Ah yes, it was a lovely opening to an art exhibition. Believe it or not, we had Appletinis, especially made for us by Seán. This concoction, which was the favourite tipple of JD (in the television series Scrubs), is an apple martini containing mainly vodka and apple juice but with a dash of allsorts of other delights added in. Nice. I never had it before. And the turf smoke? This was especially produced for the occasion by Pacella Uí Chonaola.
Have you ever noticed, in the West of Ireland, the distinctive smell of a turf fire burning? You can smell it on the wind. It only comes from burning ‘sods’ of turf, you won’t get it from factory-produced peat brickettes… oh but it brings back such sweet memories. It always reminds me of the first time I travelled to Connemara, a long, long time ago…
But yes, I was going to tell you about the official opening of my solo exhibition: “Tinteáin” in the arts centre on Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands. It was opened officially by the poet Dara Ó Conaola who lives on Inis Oírr with his family. I really appreciated the welcome they gave me there and, as I said, his wife Pacella organised a tiny turf fire (on a little saucer) which added something extra special to the atmosphere in the gallery for the opening. They are a very creative family and both Lasairfhíona and Macdara have brought out CDs of their music. (I’ve been listening to these CDs all the time in the studio, since I returned home)
But the reason we had the scent of turf smoke was because the paintings in this exhibition was a series of empty fireplaces, from old abandoned houses in County Donegal. We thought that the scent of burning turf would evoke memories of the old days. I began this series a couple of years ago as part of an exploration of Irish emigration and, no doubt, the islands have seen more than their fair share of emigration over the years…
Bhí lóistín agam aríst in Áras Éanna agus mé ag crochadh na pictiúirí don taispeántas agus thaithin sé sin go mór liom. Tá an t-ionad ealaíne seo suite i sean-mhonarchan athchóirithe ar an taobh thiar de Inis Oírr. Monarchan fíodóireachta a bhí ann tráth ach anois, tá amharchlann le 75 suíocháin ann chomh maith le dhá ghailearaí ealaíne, caifé, cúpla ceardlanna, stiúideo mór agus áit cónaithe fairsing do ealaíntóir.
Tá an stiúideo an-dheas, le fuinneog mór ag breathnú siar. Más ag gabháil le péintéireacht atá tú, chuireadh sé gliondar ar do chroí a bheith ag obair ann. Agus tá radhairceanna álainne ar an oileáin, go h-áirthe má tá tú ‘faoi dhraoíocht ag ceol na farraige’. Athraíonn an aimsear go minic anseo agus níl foscadh ar bith le fáil má thosnaíonn sé ag cur báistí agus tú i bhfad ó bhaile. Caithfidh mé a admháil, mar sin féin, go raibh aimsear deas agamsa ann (!). Go h-iondúil bíonn an t-ádh liom, buíochas le Dia.
Tá muintir na h-áite an-cháirdiúl (tá aithne ag gach duine ar mo dheartháir Fearghas a bhí ina chónaí ar Inis Oírr fadó). Mar sin, thaithin an turas go mór liom – go h-áirithe mar go rabhamar i gceartlár na Gaeltachta agus go raibh deis agam mo chuid Gaeilge a chleachtadh.
Now, so I told you about the Appletinis, and I told you about the scent of burning turf…what else? Well, I had quite a few paintings in this show. I had eleven paintings of fireplaces and fourteen paintings of the sea and sky… These sky paintings were verging on the abstract – they were referring to possibilities, I suppose, or to the promise of new life.
This exhibition is nearly over now but I’ll be having another showing in Dublin in October this year, with the Olivier Cornet Gallery, but that’s another story.
Your comments are always welcome, thanks for your interest, eoin
You can see more work from the exhibition at: