There’s something about Mary’s art

Bishopstown Library is currently hosting an exhibition by Mary Sullivan, who is a wheelchair user and has cerebral palsy. Mary tells CHRIS DUNNE about what inspires her work and how she wants people to see beyond her disability to her ability as an artist.
There’s something about Mary’s art
Artist Mary Sullivan from Douglas, at the launch of her exhibition 'My Colourful World' at Bishopstown Library.Picture: David Keane

ARTIST Andy Warhol, predicted that everyone will have 15 minutes of fame. Well, talented artist, Mary O’Sullivan, 43, from White’s Street, will have 22 days of fame.

Her art exhibition, My Colourful World is currently showing in the Bishopstown Library, Wilton, until October 26.

“My friends wanted me to exhibit my paintings,” says Mary, who has cerebral palsy and who is a wheelchair user.

“Isn’t it great?” says Mary, smiling proudly.

This is her second solo exhibition.

Grazina Madzenska and Zofia Babisz, both Ballincollig, at the launch of the exhibition 'My Colourful World'.
Grazina Madzenska and Zofia Babisz, both Ballincollig, at the launch of the exhibition 'My Colourful World'.

She says her sisters, Anita and Sheila, who attended the exhibition opening, helped her label the paintings — but even they haven’t seen all her work.

“I have some hidden in the bathroom!” says Mary, who has a single-mindedness and commitment to her art that is a joy to behold.

Mary explores and celebrates her creativity with images of beauty, using vivid colour, capturing magical landscapes on canvas.

“I have cerebral palsy and I use a wheelchair all the time,” she says. “But when I paint, I sometimes forget that I am in a wheelchair and I imagine that I am exploring the skies and the seas that I am painting.

“My art is very important to me,” says Mary. “And it is important to me that my ability to paint is seen before my disability.”

Anita Sullivan from Passage West and her daughter Abby O'Neill, attending the launch of the exhibition 'My Colourful World'.
Anita Sullivan from Passage West and her daughter Abby O'Neill, attending the launch of the exhibition 'My Colourful World'.

Mary is passionate about her craft.

“I love painting anything with colour,” she says. “The sea, beautiful flowers, nature. I love experimenting with colours, everything changes so much. I paint mainly in oils but I have one big silk piece.”

Mary obviously has a keen interest in fashion too?

“I like jewellery and I love wearing colour,” she says.

She had a little help from her friend in choosing the perfect outfit for the exhibition opening.

“Mary is a real follower of fashion and she loves jewellery,” says Louise, who recently started working with Mary.

“She likes everything to match; her necklace, her bracelet and her earrings are all matching. All very stylish!”

And Mary’s apartment is a typical artist’s studio.

“Yes,” says Louise. “It is for sure. There are canvases and artist’s brushes everywhere! Like Mary says, the place is full of her paintings. They are even some hidden, stashed in the bathroom!”

Sheila and Sean O'Regan from Midleton, enjoying the launch of the exhibition.
Sheila and Sean O'Regan from Midleton, enjoying the launch of the exhibition.

Mary laughs.

“There is no part of the place empty! I’ll be looking for more space for my new paintings,” she said.

Has she a favourite painting?

“The Lily Lake is a favourite of mine,” she says. “I love it so much, I painted it twice! The two paintings came out totally different.”

The Lily Lake was snapped up by an art lover at Mary’s first solo exhibition, Journey of the Imagination, in 2017.

“Yes. I sold one of the Lily Lake paintings at my last exhibition,” say Mary.

“So I’ve done it again, a third time, for this one.”

When did she decide to follow her dream and hone in on her natural artistic talent?

“When I was younger I began painting when I attended Enable Ireland,” says Mary.

“Then, about three years ago, I looked at the artist and art tutor, John Jermyn on Facebook and I sent him a message.”

Artist Mary Sullivan from Douglas with JOhn Jermyn of Studio at the Framemaker.
Artist Mary Sullivan from Douglas with JOhn Jermyn of Studio at the Framemaker.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship which saw Mary’s natural talent flourish.

“John got back to me and we started art classes, a one-to-one class every second Friday for two hours,” says Mary.

“I have a special table at home that I can pull my wheelchair right up to and my paint brushes are all on the table.

“I love the use of bright colours and I love to paint images of the sky and the sea. It is all about the brush-strokes.”

John, who has a keen eye for raw, natural talent, knew that his enthusiastic pupil was a born artist.

“I saw talent,” says John. “Mary has a gift. I’ve really enjoyed working with her, and I don’t say that lightly. Mary has such a keen interest in colour that reflects the way she can paint,” says John.

“Her good imagination works very well in bringing landscapes and seascapes to life. We found what suited her best in her limited situation and together we forged a lovely relationship working towards that,” says John.

Noelle Hourigan from Boreenmanna Road, admiring the art on display.
Noelle Hourigan from Boreenmanna Road, admiring the art on display.

The artists complimented each other.

“Mary’s style suits me too because we approach painting landscapes and seascapes in a similar way. So we have a lot in common. I really enjoy my classes with Mary,” John added.

Now, Mary’s work can be appreciated by many other people who enjoy a common love of art.

“The exhibition My Colourful World is a big deal for Mary,” says John.

“It is really huge in her life and it has opened a new life supply for her, boosting her sense of independence and self-esteem, which is wonderful.”

Kazik Stawicki and Barbara Stawicka, both Grange, supporting the  exhibition.
Kazik Stawicki and Barbara Stawicka, both Grange, supporting the  exhibition.

And there’s something about Mary.

“Yes, Mary has total control in this exhibition,” says John. “It is all about Mary. It is her baby.”

Her talent has no limits.

“I see how limited she is and she didn’t let her condition get in the way of her art,” says John.

How much will an original set me back?

“Between €80 and €130,” says Mary.

“A smaller painting is €80 and they are all framed.”

There are other perks to owning an original Mary O’Sullivan painting.

“I sign each of my paintings with my finger-print,” says Mary.

My Colourful World art exhibition by Mary Sullivan, is showing at Bishopstown Library, Wilton, until October 26.

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