AROUND 40 County Cork artists are donating their work for an art sale to raise funds for CHASE, the umbrella group of community residents who have battled plans for an incinerator in Ringaskiddy for the past 17 years.
Many of the artists who have contributed to CHASING ART are from harbour towns including Cobh, Monkstown and Kinsale, and the donors include both professionals and amateurs.
The donated paintings and prints are reflective of the diversity of artists in Cork Harbour and how they are inspired by their natural environment artists, says organiser and Monkstown artist Tom Browne.
“Every artist is close to nature: that’s where the inspiration comes from,” Tom says.
“The harbour is a beautiful place and so this cause seems to be very close to their hearts. It was like pushing an open door to get people to contribute.”
Tom paints skilfully coloured, almost abstract representations of the natural world including underwater scenes inspired by his 45 years as a scuba diver in the harbour, in his studio overlooking the water in Monkstown.
Formerly in the furniture business and from a family of wood turners, Tom studied in the Crawford School of Art in the 1970s. Since his retirement, he’s been able to focus full-time on his art.
“That’s my day’s work now: go out to the studio and paint,” he says.
Although the retiree no longer scuba dives following a heart bypass operation six years ago, he stays connected to the marine world he loves by snorkelling and sailing.
But the images he’s seen in his years of diving return to him when he paints, he says.
“We spent a lot of time diving at The Ling Rocks, which is 10 miles south-east of the Old Head of Kinsale,” he says. “It’s a submerged rock that comes up to about 22 metres below the surface. The face of those rocks is covered in anemones and sea-life. It’s the multitude of colours that’s my biggest inspiration: I can visualise these things before I paint, and they just come out on the canvas.”
However, the piece he’s donating to the CHASING ART sale, which takes place in Carrigaline, is based on land: a field of crimson poppies in the sun. He has also produced a series of paintings of dramatic coastal scenes including lighthouses and crashing waves.
Local environmental group CHASE — Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment — hit the headlines again during in May this year when An Bórd Pleanála (ABP) granted planning permission for the third time for Indaver Ireland’s proposed 240,000 tonne Ringaskiddy incinerator.
CHASE estimates that the 17-year battle has cost over €600,000 to date, all of it fund-raised in harbour communities. They are now fundraising for legal costs yet again: a judicial review of ABP’s latest decision has been set for May, 2019, a year after the decision was announced.
Tom says it can be difficult to avoid “fund-raising fatigue” amongst harbour residents who have made so many contributions over the course of such a lengthy process, but that the art sale will attract art lovers and collectors from all over the city and county.
“Being an artist myself, I came up with this idea as a nice way to raise money without burdening people too much,” he says.
“There’s also a bit of fatigue amongst artists, from people being asked to contribute artworks to things all the time, but in fairness people dug very deep for this cause. Virtually every artist we asked supported us.”
Having been involved with diving and sailing in Cork since his teens, Tom thinks we’re under-utilising Cork Harbour for tourism and leisure, and that it should be an amenity to rival Sydney Harbour in Australia. He wants to see a move away from heavy industry in the harbour and says he doesn’t think an incinerator is the best plan for Cork’s future.
“If you go to Sydney, there’s no industry down to the water there,” he says. “If you want to go to the zoo, you go by ferry. You can go to the Opera House by water. It’s properly used, and it’s a huge tourist attraction.
“We haven’t been making proper use of our harbour at all. We can’t do anything about the history of it, but if you were starting again, you wouldn’t be putting heavy industry in the harbour. We want the maritime college, sailing facilities, leisure and residential uses.”
The CHASING ART sale doesn’t have a specific fund-raising goal but Tom says that virtually all the proceeds of the sale will go directly to CHASE: every artwork has been donated, as has the use of the exhibition space in the Carrigaline Court Hotel.
Tom has been very impressed by the response from artists, who have been very generous in donating their work to the sale.
Printmaker Debbie Godsell says she was only too delighted to donate one of her prints to the sale. A graduate of CIT Crawford College of Art and Design, she is the Course Director for the Certificate in Art in Coláiste Stiofán Naofa and a member of Cork Printmakers.
Although she’s now based in Macroom, she grew up in the village of Glenbrook, near Monkstown.
The artwork she’s donating, Land and Sea, reflects her own personal connection to the sea, Debbie says.
“My father was in the merchant navy, and the print I’ve donated has an image of him as a boy in it. I grew up around the sea and it was always a big part of our lives.”
She says she’s been aware of CHASE down the years, but hasn’t been directly involved with the group; however, she’s very happy to lend her support through her art.
“I always thought the idea of an incinerator in the harbour was a horror, but I felt kind of powerless because I don’t live there,” Debbie says. “This was a way to help, I suppose. I believe Cork Harbour should be a place of beauty, and a safe place to live.”
* CHASING ART will be held in aid of CHASE at the Carrigaline Court Hotel on November 29 with sales starting at 6.30pm. Paintings will be sold at a reduced price on a first come, first served basis. Tom Browne’s Poppies in the Sun will be raffled off at the event.