Mad/Normoyle Frawley Framing and The Glen Tavern – go raibh míle míle!

Wishing all a happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a happy, prosperous and peaceful new year!

I hope 2020 will be a good year for all in Limerick and beyond. Though not without a number of low points, not to mention the loss of valued and loved friends and family members, there were also many positives.

Especial thanks to my Gallery Interlude Team Members – Isabella Walsh and (until November of this year) Ciaran Nash, and occasional hands Aidan Kelleher and Antrim Paul. The program was first class this year, and would have been impossible to do without your amazing contributions.

The Lucky Lane Team – Mark, Dave, Steve, Diarmuid, Lisa and Noah have been unbelievably generous since we began Interlude June 2018, providing the venue and logistics, and just plain helpfulness in the venture.

Kevin (Caoimhín) O’Keefe of The Bigger Picture for sponsoring us for well over a year – I think we may not have heard the last from him yet….

The Glen Tavern – Ger, Cathal, Toby and all sponsored us from last year until November this year – sincere thanks and we’ll be dropping in (real) soon.

Art Mad/Normoyle Frawley Framing for coming on board as sponsors – legends!

Rose Rushe of The Limerick Post has been most kind, not only covering our shows – but also highlighting our message and campaign for sustainable art spaces and outlets. A mention also for Séamus Ryan of The Limerick Leader of Things what are in Limerick column.

By no mean least in the list, go raibh míle míle to our exhibitors from Contact Studios this year, for showing and creating new works, and for having faith in us – it is what keeps us going. Thank you in no particular order (as I remember them) Seán Healy, Seán Lynch and Michele Horrigan, Julie Brazil, Ciarán O’Sullivan, Rory Prout, Declan Greene, Stephen Murphy and Joanna Hopkins.

I would also like to express my deep appreciation for Michele Horrigan and Seán Lynch of Askeaton Contemporary Arts for their continued work in supporting the arts in Limerick, not to mention their facilitation of my ongoing project in Desmond Castle. Kudos to the OPW lads on site for the same – and the tea!

A special thanks to Seán Guinan and Tom Prendergast – not to mention the members of – Wickham Street Studios.

Lastly, a huge thanks to the public – and indeed the Limerick City Gallery – for supporting us and Contact Studios in our continuing campaign for the arts in Limerick .

We will keep up the terrific and varied excellence of Contact Studios’ members into 2020, and hopefully we can see a real 2020 City of Culture emerge!

A House full of Flies – paintings by Stephen Murphy at Gallery Interlude, opens Friday December 13 7-9pm

Poster by Interlude member Isabella Walsh featuring ‘Faint’ by Stephen Murphy

For our 8th and final exhibition of 2019 we are delighted to put forth the works of the esteemed Stephen Murphy, a man who needs no introduction, but for the purposes of this post I will do anyway.

Steve joined our Contact Studios’ ranks a number of years ago, his paintings are much sought after and his work and teaching skills have earned him no small renown.

The paintings themselves – many of them made for this show – are quite exquisite in painterly terms and touch, and there is more than an element of surrealism and dark humour to be observed.

It is a great pleasure for us on the Interlude Team to host Steve, and we look forward to another cracking night of art and chat (if we can get a word in ;).

As our final attempt this year to kick-start and foster constructive debate, we will have copies available of the seemingly ‘mothballed’ Visual Arts Ecology Report from 2015, by John Holden. John was commissioned by the visual arts pillar from Limerick City of Culture to take stock of the Limerick ‘scene’ at the time, and provide perhaps a few pointers on what was good, bad etc.

Many of us are quite confused as to why it was never published – it is not overly critical, but it seems to me the longer it is left the less relevant it becomes.

My thanks for the support of my many fellow professionals and the LCGA also in this matter.

Slowing Down, paintings by Declan Greene at Gallery Interlude, Friday November 8-11th

Poster for the event by Gallery Interlude Team Member Ciaran Nash

Myself and the ‘Interlude Team are super excited to host the indomitable Declan Greene this week, with his exceptional suite of paintings on display in the Treaty City opening at 7pm this Friday.

I have waxed lyrical before on this site about my adventures going out painting in Doonass in Co. Clare with Declan, and indeed about his prowess and uber professionalism in documenting my own and others’ artworks.

Now, we finally get a chance to see his paintings and ideas in person.

‘Slowing Down’ will showcase a series of these plein-air works – effectively paintings that are made on the spot, along with more abstract musings which these previous works have inspired.

It’s an incisive and I think educational approach to our gallery format, displaying in a visual, but not overly literal way how the artistic process works – often meandering, and rarely linear.

Do feel free and welcome to attend what will be our penultimate show of 2019 – tá fáilte róibh!

Contact Studios : on the Road, group show in Friarsgate Theatre, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick November 2019

The sabháiste poster by Contact Studios’ and Gallery Interlude member Isabella Walsh, featuring work by Luci Lane.

We’re on the road again, with Contact Studios. This time willingly, of course, as we set sail for the extraordinary medieval walled town of Kilmallock in Co. Limerick.

Eight of us Contact Studios’ members (see poster above) will travel to Friarsgate Theatre for a consecutive year. We very much enjoyed our last exhibition in the venue (see previous post), and we have very much enjoyed working with Caoimhe Reidy and the most hospitable team.

Having just installed it earlier today with Nuala O’Sullivan, I have to say it is looking exceptionally good – even excluding my own work!

As a group of artists with a common ambition – to secure decent premises for artists to work in, in the city of Limerick, we share common values.

Though we are currently ‘on the road’ – as regards lacking premises, we continue to work towards a goal of establishing a new studio space – not just for ourselves, but for the city, and all potential practitioners that will come along, given the chance.

Do come along should you be in the general direction tomorrow evening – it’ll be great. Or sure if not, the show will continue for the month more or less.