CVAC Art Review by Dr. Ann O’Mahony

‘Visual 8’ Art Exhibition by CVAC 26/10/18 – 02/11/18 in Claremorris Gallery

A warm welcome to Visual 8, an Exhibition hosted by Claremorris Visual Arts Community (CVAC). CVAC is an artists’ collective with 8 members at present – Norah Brennan, Our Chairperson, Anna O Dixon, Secretary, Ann Warde, Treasurer, Christine Lynn, Kay Brennan, Lesley Raftery, Marie Kenna and Ann O’Mahony. 

The idea to form the group came at a Cultural Night gathering in Norah Brennan’s inspirational print studio in 2015. Our purpose in coming together is to encourage each other in our journey as artists, a life choice that at the best of times can bring challenges as well as joy – Ní neart go cur le chéile –There is strength in cooperation, as the old Irish proverb says.

We meet monthly and have become familiar with each other’s art practice, visiting each other’s studios and sharing skills and concerns. We have also been known to share a glass of wine in Warde’s heritage pub or coffee and cakes in Araby, both well-known Claremorris venues! So as well as our deeply serious purposes of developing our work and creating opportunities to show and share our work, there is a social and supportive aspect to CVAC that for me is very important.

As is evident from the work presented in Visual 8, there is a variety of sensibilities and aesthetics represented in our group. Norah Brennan, for example, is a printmaker and painter. She has a First Class Honours Degree from GMIT and there is wonderful colour and vitality in her work. She has exhibited her work widely, contributing to juried international exhibitions as well as exhibitions in Ireland, her most recent exhibitions in Ballina Arts Centre and Strabane, Northern Ireland. That she is indeed a Master Printmaker is evidenced by her recent collaboration with the renowned sculptor, John Behan, when she editioned one of his prints. She is an arts educator and teaches workshops on a regular basis. Her work is represented in the collections of the National University of Ireland, Roscommon County Council and private collections.

Anna O Dixon’s work engages with the healing and transformative power of the arts. She is a Fine Art graduate of GMIT and a part-time art teacher with Mayo Education and Training Board. Her art work is an exploration of the power of healing symbols, particularly those of the Sami peoples of Lapland, to whom she has personal connections through her mother’s lineage. She uses mixed media techniques to produce her wonderfully tactile low relief surfaces and textures. Anna’s work is represented in Irish and international collections.

Ann Warde has painted all her life and has exhibited her work on many occasions. Through her expressive paintings (her water colours are to be coveted!) and her sculptures, Ann explores aspects of historical and contemporary culture. Her work is represented in many collections, including that of Michael D. Higgins. 

Christine Lynn is an established painter whose work has been included in juried shows in the Linenhall Arts Centre and The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon. Her vibrant paintings indicate her fascination with colour and luminosity. She is inspired by Tiffany stain glass and this fascination with light is evident in her paintings. She regularly exhibits her work in St. Stephen’s Green Open Exhibitions in Dublin. She is an avid gardener and lover of nature which also influences her work.

Kay Brennan is a well-established Mayo artist. She runs a delightful studio in Ballinrobe where she paints and shares her considerable skills by teaching art classes. Kay is inspired by the seasonal changes in nature which she captures in her expressionist oil paintings. Colour, light, texture imbue her art work. She has also worked tirelessly on behalf of the arts as a committee member of COE, a prestigious art event which put Claremorris on the international art map and allowed all of us the opportunity to experience the best of contemporary art. It is with great regret that we learned news of COE’s financial problems and we hope that these will be resolved and that the important work of COE will be safeguarded into the future. Kay’s art work is represented in many collections and she has had three solo exhibitions of her work.

Lesley Raftery is originally from Dublin but now lives in Mayo. She is a jewellery maker and a painter. She also makes delightful ink drawings. Ogham script on clay, fused glass, ink drawings of meadows and landscapes characterise her intimate work. Lesley’s work points up for us the magic of materials and reminds us of the magic we all have in our hands.

Marie Kenna is another GMIT graduate. She is inspired by abstraction from natural forms and she works in mixed media using oils, inks, charcoal on paper as well as ceramics and textiles. Again, Marie’s work points to an art practice deeply engaged with materials and making.

Ann O’ Mahony’s work is concerned with cultural memory and meaning and with celebrating women’s creative expression. She is a weaver and printmaker and an Art and Design Graduate of GMIT. She was awarded a PhD in the History of Art and Critical Theory for her research based thesis entitle, “In Search of a Language: Textile and Text in Contemporary Women’s Art”. Her work has been included in juried shows including the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Royal Dublin Society, Tallaght Arts Centre, Aberystwyth Arts Centre at the University of Wales. She has been an artist in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and in 2017 she had a joint exhibition ‘VOICE’ with Jane Dunn at The Alley Arts Centre, Strabane, N. Ireland. Her work is represented in Dublin and in Mayo County Council’s Art Collections and in a number of corporate collections.

The enchantment of materials and making is a common thread running through all our art practices. Engaging with the materiality of the world as a way of grappling with and apprehending our individual realities provides us with a methodology to express our deepest concerns. The French philosopher, Roland Barthes, tells us that materiality instructs us, teaching us of the hidden wonders of the cosmos and our place embedded within it. Perhaps, that is the great gift of the visual arts to this historical moment when digital flights of fancy and day and night long engagement with our wonderful I-Phones threaten our sense of reality and the health and wellbeing of our children.

The physicality of art materials bind us to the fabric of embodied life opening our senses and imaginations to the mystery and beauty of colour and light – our pigments derived from earth rock – the blue of Lapis from Afghanistan, blood red sanguine, burnt umbers and raw sienna from the Tuscan hills, textile dyes from lichen and hedgerows in our back gardens; handmade rag papers with deckled edges to delight the eye, head and heart.

Materiality imbued with human imagination brings reconnection with our deepest purposes and hope for our futures. Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge … knowledge is limited, Imagination encircles the world”.

The magic of art is the marriage of materiality and imagination in age old gestures of drawing, spinning, weaving, engraving, painting, etching, printing, stitching; forging new imagery, remembering ancient symbols.

All this you see around you in Visual 8 and we hope it will draw you in to an ever deepening engagement with your own inner artist. We hope you will be inspired to make a mark, draw a line, weave a web.

Thank You for engaging with our work and special thanks to Rosemarie Noone for the use of her lovely gallery space.

Prepared by Dr. Ann O’Mahony  

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