There’s an ancient old farmhouse nestling in the rolling pastures of South Kilkenny. It is lying vacant now, and slowly crumbling, but once upon a time, it was a comfortable family home. Then it was joined in the seventies by a modern bungalow and again, more recently, by a two-storey red-bricked mansion. That’s how these ancient old farmhouses get forgotten, I suppose, but I like to visit them when I can, to try to soak up the atmosphere.
Why am I writing this today? Hydrangeas. There’s an ancient old Hydrangea bush growing in the front garden of the old house. It’s a bit unkempt and sprawling now but it blooms valiantly every summer even though no one pays it any heed. And I went to an exhibition recently in the RHA, an exhibition by Maeve McCarthy entitled: “The Return” and this exhibition really struck a chord with me… Beautiful charcoal drawings of Hydrangeas, they spoke powerfully to me of the notion of ‘Home’.
In this exhibition, McCarthy was remembering childhood visits to her grandmother’s farm near Newry in Co. Down. “I remember the beautiful orchard and garden with Hydrangeas out front”, she writes, “and views towards the Mourne and Cooley mountains…” She visited the farm again in early 2015, a visit that triggered many memories for her, and she decided with her brother Peter to make a short film. You can see this beautifully shot film at the exhibition too.
It reminded me of the first old house I visited when I was up in Donegal a couple of years ago (see below). It started me off on a whole new series of paintings. (More about that at the link below the photo).
But I like the idea of an artwork as ‘an occasion for reverie’. I like how a drawing or a painting can evoke such memories and arouse such emotions… I wonder what is it about Hydrangeas that creates this lovely mood? Or maybe it’s different things for different people? Anyway, Maeve McCarthy’s solo exhibition continues until the 21st of February – if you’re in Dublin, make sure you pay a visit.