The Milky Way with Orion and Pleiades Over Cill Rialaig 2022
I took this photo of the night sky when on artist residency in Cill Rialaig back in March this year. It was a time when the Milky Way started to reappear back into our skies and on the wide angle lens I had, I was able to fit constellations Orion and Pleiades all in together.
So much to see in a raw file when its uploaded to my pc and that’s what excites me the most about my ‘attempts’ at astrophotography. In the end I always want to add my own artistic preferences with colour and composition etc. The end result is only a part of the process however. The whole experience stays with me and shows up again and again in my work.. but most of the time, I only know that.
Here are a few more of the artist village by night, the sky and seascape at dusk and of the night skies, all shot in Cill Rialaig. Taken on my Nikon D800 DSLR with 10.5mm lens. I am looking into investing a little bit on a telescope that I can also use to make more captures of the stars and all that’s in between!
Hidden Histories is an exhibition of 11 invited artists with a connection to Tipperary, to produce work in response to ideas and interpretations around the discovery of a horse’s skull and what it means, which was found in the foundations of The Old School in Drangan county Tipperary, which is now an artefact concealed in the history museum in Clonmel.
Before I talk about the four paintings I produced for the exhibition, I will tell you a little about my connection with Tipperary and escentially delve back into my chiodhood years.
I grew up in a small community just outside the town of Nenagh called Rathmartin, in Tyone to be more specific. In the summers I would spend a lot of my school holidays at my auntie and uncles in Rosegreen just outside the town of Clonmel. We would often venture into Clonmel or to the small village in Rosegreen for treats on Sundays, it was a big deal as a child!
Other memories I have of living in Tipperary are of the small town halls I would be brought to where first aid classes were given by my father during the winter midweek evenings, to groups of people who were members of the Civil Defence. I often played the role of ‘casualty’ to demonstrate on with bandaging mock-up broken arms or legs etc. The classes were always carried out in town and village halls which would span from Cloughjordan, Thurles and Nenagh to name a few.
During my early childhood school plays that I used to love being a part of, in my old primary school in Kilruane, the school plays took place just a few meters up the road at the local hall of Kilruane otherwise known as The Floating Ballroom. I distinctly remember the echoing sounds in this big empty hall on rehearsal days and how the atmosphere completely changed on the nerve wrecking performance nights. Making work for this exhibition has taken me back to these places and in a way you could call it my own hidden history and so here is why.
My work is in response to research I carried out on the horse skull that was unearthed in the foundations of ‘Old School’ building in Drangan, Co. Tipperary during renovations. It fascinated me to realise that the skull was purposefully buried and was a ritual carried out dating back through to the eighteen hundreds. The idea of a horse’s head being buried in the foundations of buildings in past history was almost an absurd thought to me but also a very interesting one on learning why.
The work I produced for the theme ‘Hidden History’ focuses on one and perhaps the most probable theory, where horse skulls were buried in the floors to help the acoustics in function halls and in churches for example, where they were often buried near alters to help the voice of the preacher to sound better over the rest.
I was drawn to the idea that the acoustics in a house or a hall of people at parties were heightened as a result of the buried horse heads. I immediately imagined a celebratory atmosphere of dancing shadows from a time long passed and I could imagine the echoing sounds of talking and laughter, over rhythmic sounds of feet moving and gliding across the floors with music echoing through.
Here’s a quick pencil study of a horses skull I did to familiarise myself not so much with the detail but to spend time as such, studying the features and shapes of the horse skull and to get a sense for it really.
I listened to music while producing this work as I always do when painting and the music I chose was uplifted energetic sounds to suit the vision I had in my mind at the time. In the work I wanted to create a sense of dance, movement, flight and float in a bright atmospheric surrounding where colour plays a significant part.
Here are the works that came from it all.
The exhibition runs from July 3rd to August 27th 2022 in the Narrow Space Gallery, Clonmel, County Tipperary.
I am very happy to be part of this exhibition titled ‘Bealtaine’ which has been curated by Robin Savage and Chris Gray of Carrickahowley Gallery, Portland, Maine USA. The show consists of six invited contemporary irish artists to exhibit work in celebration of Bealtaine festival 2022 in association with the Irish Maine Heritage Center in Portland USA. A small discription from one of the curators, Robin Savage.
“…This exhibit juxtaposes the work of five Irish contemporary artists working in different media and in divergent creative practices, from printmaking in Susan Early’s aquatints to Derval Freeman’s “abstract expressionism,” to Eamon Colman’s abstractions of imaginary fictional landscapes, to Judy Carroll Deeley’s collages, to Sinead Lawless’ experiments in chromatic portraits and figurative impastos. Such breadth certainly highlights the various creative impulses of contemporary art in the present moment, demanding new approaches through overlayed and reinvented techniques and materials—a kind of contemporary re-imagining perfect for this Bealtaine festival and the energies of spring…” read more here.
Delighted to be amongst these very talented artists, Eamon Coleman, Judy Carroll Deeley, Susan Early and Sinead Lawless.
After my solo exhibition in August 2021, I took a short break from the studio with the idea of coming back with fresh new ideas. It was easier said than done but I think I am back on the right path and ready to move on. I am constantly trying to push my work and challenge myself to seeing what direction it takes me in. I don’t like to paint the same way or stuff all the time.
I’m keeping a promise to myself after my last series, to go back to a looser and less refined process in new work heading into 2022. Especially after the past two years with on and off lockdowns and restrictions. I think the past twentythree months have taken its toll on the most of us and in many different ways.
I am currently working on some experimental works in acrylics, because I paint in oils most of the time. It is very interesting how oils and acrylics are like two entirely different planets and I am excited to see what happens working in acrylics a bit more. I love using oils and cold wax and I want to see how this experimental series attributes to my process moving onwards.
So this is what I’ve been up to in the studio the past few weeks. For pure abstraction reasons, without thought or plan and mixing colours straight on the surface as I watch them take on their own character which is very interesting. I want to be more free and expressive while trying to work with as little control as possible. I am letting the paint go where it wants to and picking colours as they come to me.
These are three new works on fabriano paper with the first two in acrylic and the third in oils.
I have a solo exhibition currently in Signal Arts, Bray Co. Wicklow which runs August 16th to the 29th. The exhibition is in the gallery and can also be viewed here where online sales are also available.
This exhibition is mentored by the well known irish artist, Eamon Coleman and the show will showcase all my current series of work which began back in mid 2019 pre-lockdown and carries through my personal journey throughout lockdown and to where it is now. The exhibition includes lots of paintings from the very small to large scale.
I began this journey in my current series of work with the working title ‘A Way to Equilibrium’ and I painted a small painting titled the same about 2 years ago where this all began. Here is my latest painting that will be the last painting to make my solo exhibition in a couple of weeks. Titled ‘A way to Equilibrium II’, it measures 120cm x 100cm x 4cm and painted in oils and cold wax. The first painting was only a baby at 50cm x 50cm and very different but very much similar too in many other ways. I hope you enjoy this painting. It will go on exhibit with all my recent work very soon at Signal Arts Centre. Final details to be announce soon.
An invite by Hamilton Gallery, Co. Sligo, Ireland to participate in a group exhibition, responding to the poem by W.B Yeats, ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’.
The exhibition will open virtually and open to the public on Yeats Day, June 13th 2021
Written over seven sections it is replete with powerful and compelling imagery and insights on a tumultuous period for Ireland as the country was going through its formative and often violent birth. This poem was actually written by Yeats in 1921. Although the Civil War in Ireland occurred in 1922 the Anglo-Irish war which frames the backdrop to this poem, was commonly termed and considered a civil war within Ireland at the time it was taking place.
‘Under the Light of the Moon’
I drew inspiration from the first verse of section VII (I see Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart’s Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness). In my painting there is a slight play on the colours of the Irish flag as a nod to the significance of the tri-colour around the time of the Civil War. I titled the work after the line in the poem ‘Under the Light of the Moon’
Video filmed and edited by Derval Freeman Music written and performed by Derval Freeman
Meditations in Time of Civil War by W B Yeats
I Ancestral Houses SURELY among a rich man’s flowering lawns, Amid the rustle of his planted hills, Life overflows without ambitious pains; And rains down life until the basin spills, And mounts more dizzy high the more it rains As though to choose whatever shape it wills And never stoop to a mechanical Or servile shape, at others’ beck and call.
Mere dreams, mere dreams! Yet Homer had not Sung Had he not found it certain beyond dreams That out of life’s own self-delight had sprung The abounding glittering jet; though now it seems As if some marvellous empty sea-shell flung Out of the obscure dark of the rich streams, And not a fountain, were the symbol which Shadows the inherited glory of the rich.
Some violent bitter man, some powerful man Called architect and artist in, that they, Bitter and violent men, might rear in stone The sweetness that all longed for night and day, The gentleness none there had ever known; But when the master’s buried mice can play. And maybe the great-grandson of that house, For all its bronze and marble, ‘s but a mouse.
O what if gardens where the peacock strays With delicate feet upon old terraces, Or else all Juno from an urn displays Before the indifferent garden deities; O what if levelled lawns and gravelled ways Where slippered Contemplation finds his ease And Childhood a delight for every sense, But take our greatness with our violence?
What if the glory of escutcheoned doors, And buildings that a haughtier age designed, The pacing to and fro on polished floors Amid great chambers and long galleries, lined With famous portraits of our ancestors; What if those things the greatest of mankind Consider most to magnify, or to bless, But take our greatness with our bitterness?
II My House An ancient bridge, and a more ancient tower, A farmhouse that is sheltered by its wall, An acre of stony ground, Where the symbolic rose can break in flower, Old ragged elms, old thorns innumerable, The sound of the rain or sound Of every wind that blows; The stilted water-hen Crossing stream again Scared by the splashing of a dozen cows;
A winding stair, a chamber arched with stone, A grey stone fireplace with an open hearth, A candle and written page. Il Penseroso’s Platonist toiled on In some like chamber, shadowing forth How the daemonic rage Imagined everything. Benighted travellers From markets and from fairs Have seen his midnight candle glimmering.
Two men have founded here. A man-at-arms Gathered a score of horse and spent his days In this tumultuous spot, Where through long wars and sudden night alarms His dwindling score and he seemed castaways Forgetting and forgot; And I, that after me My bodily heirs may find, To exalt a lonely mind, Befitting emblems of adversity.
III My Table Two heavy trestles, and a board Where Sato’s gift, a changeless sword, By pen and paper lies, That it may moralise My days out of their aimlessness. A bit of an embroidered dress Covers its wooden sheath. Chaucer had not drawn breath When it was forged. In Sato’s house, Curved like new moon, moon-luminous It lay five hundred years. Yet if no change appears No moon; only an aching heart Conceives a changeless work of art. Our learned men have urged That when and where ’twas forged A marvellous accomplishment, In painting or in pottery, went From father unto son And through the centuries ran And seemed unchanging like the sword. Soul’s beauty being most adored, Men and their business took The soul’s unchanging look; For the most rich inheritor, Knowing that none could pass Heaven’s door, That loved inferior art, Had such an aching heart That he, although a country’s talk For silken clothes and stately walk. Had waking wits; it seemed Juno’s peacock screamed.
IV My Descendants Having inherited a vigorous mind From my old fathers, I must nourish dreams And leave a woman and a man behind As vigorous of mind, and yet it seems Life scarce can cast a fragrance on the wind, Scarce spread a glory to the morning beams, But the torn petals strew the garden plot; And there’s but common greenness after that.
And what if my descendants lose the flower Through natural declension of the soul, Through too much business with the passing hour, Through too much play, or marriage with a fool? May this laborious stair and this stark tower Become a roofless ruin that the owl May build in the cracked masonry and cry Her desolation to the desolate sky.
The primum Mobile that fashioned us Has made the very owls in circles move; And I, that count myself most prosperous, Seeing that love and friendship are enough, For an old neighbour’s friendship chose the house And decked and altered it for a girl’s love, And know whatever flourish and decline These stones remain their monument and mine.
V The Road at My Door An affable Irregular, A heavily-built Falstaffian man, Comes cracking jokes of civil war As though to die by gunshot were The finest play under the sun.
A brown Lieutenant and his men, Half dressed in national uniform, Stand at my door, and I complain Of the foul weather, hail and rain, A pear-tree broken by the storm.
I count those feathered balls of soot The moor-hen guides upon the stream. To silence the envy in my thought; And turn towards my chamber, caught In the cold snows of a dream.
VI The Stare’s Nest by My Window The bees build in the crevices Of loosening masonry, and there The mother birds bring grubs and flies. My wall is loosening; honey-bees, Come build in the empty house of the stare.
We are closed in, and the key is turned On our uncertainty; somewhere A man is killed, or a house burned, Yet no clear fact to be discerned: Come build in the empty house of the stare.
A barricade of stone or of wood; Some fourteen days of civil war; Last night they trundled down the road That dead young soldier in his blood: Come build in the empty house of the stare.
We had fed the heart on fantasies, The heart’s grown brutal from the fare; More Substance in our enmities Than in our love; O honey-bees, Come build in the empty house of the stare.
VII I see Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart’s Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness I climb to the tower-top and lean upon broken stone, A mist that is like blown snow is sweeping over all, Valley, river, and elms, under the light of a moon That seems unlike itself, that seems unchangeable, A glittering sword out of the east. A puff of wind And those white glimmering fragments of the mist sweep by. Frenzies bewilder, reveries perturb the mind; Monstrous familiar images swim to the mind’s eye.
‘Vengeance upon the murderers,’ the cry goes up, ‘Vengeance for Jacques Molay.’ In cloud-pale rags, or in lace, The rage-driven, rage-tormented, and rage-hungry troop, Trooper belabouring trooper, biting at arm or at face, Plunges towards nothing, arms and fingers spreading wide For the embrace of nothing; and I, my wits astray Because of all that senseless tumult, all but cried For vengeance on the murderers of Jacques Molay.
Their legs long, delicate and slender, aquamarine their eyes, Magical unicorns bear ladies on their backs. The ladies close their musing eyes. No prophecies, Remembered out of Babylonian almanacs, Have closed the ladies’ eyes, their minds are but a pool Where even longing drowns under its own excess; Nothing but stillness can remain when hearts are full Of their own sweetness, bodies of their loveliness.
The cloud-pale unicorns, the eyes of aquamarine, The quivering half-closed eyelids, the rags of cloud or of lace, Or eyes that rage has brightened, arms it has made lean, Give place to an indifferent multitude, give place To brazen hawks. Nor self-delighting reverie, Nor hate of what’s to come, nor pity for what’s gone, Nothing but grip of claw, and the eye’s complacency, The innumerable clanging wings that have put out the moon.
I turn away and shut the door, and on the stair Wonder how many times I could have proved my worth In something that all others understand or share; But O! ambitious heart, had such a proof drawn forth A company of friends, a conscience set at ease, It had but made us pine the more. The abstract joy, The half-read wisdom of daemonic images, Suffice the ageing man as once the growing boy
I was watching the moonset during the week as I ventured up the road where I live, here at the foot of the Sugar Loaf. I often get these bursts of energy to head outside in the middle of the night to watch the night skies. These moments are a magical experience and I am glad I decided to take my camera as a last minuet decision. The moon shun so bright that night and its light blanked out a lot of the stars but that didn’t bother me as it was the moonset I was after this time. My astro photography is not just about capturing the stars alone, but they are more like night skyscapes and I like to get creative with them depending on the surroundings. I did some long exposures with different angles while the shutter was still open and this captured the moon light trails in the movement of the camera. I love playing with colour afterwards when editing the photos. There is so much you can do and it is hard not to get carried away.
I started this painting at the beginning of July 2020 with a few scribbles on this canvas and then went blank on it for weeks. Then one night in August I went all colour expressive with it, it ended up here.
A closer look at this painting I finished last August 2020. I made a musical sound scape to accompany my art videos early on during COVID and I am experimenting with more of this kind of creativity. I hope you enjoy.
The Humidity of an August Starry Night, Oil & Cold Wax on Canvas, 30cm x 60cm x 4cm
Join me Monday at 2pm for my online solo exhibition with Imagine artists group at Hambly and Hambly at Dunbar House. All new works and all available through Ciara on 00 44 7808 010327. 🌺🦋🌺 https://facebook.com/NorthernIrishArts/
I am thrilled to be awarded for the winning painting at Enlighten call at Hambly & Hambly, a great start to the new year.
I was drawn to the beautiful bright colours of the work of Adrienne Finnerty’s sculptural relief piece titled ‘Show the world you light, your bright, the wild exuberant me’. I loved the organic sense of explosiveness of bright colours. My painting is in response to that and to it’s title too.
I was inspired by the abstract expressiveness of the work and so I wanted to be more loose and organic in response and less refined than I normally am. So much so that I found it hard to ‘stop’ and to stop over thinking the work!
I began it before Christmas and I was unsure if I’d find what direction to go, but over the few weeks it came through somehow.
Without explaining too much about the painting, I would rather it spoke for itself and for it to interpret however it may. Being my first painting of the year, I guess the only hope I would have in the viewer’s reaction is that it brings a sense of warmth, brightness and great optimism for 2021. It could even be the beginning of a slightly different direction for work.
Where Jupiter and Saturn will meet from our perspective looking out into space. Another cosmic event that will somehow find its way into my painting at some point. I went out yesterday evening to try capture their closeness as best I could with my camera. Some of the photos are showing the other view of the skies behind me and I could not miss staying around to capture some of it.
How beautiful our universe.
Like the speed of light,
it takes time to see,
to learn and to be free.
Time may not be as short as you imagine..
Here are some of the photos I got and I decided to throw in Orion and another view from a previous time.
I was hiking up Scarr mountain one day and on the way I walked through a landscape full of massive big boulders which were spread all around the landscape as if they had fallen like pebbles from the hand of a giant. At the moment when that thought came into my head I suddenly felt very small.
I climbed up onto some to see the view and nearer to the top of the summit they got bigger and bigger along the way. I could see for miles all round and then seeing the sea beyond I realised how close I was to the sea but yet so far away from it too. I felt a strange kind of parallel that relates to the wonders and concept of time. There is so much time and then there is none at all.
These are some of the questions and thoughts that come to my mind when out appreciating nature and taking in all that I can from it. Among many other things, it is moments like this drive me to paint and to reason out thoughts through my own creativity.
Here is a painting that was inspired by my hike that day titled ‘Standing on this rock, I can see the sea’, painted in oils mixed with cold wax.
‘Standing on this rock, I can see the sea’, 50cm x 50cm x 4cm
There are a lot of circular elements in nature and the universe that inform my art like these boulders, such as the tree rings of years on tree stumps, the coriolis force in the nature of the weather systems, the solar system, planets, and the cycle of time itself..
Just like the quote on my painting page, “There is no must in art because art is free”, a quote by Wassily Kandinsky, I try to live and make art by that. It is often hard to be free in making art though, but when it happens it is a wonderful thing.
I probably shouldn’t say this but often when I finish a painting or near finishing one, I often don’t like the finished piece. I leave the studio feeling defeated and my anxieties start up. Then when I go back to it after some time, for some reason I see it like it is brand new and unfamiliar and I begin to love it. I don’t know why this happens..
I get drawn in as my eyes travel across the canvas following the shapes that lead me into the next and the colours that shouldn’t of worked, but somehow do. Everything makes sense all at once. This is very grounding to me as an artist and there is a parallel..
I look at the universe and the great cosmos for grounding in the world sometimes as I carry all my childhood wonders in the background of my mind through to adulthood. Colour is all that is needed..
Colour is in constant flux,
because light and dark are in constant flux.
‘Satellite Walker’, Oil and Cold Wax on Canvas, 30cm x 60cm x 4cm
In response to poem ‘Celtic Warrior’ by Maria Noonan McDermott.
Once again I had a blast responding to this week’s Enlighten piece. This time it was the words in the poem, ‘Celtic Warrior’ by Maria Noonan McDermott and . My inspiration was from her words in specific here below.
‘..a landscape ever changing, filled with promise. Light filaments of gold…over the bleak lines of the horizon..’
I really empathised with those words and it’s what I am thriving to bring to my paintings all the time especially in the past few months. A landscape ever changing, a world that follows, the cinders that burn within, bring light and colour to my every day. Without light, there is no colour.. and that colour lies beyond the bleak, where we rise undefeated above the shadows..
‘Beyond the Bleak’ and detail of the work.
I am all about light and colour this past year with everything happening in the world of lock downs and for one, I am missing family especially my son who is living in Berlin. To keep my head above water and to keep positive, it is in my art where I find real solace and the spark that keeps the flame burning within. By creating an environment of bright pure ‘candy colour’, I look forward to being in my studio every day.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a night sky of stars and today I planned to head out and try capture them seen as it was a beautifully clear day today, despite the rising winds. As I made a dash for it earlier tonight when they came out, a mist started and I saw the clouds were coming over the sky. I got up to Sugar Loaf very fast because it is only 5mins up the road from me by car. When I got out of the car the door almost blew off the hinges. I was determined to capture something though, even if it meant the shortest stargaze and photo captures ever.
I had to hold down my tripod as the wind almost took both it and myself up and away. It felt like I was in a scene from The Wizard of Oz where Dorthy’s house took off into the tornado’s funnel.
Anyhow, here are some captures to keep me going and the plough, and big peachy Mars can be seen and I think Orion showed up too. Until next time, I hope you enjoy them!
Finally I get to update my site with an old series of work I did back between 2005 to 2007.
A series titled ‘Urban Trail’ 2007 that I never got to photograph properly at the time. I have so many more but the old computer I had at the time broke down basically and I lost all the original photo files. I salvaged some of them here from an old article back in 2009 that I scanned in. I wish I kept some of the original paintings now. Its interesting how parts of older styles can sneak its way into current work. In all my series of work how ever different they may seem/or not, there is a strong connection between them all.
More here on my painting section about this series Urban Trail