Saturday, 14 July 2012

Perfect meeting of place, people & paintings.

Exhibition at Birr Library, Co. Offaly  3 July - 31 July 2012.

The 'Ever-Living Ones' was opened at Birr Library by Dr. John Feehan,
who recently retired from University College Dublin where he was a 
senior lecturer in the School of Biology and Environmental Science.
Dr. Feehan is a man whose erudition I greatly respect and his book 
'The Landscape of the Slieve Bloom' inspired in me an understanding and appreciation of the landscape around me as well as a fascination with geology and Irish peat bogs.
He kindly agreed to open the exhibition on 11 July and gave a wonderful 
speech which I have included below. 

My thanks go to John Feehan, the staff at Birr Library and our visitors
for making it so memorable.

Birr Library

John Feehan

"There are two things I have learned over the years at the opening of art exhibitions. One is that it is unlikely anyone will remember what you say and the longer you go on the less likely it becomes. For that reason I will keep this short.

The second is that what is on show does not often inspire me because when I am looking at new works of art I am asking myself two things: first of all 

does it reach far enough and deep enough to touch the banished soul of the world: 

and secondly, do I find in it an integrity that does not jar with my sensitivity as a scientist (and more particularly as a geologist).

Seamus Heaney wonderfully described geology and poetry in a lecture a few years ago as 'kindred ways of responding to the mystery and making of the planet.'

I think that is even more true of geology and painting.

I should say at the outset how wonderfully these paintings meet these criteria for me!

You see the way the upper half of each painting depicts the person of the God or Goddess while the lower half depicts the elements of landscape with which he or she is associated: along with representations of our human attempts to represent or celebrate them in landscape, ritual and craft.
And notice the way a receptacle - boat, bowl or cauldron, or cupped hands - is used as it were to transmit a distilled essence of the particular power or gift of land and
landscape that is being celebrated: the power that takes human form in the mythical 
figure of the God or Goddess we conjure up to relate to it and to think about the influence of that power or gift they represent in our lives.

Each picture begins at the bottom.
It is through our experience of what we see in the lower part of each picture that the imagery born of that experience comes into focus, takes on a human face as we attempt to relate it to us in a way that turns it in on itself using our eyes as it were, requiring that we direct our everyday gaze with new attentiveness, awareness, appreciation of the natural world and all its gifts and wonders.

The particular precious resources these figures represent - the figures in human form our imagination has framed to represent them: Mannanán mac Lír, Anu, Brighid, An Cailleach, An Mór Ríogháin, Eriú, Banba and Fótla, Aengus Óg, Boann, 
Dian Cécht, Goibnui, Donn, An Dagdha, Lugh - the particular precious resources these figures represent are those earth resources that sustain our life and all life; which are degraded and misused in a culture that knows no tutelary spirits such as these, but thinks the human soul can be nourished by the digital imagery of a computer screen: and has become so, so alienated from the reality of place and landscape, when our very future survival depends on the continuing nurturing of such relationship.

And there is the relevance for our own day.
No element of landscape perhaps shows the need more I think than the water that appears in nearly all of the pictures, and which in a time when these personifications of the powers and virtues of the natural world would have been as familiar as movie stars in ours, found a ritual focus in the springs and wells that carried it from the deep of the purifying earth into our lives.
The quality of that water in our day has deteriorated to such an extent that in nearly every case it is now undrinkable, and the natural landscape context that once framed these special wells and springs, and carried the thread of connection between landscape and the human mind, has - again in nearly every case - been anaesthetised by our attempts to impose ourselves upon it with superfluous infrastructure devoid of any aesthetic sensitivity that might act as a conduit for that thread of connection.

An all-encompassing agenda for environmental action to confront these issues might be built on an appreciation of these paintings; because they invite similar reflections on air quality, soil, and the richness and diversity of life on earth.
Apart from the power to inspire each painting has in itself, each could be - should be perhaps - the subject of a chapter in a book that treats of the cultural environmental legacy of the past (if I can call it that) in order to kindle the flame of awareness and concern in our present in the way that is absolutely necessary if we are to remain on as responsible custodians of the earth.

I hate to think this pantheon will be scattered…. "  

For more pictures from Birr please visit:

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Weeks 2 & 3 at Brú na Bóinne

The exhibition at Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre is finally over and I wanted to update this blog but problems with broadband put a stop to that. 
Today we are back online so here are photos of the models, visitors and friends.
As always a big 'thank you' to everyone who found time to talk, bought cards and signed the visitor's book. 
We had a wonderful exhibition, the feedback was great and yes, if I can find an interested publisher I would love to write a book to include the pictures and the research.
(I will post some of the research here as promised so please keep checking for new posts.)

I also want to thank Clare Tuffy and all the staff at the Visitor Centre, shop and Brambles Café - who made sure there was strong coffee brewed early each morning so we could start the day.

'The Ever - Living Ones' exhibition has now moved to the library at Birr, 

Co. Offaly and is housed in a beautiful converted cloister which is filled with light.
The official opening takes place on Wednesday 11th July at 3pm with 
John Feehan saying a few words. 
If you are reading this and are able to get there please come and say 'hello'.
Broadband permitting I will post pictures of the Birr exhibition soon.

Finally to the people who have sponsored my exhibitions I owe a big 'thank you'!

They are:
Fred Mathews
Michael Collins
Trish Keating
Joe O'Sullivan Photography, Tullamore
Midland Framing, Tullamore
Crann-Óg Eco Farm - and
Mochua Print -
The Drive-On School of Motoring -
The Tara Skryne Preservation Group -

And Anne-Marie, Simon, Aírmid & Miach for putting us up and putting up with us.

That's it for now & thanks for reading. 

Week 2:

Jack Roberts of Sheela-na Gig fame


Flor - Manannán Mac Lír

Fred - Dian Cécht

Marie - Éiru, Banba & Fótla

Final week:





Chrissie & Mike



Siobhán - An Cailleach

Tony - Goibniu

If you are interested in visiting Brú na Bóinne you'll find out more at:
Info on sacred sites & tours of the Boyne Valley from Michael Fox -