AMONG the four artists exhibiting at On The Pig’s Back in the former Douglas Woollen Mills, until January, is Eileen Healy, whose story has been making headlines.
Eileen’s project, ‘Lay a Brick’, saw her deciding to sell her life’s work to try and buy a house in her native Cork. She says the media coverage (including an interview in The Echo and a slot on RTÉ news) resulted in a lot of support and positivity towards what she is doing.
In her fifties, Eileen doesn’t want to be at the mercy of landlords for the rest of her life.
“I’ve had people enquiring about my work, from Dublin to the U.S, as well as the Netherlands and France. And also locally. One woman said it is on her bucket list to have an Eileen Healy on her wall.”
Despite the publicity and interest in her art, Eileen says she hasn’t raised enough money to acquire a permanent home in this climate as house prices are out of reach for most.
“But I’ll stay positive and maybe down the line, if things improve, I’ll be able to remain in the city I call home. If not, perhaps I’ll move to Portugal!”
At On the Pigs Back, Eileen is exhibiting mostly small works; portraits, still life and landscapes in oil and pastel costing €280-€400.
Also exhibiting is Sinead Ní Chionaola, an expressionist painter of places that are close to her heart. Killeagh-based Sinead, originally from Waterford, was hanging the exhibition with artist, Donncadh O’Callaghan, when she heard the recently deceased poet, Brendan Kennelly’s poem, Begin Again, being recited on the radio. She decided to call the exhibition after the poem.
“I just thought that this is where we’re all at. All of us are beginning again (after the pandemic restrictions). We’ll probably repeat beginning again a few more times but we’re finally getting out there.
“For On the Pigs Back cafe, this is the first exhibition there since Covid started. A group of us were supposed to exhibit there in March, 2020.”
Sinead, a single mother of two teenage daughters, painted her way through the pandemic. An art teacher at Colaiste an Phiarsaigh, she hunkered down at home and got involved with a London-based group, ‘Support Artists Pledge’.
“Artists were encouraged to sell their work for €200. So I did that at the start of the pandemic. It gave me a lot of momentum. I actually sold a painting to a woman in France. That was incredible, trying to negotiate packing and dealing with customs.”
People are happy to buy art that they’ve only seen online, Sinead says.
“Some people had been following me for a long time and then came into some money and bought from me. Others were new to my work.”
Sinead also used the time to brush up on her social media skills.
“I was really busy and was also doing online teaching. I used the time well. I wasn’t driving anywhere. The kids didn’t have any activities so I was able to use my energy to participate in online exhibitions and organise application forms. Every weekend, I was painting by Friday afternoon and also on Saturday. I was visiting my mother on Sundays. The kids were reading and walking.
“I could see the consequences of lockdown for my kids so we got out of the house a lot and I kept them going with movie nights.”
Sinead did some work on herself through thework.com.
“It’s about enquiring into your thoughts. You have a thought that you believe in and you ask yourself if it is true, if it is absolutely true. You see who you are believing this thought. Eventually, you ask yourself who would you be without the thought. In certain situations, somebody is annoying you and you might be thinking a bad thought about them. Who would you be without that thought? I did an awful lot of work on my thoughts.
“I was able to work through my negative thoughts about the pandemic and work through my children’s thoughts about it as well.”
Describing herself as “a very contemporary artist in that I love capturing the vitality of colours and textures as well as memories and emotions in the landscape without always being representational,” Sinead finds art therapeutic.
“I’ve done a lot of healing on myself since my partner died. I think the healing comes into the paintings. Some people can see it.”
People often ask Sinead about her muse. She says she gets inspiration from walking in her local woods and going to the beach - something which she did a lot during the past 20 months.
“But I also find that if you just get into the studio, it will all fall into place.”
A graduate of the Crawford College of Art and Design, Sinead is looking forward to travelling to artist residencies again.
Sinead says that she and the other four artists in the exhibition “are in a way all painting from life but we express that in different ways.”
Donnchadh O’Callaghan, a printmaker from Cork based in Sligo, “looks at individual experiences from his own world and his observations from living in Cork, Rotterdam and Sligo”.
Martha Cashman, a ceramic artist as well as an arts facilitator originally from Youghal “is inspired by the local landscape and light, colour and surface decoration as well as found objects. They give her work texture,” says Sinead.
It sounds like the results of a rich palette are on show at the Douglas cafe.
The exhibition continues until January.