“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.