Friday, May 6, 2016

Retinal Red

Pompeiin Still-life 92x122cm

My most recently painted ‘Pompeiian Still life’; named after perusing  Mary Beard’s book on ancient Rome, with its inclusion of 3 small but stunning images of wall paintings from Pompeii:  has recently set me on a crazy spree of cadmium- red- saturated- compositions. 
In my youth I fell in love with those Pompeiian red wall frescoes that decked the walls of those men and women that inhabited that fateful Roman town.  Fuelled, and kept alive and kicking by looking and studying modernist paintings such as Matthew Smith’s Nude, Fitzroy Street No1, 1916  and Matisse’s Red Studio 1911  
Mattisse Red Sudio

Matthew Smith Nude 

Over the years many of my paintings have fallen into this bracket of using Cadmium Reds to the point of no-return, hence no excuses for my latest one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Focus on Mirror-Mirror

Mirror-Mirror 46x46cm oil on canvas

A friend recently asked to use this image for a blog post she was putting up , on make-up and her relationship with it.  She inadvertently got where I was coming from when I painted this little 46x46cm oil painting, part of my Scheherazade exhibition 2013.  I was thinking of fairy tales and storytelling for my show, and combined my obsession with mirrors and how we perceive ourselves or more to the point our relationship with a very one-dimensional view of our face, fixed before our eyes, in reverse, and reflected back with all the distractions of dusty light beams, sheen from the mirror surface itself, and its constricted frame to name a few, that it’s crazy to think that this is all that we are, or think, that this is all there is to us.  We put so much into this interrogation, we can feel empowered and boosted up by what we see or in contrast we can hyper-obsess about what is not good or what is missing. A fraction of a cm here or a lift there and everything will be sorted.  It’s such a deeply feral relationship… a face… It must be something to do with survival and bonding, so that we can, as helpless babies, cement our links with the one who will keep us alive.  I was in hospital for a prolonged stay as a toddler and because I didn’t understand why I was there, I didn’t take to the experience very well, but I do remember a particular nurse or ward sister’s face.  She was like an angel to me, her balanced, warm-toned face was my anchor and I still feel connected to her in a deeply spiritual way.  So a face can be more than it seems.  So maybe this is one of the reasons that we can use a mirror to either ground ourselves in a reassuring glance, or interrogate our image in a critical way to see whether we are worth the love that we all seek.
Whatever is happening I am truly hooked and will always use my mirror to reference and catalogue who I am.  And as for make-up I think the make-up industry knows all, as by  supplying us with the aids to conceal, draw-in, redefine and of course colour in …. We are all endlessly absorbed and fascinated!!!  

Focus on The Pug and the Pea

The Pug and the Pea 71x71cm oil on canvas

I painted The Pug and the Pea for my 2013 Scheherazade exhibition.  I was looking at old Victorian and familiar childhood fairy tales as inspiration at the time and as the title to this painting suggests it is a pun on one of my favourites ‘The Princess and the Pea’.
This fairy story conquers up a visual feast, layer upon layer of mattresses and bedding piled high to conceal and disguise the crux of the matter: and that was, would the real princess feel the hard pea through all this fabric or would she be found out as an imposter.

I had previously painted a large painting with this title for my 2008 Chinoiserie exhibition.(see above)
The pug and the pea is a smaller painting than the original 152x122cm and it is square in format.  The thinking behind the dog substitute was quite simply that I had painted two paintings of my cairn terrier Maisie on this theme for the Chinoiserie show, where the dogs are sat on velvet cushions looking out at the viewer reminiscent of the china Staffordshire dogs, that I love so much.  So it seemed a natural development for me to pile up a few more cushions and repeat the composition and tempt a pug dog to see if he could detect a pea lurking beneath.

Maisie Blue and Yellow both  71x71cm oil on canvas

And a pug… well I do love pugs, even though I don’t own one (yet!!!) there was a special pug in my life when I was a young babysitter, living up the side of Carrigona mountain, Kilmacanogue with my neighbours  and their young family. This pug was such a pleasant happy fellow, a constant companion and happy telly watcher; he was such a comfort against the long evening vigil.
Pugs did feature quite a bit in my Scheherazade exhibition, from companion pets to replacing despotic Persian Kings, I make no excuses!!.. but the dogs bland, flattened features and well known  calm nature, helped me tone down the story telling side to these paintings which in turn helped to focus on my main objective i.e. the paint and composition… well that’s my story!!!

Secrets 122x92cm oil on canvas 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

germinating an idea

Polytunnel 122x152cm oil on canvas

I have finally finished ‘Polytunnel’. A large canvas 122x152cm in oil.  This is the first of a new series of paintings, that I hope, will culminate in a solo show in a year or so.  I wanted to explore an outdoor/indoor theme and the garden or allotment, as subject matter is, so far, proving fruitful.  I have  just sent  this first painting off to The Doorway Gallery for Christmas . I am hoping to paint a few more large paintings before my next show, so I feel I can release this one for now.
I thought I would share a few words about this particular painting and to elaborate on some of processes that I used in creating it. 

I usually start out with a feeling of an idea that I muse over in my head, pondering whether it will be right for translating into a painting. Therefore, the seeds for this composition started to germinate this time last year.   In our polytunnel we always seems to have an abundance of very happy wild strawberry plants, that, and the odd cabbage. Here  I had my drawing material and conveniently undercover from the inclement weather, so  by early summer I had an outline of what I wanted to paint.

In studio working on final painting 
I had several versions that came and went, but I knew I wanted a centrally placed female figure either picking strawberries or harvesting fruit within the polytunnel with a dress based on my re-interpretation of the   William Morris’s Strawberry thief pattern.    I always work from my internal visual memory when it comes to the figures in my work, but I prefer to work from life for everything else, this is not always possible but either way the problem solving exercise to build up the composition takes many forms and references sources to get to the end point before I can start on the painting itself.  When It comes to painting I let the paint and colour lead and tell me how to proceed, as for me it is all about the tactile quality of the oil paint and the emotional response to colour, that is my main concern.  The illusional and story telling of the painting is for me its starting point and just a spring board to launch myself into the language and sensory magic of paint itself. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Questions and Answers!!

My solo show Recent Paintings 2015 is opening this week, and instead of asking some kind individual to do the honours, we have decided to have a informal introduction with Denise and Deirdre from The Doorway Gallery asking me a few questions about the work etc, and hopefully some questions from interested people that will be there on the day.
It is always quite difficult for me to put in to words what I am doing or trying to achieve with my work, as painting happens in the dynamic and is so much to do with the physical act of painting itself, its like trying to describe to someone how to drive a car, when you break down the process into seperate units it doesn’t really describe what is going on, because it is about using a multiple set of skills together in union, that over time have  become part of the sub-conscious.
Over the years, I have developed a style and subject matter that is specifically my own and expresses what I want to say when it comes to mood, colour, composition, perspective, texture, influences, and subject matter. And therefore I am quite clear on what I paint and how I paint it.  My subject matter is taken from my every day life and I can see repeated themes cropping up over again, in an inexhaustible need to create sense out of the random chaos of life.  I need security and a safe haven to exist in, and my paintings provide that calm resolve that seems so essential to my well being.  Colour for me is a vital part of my life, we all respond to colour in an emotional way, it creates a dialogue within us, and we react to it in all sorts of complex ways, but it is something we can’t ignore.  So as a painter I can use this innate quality of colour, as a tool in which to construct my compositions.  I have gained your attention by colour, then I will keep you looking as I take your eyes on a journey around my constructed space.  My edict is too never become formulaic, or slick, as I need to keep a high level of concentration up when I paint.   The feeling of free-falling that I often have when I start a painting creates the adrenalin I need, to bring that extra something to the work.   I love the 2-Dimensional surface of a canvas and I want to further enhance its decorative flat qualities rather than create pictorial illusion and space, which has never interested me.  That is why I disregard the rules of perspective, and twist and dominate it, so that it plays second fiddle to the flat surface of the canvas.

 I want to create very personal and individualistic paintings, that honour the beauty of colour and texture of paint, and I want to explore subject matter that has a relevance to me and that I  respond to emotionally.   I take inspiration from many eclectic sources either the people and objects and landspace around me, or a response to other historial paintings or objects of beauty that I come across through books, films, poems etc,.  I also love to take on the  challenge of recreating through paint, a mood or feeling that I want to further capture and hold.  Just my way of understanding what it is to be alive.
Spring Walk 150x61cm oil on board part of Recent Paintings exhibition opening Thursday 7th May 6-7.30pm

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sources 2015

girl with doll  52x46cm

'Source' is  a small collection of pre-exhibition paintings, they were painted prior to working on my main collection that make up my new solo show Recent Paintings 2015 which will be opening on Thursday 7th May at The Doorway Gallery, on Frederick St South, Dublin 2.

Head Scarf 20x15cm
 Last year, I had painted quite a few bright Russian textile inspired flower paintings that have been at The Doorway Gallery.  It   was while I was looking at this source material for my new solo show,  that I became intrigued with some late 19th Century photographs of exiled Khans, nomadic textile traders and Russian peasant girls dressed in beautiful traditional Ikat coats and ceremonial robes.
   As a result I painted this series of small oil paintings, which I am going to exhibit during the show as they help to further understand, how and why, I paint what I paint.

Walking Home 25x20cm
Fox fur 25x20cm
Little Fruit Seller 25x20cm
Ikat girl 25x20cm
Matryoshka Turquoise Vase 71x61cm

Matryoshka Amaryllis 71x61cm

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Yesterday I gathered all my new paintings together for a friend to look it was she had car-trouble and unfortunately couldnt make it down...  crest-fallen but not defeated, I took these photos of the paintings before I disbanded them back to the workshop for framing etc.  It was the first time I saw them all together in one room in lieu of my solo show coming up in May.  Thought I would share them with you!