Well, Cill Rialaigh in Co. Kerry is like Sorrento on the Bay of Naples (except there are fewer Italians, and there’s no volcano, and it’s never too hot) but like Sorrento, the old stone buildings are perched on the side of a cliff, looking out over a beautiful bay…
It’s nicer actually, because the scene keeps changing all the time. Sometimes we have Mediterranean blue skies, then it’s mighty Atlantic gales, then the crystal sparkling of sunshine on sea, then cool grey mists and then, breathtaking sunsets sinking in the western ocean.
It’s where artists go in search of inspiration and I was lucky enough to be invited there recently, to spend some time, far from the bustle of city life. Did I mention rainbows? Well yes, it rains there most days, I’d have to say – but the rain brings forth rainbows.
But anyway, I was down there for a reason. I have a solo show coming up on Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands this summer and I wanted to study skies for a while. I was thinking in particular of those misty Atlantic skies, soft rain, damp mist – if you’ve ever been on the west coast of Clare, I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. But this was different. The skies never stayed the same… they were constantly changing.
I’d been thinking of empty skies for a while now because they seemed to speak of possibility or promise. My work for Inis Oirr was inspired by a poem by Cathal Ó Searcaigh entitled: “Na Bailte Bánaithe”, a poem about how spirits haunt the land, long after the people who lived there have gone. Having spent some time in the Donegal Gaeltacht in recent years, exploring the old abandoned houses that were mentioned in the poem, I began a series of paintings of empty hearths, in memory of those who used to live there. They were long gone now but – where had they gone? How had they fared in their new lives? The series of skies were like my unanswered questions to the wind. Also, the promise of new life perhaps? Here’s a couple more below…
But mentioning the west coast of Clare reminds me of Andy Irvine’s song and also of an old friend of mine in France – John O’Grady – who paints wonderful atmospheric Atlantic scenes. Here’s a link to his blog which includes a recording of that song:
See also Áras Éanna, the arts centre on the Aran Islands where I’ll be having an exhibition at: http://www.araseanna.ie/en
and also: http://cillrialaigartscentre.org/