Living Leeside: How Cork’s landscape inspires a Scottish artist

Living Leeside: How Cork’s landscape inspires a Scottish artist

"I like to be able to take long, quiet walks, talk to horses in fields, hang out with nature, and observe the passing of the seasons.”

GLASWEGIAN artist Lorna Macdonald Dunlop has been living in the County Cork countryside for the past 14 years, but doesn’t drive and doesn’t own a smartphone.

Lorna, 53, is an art photographer, and living in the midst of farmland and woods, in Conna, beyond Fermoy, means she is spoilt for landscapes and skylines for her work.

Lorna studied art and photography in Glasgow and moved to Cork due to her husband Gary’s work.

“He’s global project manager for Sanmina, in Fermoy,” Lorna says.

Moving from Glasgow’s busy west-end to Cork’s countryside was big for Lorna and Gary, but both are content.

“When I first came here, it was for a long weekend, just to see,” Lorna says. “I used to live in Glasgow’s busy west-end, full of cafes, bars, and restaurants, art galleries and opera, theatre and bookshops.

“Cork city has all of that, if I want, and only a short drive away, and in a beautiful, more intimate way. Glasgow is a big city. Conna, however, is a place of calm, usually. Our community is a vibrant one, so there’s always something going on, but I like to be able to take long, quiet walks, talk to horses in fields, hang out with nature, and observe the passing of the seasons.”

Lorna is the PRO of the Conna community council.

“This involves running the website, and social media, talking to the press, and generally putting people in touch with each other,” Lorna says.

“I’m also secretary for our Tidy Towns group and our community lottery, which helps fund our village projects. A lot of our efforts have been curtailed, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, but we look forward to the day when we can get back to work.”

Conna has shaped Lorna’s approach to her work.

“The landscapes of this part of the world have really transformed the way I photograph,” Lorna says. “It’s about the light. I suppose, it reminds me of times spent growing up on the Isle of Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. That’s where my father’s side of the family come from and the light there is quite magical.

“Here, the clouds become luminous as they roll in from the ocean and have a warmer tone than up north. But the main reason I’m here, probably for life, is the warmth of the people. I never thought I’d be so welcomed and so included. People are so generous, forgiving, and cheerful here. One lady calls Conna ‘a little slice of heaven’. I’d have to agree with her,” Lorna says.

Cork people are open and friendly, she says. “There is a warmth. There’s a casual acceptance of anything strange and an accompanying curiosity. I like that you can have the life story wrung out of you in minutes.”

Living in Conna, with a laptop for work and an old Nokia for communication, Lorna has developed her own way of doing things.

Lorna received the Arts Council of Ireland’s Covid-19 Response Award for her photography project, ‘2 Metres Apart’, which will be included in Culture Night on September 18.

“This project takes the form of a slideshow and depicts my friends and neighbours within their landscapes,” she says. “What was initially intended as a portrait of isolation turned into one of joyful reunion.”

Lorna is also a member of the artist group Blackwater Valley Makers, based in Pearse Square, Fermoy.

“We have a beautiful arts centre, with visiting exhibitions and our artists’ permanent displays. The sense of community and support in the group has been invaluable over this past year and a half,” she says.

When not working, Lorna enjoys cooking up an eclectic dish from scratch or walking their two-and-a-half-year-old dog, Angus.

“I love cooking. I like the creativity involved in making a meal from scratch, things like Mexican or Japanese food. I used to be a vegetarian, but I’m not any more,” Lorna says.

She also likes dark thriller movies or mystery films and enjoys watching the story unfold.

Creativity runs in the family, with Lorna’s son, Rory, working in London on the next Mission Impossible movie, making sets from plaster.

Lorna’s other son, Conor, has a forge in Glasgow, where he makes decorative swords and knives from lawnmower blades.

Although their children are living in Scotland and England, Lorna and Gary are very happy in Cork.

“Our family all live back at home in Scotland and some are in England. Between us, we have five amazing children, all grown-up, and a large extended family.

“We miss them all. But we are lucky to have friends and community here that we consider as family,” Lorna says.

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