Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Ciaran O'Driscoll wrote about my exhibition ....

“I love stories. My Dad loved to tell stories when we were growing up, and both of my parents fostered a huge interest in literature in all my 4 siblings and myself. I drive my significant other around the twist with speculations about people I don't know at all, and in 2003 he said it's something to do with my very active imagination ... so he suggested that I use this as a resource when making paintings. I thought hey, what a great idea ... and went on from there.’ Orla Clancy

We are invited to interact with and respond to these paintings and create our own narratives, to engage with the paintings as catalysts for a story of our own, be that story an actual event or encounter from the past or one from imagination. You can see from looking round that the paintings are full of suggestion – journeys particularly come to my mind and the kinds of people you meet on them, the good, the bad and the ugly, the well and the sick, the cheerful and the discontented. What is reflected here I think is the impression of the world you get from travelling, that it’s full of all kinds of creatures, some of them benign, others not so benign, in fact sinister, and the whole spectrum in between. There is the excitement, the anticipation, and the waiting that relates to travel, too, the spotting of the person you’re waiting for and waving excitedly, being always in the crowd that is anonymous, at times faceless in these paintings, but then someone suddenly comes into sharp focus with a shock. There is the consulting of maps, the sense of strangeness, unfamiliarity, I could go on but I’ve been warned not to !! J because everyone here is invited to see these images in their own way.
While this exhibition is a bringing together of the disciplines of visual art and literature, with a strong emphasis on the idea of a story-telling, as the title of the exhibition suggests, it’s important to say something about Orla as a visual artist. She talks in her statement about the actual getting down to the painting, when ‘considerations to do with composition, form, emphasis come into play’, and she admits to getting exited by the paint – probably in much the same way as writers get excited by language.
Her style reminds me a bit of woodcut etchings and drawings in story books from my own childhood, many of her images shade off from realism in the direction of surrealism or fantasy. They sometimes present us with a spectrum from health and enjoyment to sickness and deformity, or wealth to poverty, as in ‘Carrier of this Reality’ which makes a powerful statement, particularly with the hand near the top right of the painting that seems to reach out beseechingly. I find traces of Edward Munch in Orla’s work, and there are strange beings with hollow eyes that lurk in the most unexpected places, as well as the sheer enjoyment of sun and sea, and the sun-tanned arms of Minerva at Fiesole. This exhibition is the response of an open artistic sensibility to the two sides of the world’s coin, and I applaud the inclusiveness of the vision.
While the interfacing of art and literature in the exhibition presents the viewers with an opportunity for imaginative interaction, it shouldn’t be forgotten that these paintings are not just catalysts for story-telling but works of art in their own right. And remember that artists have to live, so if you are particularly taken by one or more of these works, reach for your purse or wallet and purchase.


It's always interesting when someone else interprets what you do, and his comments brought home the point to me why my work is so difficult for many: it doesn't comfort, it unsettles. People like nice pretty landscapes for nostalgia or sentimental reasons, I have done nice landscapes but honestly, there's no spark in it for me. I like doing the occasionally, but I'm not going to do them much.

I don't do 'cute'. Never did.

After I deal with some correspondance I should have dealt with 3 weeks ago, I will be going out to deal with a painting I'm not happy with. I was too heavy with the lines, I think. Sometimes I invest too much in the final product, and this doesn't make sense .... it's about the making, really.

I never stop thinking. I need to remember my dreams more and write them down, they are a wonderful source of material for paintings, simply because they are the mind processing what it has absorbed ....

Huge thank you to Ciaran for letting me have this, and for being my guest speaker last May. Ciaran is a poet and a member of the Irish Artists' organisation Aosdana, and I know him through my studies at Limerick Art College.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Backpacker Venus

This one I did soon after finishing art college, as a result of a visit to the wonderful city of Prague. It's from 2004.

I realise it's time to start taking photos of new pieces, but only have 2 that I'm really happy with, the rest need to be reworked or finished or scraped back and started again, or simply filed away till I understand them better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Barcelona and Florence sketches.

A small scene from a Starbucks in Barcelona. And a second one from Florence, near San Miniato.

I'm on a roll, making new pieces. And I have decided to rework another painting entirely, I get too caught up with making it neat and tidy, I am an expressive paint slappication sort of girl.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Legend of the Wren

The tiny bird the wren is known as the King of all Birds in European folklore.

According to legend, the birds held a contest to see who could fly the highest. The magnificent Eagle was flying higher than any other bird, but he started to tire. The tiny Wren was hidden in the Eagle's tail feathers, and flew out and soared higher than the Eagle, proving the cleverness can triumph over strength.

The Wren was sacred to the Druids of ancent Britain and Ireland, and its song used for divination purposes. In children's nursery rhymes, the character Jenny Wren was the shape-shifting Fairy Queen in the guise of a bird. The Irish for 'wren' is 'an dreóilín'.

Early Christian martyr Saint Stephen is also associated with the Wren, as the noisy bird was said to have betrayed him as he was hiding from his enemies. On Saint Stephen's Day in Ireland, which falls on 26 December every year, the Wrenboys celebrate the Wren, also called the 'Wran'. Legend has it that Viking invaders had set up camp in Ireland, and had celebrated Christmas in true Viking fashion, and the Irish natives watching them thought that if they attacked the Viking camp early the next morning, there was a good chance they would defeat them. So at dawn the Irish were creeping up to the camp, while all of the Vikings were sleeping off their Christmas hangovers. However, someone had left a drum outside, and on this drum were crumbs of food from the night before. It being winter, the little Wren was hungry, and so it pecked at the food on the drum. The noise it made inevitably woke the nearest Viking, who realised the Irish were about to attack and roused the rest of the Vikings, who were able to fight back and win.

Traditionally boys would catch a wren and kill it, and impale the bird on a stick and parade around with it, but this gruesome practice has long been done away with. Now Wrenboys in Ireland, particularly in the west and south, dress up in women's clothes, blacken their faces or wear masks, and take their bodhrans and other musical instruments and go from village to village, and pub to pub, singing and dancing and generally celebrating midwinter and the imminent change of season. Many of them now collect spare change which is either used to pay for food and drink during the day in question, or simply donated to local charities. The Wren is also extensively described in John B. Keane's novel 'The Bodhran Makers'.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One I'd forgotten about ....

Watching the Comhaltas Concert, one of my degree show pieces. This is in a pub in Ballypatrick, on the slopes of Slievenamon, in County Tipperary.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Art auction updates

Above: Nude in Charcoal and Conte Crayon
Below: Nude in Pencil

I'm very happy to say that all three pieces I submitted recently for charity fundraising art auctions have sold.

The two Nudes above were sold in the Limerick Gay Pride Art Auction and Garden Party, and I was delighted and surprised when the auctioneer announced that there was a reserve on both of them when they came up to be auctioned. Both were sold above the reserve price. So I'm pleased, and the two pieces have earned a little money for the Rainbow Gay and Lesbian Support Services. In total over €10,000 was raised at the art auction, which is amazing considering that it wasn't full of people, and because of the current economic climate in the world in general.

Also, Sailing to Ischia III was sold for €380 at another auction in Cork city, Ireland, to raise money for Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland. I was told that it was one of the better sellers, and was bought by a lady in Cork city. I was also told that this auction raised €4,000 for the hospital, a small amount considering the amazing work they do, but every bit helps.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Knockfierna Rambling House

Knockfierna Rambling House. Another one I did not long out of college, on the impetus of that. It's from a drawing.

Knockfierna is a real place in County Limerick, the hilltop is a commonage and has one of the few reconstructed Famine villages in Ireland. A Rambling House is what people did before television, they'd go visiting in the evening, for company, tell stories, sing songs, dance. This is a view from the window of the actual cottage, down the hill towards the village of Ballingarry.

Knockfierna is from the Irish cnoc on fhirinne, which means 'hill of truth'.

This image is from a drawing taking from one of the said Rambling Houses.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A composite

Sometimes just recording what you see isn't enough, you want to do a Picasso on it and take it to bits, explore it, look at the various components in different ways. This was done with oil pastels, tracing paper, photographs, pencile and oil paint on board. Mixed media so.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In Ireland, Summer is a state of mind ...

Child of the May, maiden of Summer
We brought the summer to ourselves
Yellow summer where the sun goes down
We brought the summer to ourselves

Thugamar Fein an Samhradh Linn, a song I learned on Cape Clear when I was 15. The text is a very rough translation of the first verse.

I still have this painting, I love it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Not Armageddon but ....

Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then. like, the Earth explodes, and it's like, a serious bummer.

I mean, where does one find people who say things like this?

Sightseeing ....

.... on the Cliffs of Moher. It's possible to look at more than the landscape! ;-)

Text and a message

I called this one Text, see if you can figure out why. It got sold just over two years ago. Huge thanks to Sylvia, and I miss you, as do many artists in the Limerick/Clare region.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Shannon Estuary

I'm going to a small local Arts Festival on a town on the Shannon Estuary this evening, and I'm looking forward to it: the Askeaton Arts Festival. They started it up a few years ago, probably under the Small Festivals Scheme that's funded by the Irish Arts Council, I'm not sure.

I've seen dolphins swimming in this estuary, and I've heard of whales in the vicinity also. And the wild birds .... one side is Limerick, the other is Clare, and when I made the drawing for this I was on the Limerick side looking over. I think the best bit of the Clare side is Loop Head, but best experienced if you have no sense of smell because the wild bird guano creates the most horrendous stench .... and the best bit of the Limerick side is Ballybunion, although strictly speaking that's in County Kerry, but it has this amazing cliff walk, and wonderful beach, as well as a world-famous golf course. But the best bit in County Limerick is Carrigogunnel Castle, from which you have a fantastic view down the estuary.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Using text

I also experimented with using text in paintings, but soon realised that you have to be very careful with the type of text you use. This text seems to be completely at odds with the figures, who seem comfortable with each other. The text itself is a quote from my other favourite Irish novelist Marion Keyes, and it is from her novel Rachel's Holiday. (I challenge anyone to refer to her work as merely 'chicklit'. Read them first. A much more accurate description of these is The Thinking Woman's Chicklit.) I think I went for one of Marion Keyes' books because she is absolutely marvellous at capturing 'real' dialogue - when I read her books I feel like I'm talking to a friend - and I wanted 'real' dialogue to tie in with my 'real' social dynamics works. However, sometimes that suggested by the text does not match the attitude of the subjects drawn, all of whom are real people. This painting was a failure in that respect, and I have been asked to remove it from an exhibition because one of the people working at that arts centre had been in an abusive relationship and found it very upsetting to be confronted with this every day.

It's a hard painting to look at, and the implications of what it might suggest are also hard to take. Maybe this is an indication that it's successful on some level, I don't know. I am learning about communication as I go along.

More about drawing.

The joys of modern technology. This was originally a sketch in my sketchbook, which I photocopied onto a sheet of acetate, then used an overhead projector to get it onto a large sheet of paper, A0 size. I love the way that you can do this, and keep the particular qualities of the drawing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crossing the strange area between figurative and abstract

This one still scares me a bit. I remember just doing it very quickly, then stepped back and thought 'I have created .... something.' I walked away from it and down to the college library, and came back to it, and thought again ' .... something'.

It is in fact a painting of a white mask I made with plaster of Paris using a balloon. It's an odd shape, and doesn't sit well on any physical face. But this image is large, about four meet long, that's about a metre and a quarter, and its size makes it .... something.

I tried to transfer it to canvas, but couldn't get the psychic otherworldliness a second time, so I have kept the original acrylic on paper.

One of the things that fascinate me about masks is the notion that you take an inaminate object, put it on your face, and a third entity is created. Another thing you have to ask yourself about a mask is does it hide your true personality, or does it reveal the true you? Or both?

I'm not sure whether this is figurative or abstract, neither, or both - or just some weird no-man's land in between them.

Another one from a few years ago

But this one shows the results of many many hours of study of the human figure. The hill in the background is the hill I see from the back of my house, Knockfierna. I thought it would be fun to explore the notion of the dancers finished with their dance and rubbing their sore feet and shoulders. I have a particular fondness for female models with rather full figures, simply because of the way their shape captures the light on their skin - they're beautiful. This particular painting is now in the Netherlands.

I love Matisse's work, it's beautiful. His original painting La Danse is one of my all-time favourites.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One that's very old indeed ....

I forgot about this one. It's one I did years ago, when I was getting back into painting, not long before I met my other half. It's called The Morrigan, and shows the Goddess in her three aspects. It travelled to the Netherlands with me, and back to Ireland again.

Not for sale.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Standing figure, Kilkee

It was a beautiful sunny day by the sea in Kilkee, and there were thousands there for the athletics and swimming event that was going on. People were spilling out of the pubs and cafes and sitting on walls, and the grass, eating, drinking and just enjoying the wonderful weather.

ADDITION: I  added colour:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

She's a big one ....

This painting is called Truth Universally Acknowledged, and was part of my degree show in 2004. It's big, 7 foot by 4 foot and a half. I have a hell of a time transporting it anywhere. That said, when I did hang it in Dublin, a lot of people seemed to like it. There was one guy who told me that for a week he spent half an hour a day just looking at it, and every day he found something new in it to think about and enjoy. He loved it. But his wife would have killed him if he bought some a big painting. I mean, this thing is HUGE.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I suppose if I really wanted to be commercial, I'd do more pieces like this one. Naturally it sold in Dublin when I exhibited it there. It's 150 x 75 cm, so long .... and the fun was in the working of the paint.

Since painting this I have gone back and done a smaller version of this painting, because even though the element of nostalgia can sometimes be a bit much, there is a sense of fresh air, freedom and sheer wildness in this three girls that Linda managed to capture in the photograph, taken on Inch Strand in County Kerry in 1992.

Monday, June 2, 2008

And some drawings ....

I often work from this type of thing, but sometimes the drawing alone can be beautiful. Sometimes it's so nice to be able to sit and draw, I couldn't in the top one as I was on the street, but I think the sharper turns of the pencil on the page help convey the excitement and energy of the event in question.

Edit: Have started painting some of these with watercolour paints, with interesting results. Will update as time goes on.

Later: The top one of these is now very colourful - and even more vivid.

And I have to add the other one ....

Campo Dei Miracoli II, also done in 2006, and also one I was very pleased with and a little sad to sell.

More ones that sold ....

Campo Dei Miracoli I, done in 2006. I was very sad to sell this one, it was one of my favourites. But it's also kind of nice that some of the ones that are my favourites sell.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gone to America ....

A landscape I did in 2001, before I started back at art college. Acrylic on paper, done en plein air, now in a private collection in the United States. I really liked this one, and am still very proud of it. I was a little sad to sell it, but back then I was really really strapped for cash. Unlike now, when I'm just merely strapped for cash. But hey, who isn't ....

Old Man's Ghosts

This one I started in late 2004 and finished in 2005, and apparently it was bought from the Miller Gallery in Sixmilebridge, County Clare (run by the late and lovely Sylvia Roche-Kelly, who was taken from us way way WAY before her time) by someone who claimed to have been in school with my father .... haha, so he must have been in his early eighties. Oil on canvas and metallic gold finish, 90x60 cm.

Astrological Clock

Who has been to Prague? Who has listened to Tim Croce's songs? And who has read Everything Is Illuminated?
This one was inspired by the visitors to Prague looking at the wonderful little clock high up over the city centre square, and time and memory and how weird time can be and the tricks it can play on memory and vice versa ....
Oil and gold metallic stuff on canvas, 2005, now in a private collection in Ireland. Sometimes I hate when I sell stuff. But c'est la vie.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cigarette Smoking Man

I have a few friends who are great photographers, and this is taken from a photo by my friend Pat Barry, who is an old school photographer, in that he does not use computer technology to develop his film and make his prints. With the cigarette almost out of the picture Cigarette Smoking Man was the natural title. One for the fans of the X-files.

Campo Dei Miracoli III

Campo Dei Miracoli III - it was a hot day in the shadow of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, everyone was hogging the shade. The old lady in the foreground realised I was drawing her in my sketchbook and she loved it .....

Aside from the old monastic site that includes the leaning tower and the little church perched on the riverbank, Pisa has very little to recommend it. It's a tourist trap, pure and simple. Yes, they have a regatta every year, and while that would be fun to see, it wouldn't mean you'd want to spend longer in Pisa than necessary. We did a day trip to Pisa by local train from Florence, and it took about 2 hours each way.

It was a very hot day, and people who didn't want to pay the extortionate prices to go into the various monuments clustered in the shade of the buildings. It was kind of funny watching them move slowly in a semi-circle with the shadow of the tower. I spent the hottest 2 hours in the museum that's right beside the leaning tower, literally under the bit that's leaning - so if the tower ever does keel over, the museum is toast.

Carrier of Dreams

Carrier of this Reality. This was one that was started in my Degree year, and I kept working on it afterwards. It didn't really fit in with the ones I eventually hung, so I just brought it home to work on. Over the following year I came across some things that I wanted to add to it, including the 'You say carrier of disease, I say carrier of this reality', a very cryptic saying given to me by the mother of a boy who died of leukaemia. The other quote on this 'you have seen in the big window ....' etc. is from the Irish writer Walter Macken, who I think is possibly the most gifted wordsmith ever to have come from this country. He's a painter with words.
You see nice images, but also, this painting is about what you don't see .... I think .... I cannot really articulate my own thoughts on this one, so am interested in hearing thoughts from others.

10 years later, looking at this blog post, and with the benefit of distance: Since painting this piece, I have lost two very close and dear friends, and so have a little more insight into what was going through the bereaved mother's mind at the time, and also what the dying boy might have been experiencing.

The first of my friends to die, a woman close to me in age, passed very suddenly due to complications from epilepsy, having hidden her worsening condition from her family. Her passing was not unexpected, nevertheless it was devastating to all who knew her - but as she was someone who fought hard to be independent in all ways, I was in a way happy for her, finally free of the body that was giving her so much grief. I like to think that she has travelled the Solar System, seen all of the known world, and visited a few places we have yet to find. I also like to think she comes back to visit me - on the day after she died, there was a brief but very squally storm by my house, followed by the most glorious double rainbow, which I like to think was her goodbye to me. So every time I see a rainbow now, it's like she's come by for a chat.

The second of my close friends to pass was a beautiful, gentle, wise, creative man who wished nothing more than to make people feel beautiful and happy. He was diagnosed with advanced, aggressive and inoperable cancer and died a few weeks later. I like to think that for him, heaven is his sitting room in his own lovely home, with a fit and healthy body, and an inexhaustible supply of delicious things, especially chocolate eclairs, and that he is watching those he loves on his television to make sure we are okay.

Even though these two friends never met, I like to think of them sitting on his sofa, scoffing down chocolate eclairs, and smiling at me through the television. I know that if they had been friends in this world, they would have adored each other. I like to think they are meeting for coffee and fattening desserts in the next life - would be heaven for both of them. 

In Company of Absence

In Company of Absence I, named for a poem by Irish poet Michael Coady. Part of what was originally intended to be a triptych. For personal reasons this poem was very moving. It's big, 3ft by 4ft, so the original size was very large indeed - 4 ft by 9 ft. I still have the other two parts.

Mirror Maze - with the artist included

The shadow on the girl's back is my hands and the camera. I loved Prague, been there twice, will probably go again. Really nice city, really friendly people.

Fiesole again

Fiesole I, to match Fiesole II.

Now in a private collection in Ireland.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sailing to Ischia III

Sailing to Ischia III .... and I might do more sometime. This particular painting was sold in Cork city at a charity auction in aid of Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Dublin.

Sailing to Ischia II

When I painted this, I initially used oil pastel to draw the outlines, but I liked the way they worked on the canvas board so much I decided to use them at the end of the process too, to create a bit of texture on the figures. 

On the ferry to the island of Ischia

Sailing to Ischia I

Included in an exhibition in March 2010 in the Mad Art Gallery, 56 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1, Ireland.


Graphics by Thinkk Creative Design.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Spanish picture

Enjoying the sunshine, something these Spaniards didn't expect to find in Ireland .... Have you ever noticed that when you ask young visitors how they liked being in Ireland, they'd always say something about having to eat a lot of potatoes?

Addition: This painting was one of six of my little ones included in an exhibition in the Mad Art Gallery, 56 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1, Ireland, to start on 25 February 2010.

Now in a private collection in Ireland.

Central Bank: Sisters (Dun na Greine)

The one that caught her eye. This little one was in the Christmas Show at the Access to Arts gallery in Dublin city centre (http://www.accesstoarts.ie/). Again, the light made me want to paint it.

Central Bank: Diorama (Mirror Maze)

This one is from a photo in the Mirror Maze on Petrin Hill, in the beautiful city of Prague. It was the light that made me want to paint it.

Sitting Among Boys ...

Called Sitting Among Boys, this little one is oil on canvas and measures 40x40cm without the frame.

Also home again now.

Caloptric Chamber

Caloptric Chamber (Mirror Maze), included in Thinkk Creative show, May-June 2008. Large painting, and a bit mad composition-wise. But it works.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More landscape - here's a seascape

This is oil pastel on paper, it's called The Cliffs at Ballybunion, and it's not very big. Oil pastels are brilliant when drawing outside, and work really well on coloured paper, which is what I've done here. This is from 2001.

Currently in my own collection, although many people are surprised when I tell them it's only a drawing. 

Landscapes from a few years back ....

This is the view over the fields from the back of my house in West Limerick. I did this painting on location - en plein air, to use the posh artist phrase, which means 'outside in the open' - in the summer of 2002, and it's oil paint on paper, applied mainly with palette knife. I love where I live. This painting is simply called Ballyneale and is about 90x60 cm.

Currently in my own collection. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two In A Crowd

While in my final year at art college, this was my 'breakthrough' piece, which the college subsequently took for its own collection - a regular thing. However, after a certain number of years, the college has a lot of paintings, so if they can't store them, they'll return them to the artists. And I had been wondering if I could get this one back, so I am pleased that they no longer wanted it ....


Two in a Crowd, 2003, oil on canvas, 120x120cm

Back from the framers part 1! Demeter, Dún na Gréine

It was the light captured in the photo that made me want to explore the way the paint would handle it. This painting was exhibited privately in the Central Bank in Dublin, Ireland.
Demeter, Dún na Gréine, 2007, oil on canvas, 40x40 cm (unframed measurement).

But I'm not happy with it, the child's face on the left is not working, so I'm going to rework it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rendez-vous at the Trevi Fountain

From a photograph taken in Rome in May 2006. It was the woman's dress that made the photograph, it's always some little detail like that .....

The sun was going down, it was getting cool again, and people were starting to think about going somewhere for dinner.

You can't actually go into the fountain anymore .... more's the pity because it looks like it might be nice on a warm day. They say that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you will return to Rome. A nice myth.

Since visiting Rome and seeing all those places, I have read Lustrum and Imperium by Robert Harris, in which various places in Rome are mentioned. Sometimes you kind of wish that time travel was possible when you're someplace like Rome, or Pompeii. It would be really something to go back in time and experience what it was really like living there.