Cork Community Champion: Barry’s electric art lights up lives

Cork Community Champion: Barry’s electric art lights up lives
29th May 2020......Amy Nolan ECHO request - Local artist Barry Looney who has painted two incredible landscape pictures on electrical boxes on Magazine Road (pictured a scene from West Cork)Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A MAGAZINE Road resident missing his trips to West Cork and Connemara has brought a piece of the majestic rural landscape to Cork city with beautiful paintings on electrical boxes near his home.

The colourful and intricate paintings on two electrical boxes along Magazine Road have piqued the curiosity of residents and passers-by.

Behind the artwork which has gotten everyone talking is artist Barry Looney, 72, who has kept busy during lockdown bringing a little colour to Magazine Road amid dark and challenging times.

“There was graffiti on one of the boxes outside my house and I just thought it would be nice to paint over it,” he said. 

“My wife is involved with the Magazine Road Residents Association. They do incredible work for the area and I just wanted to give something back and spread a bit of cheer as there’s a lot of sadness around at the moment.”

Local artist Barry Looney who has painted two incredible landscape pictures on electrical boxes on Magazine Road , included are Barry Looney and his wife Mai, Catheine Clancy, chairperson, Magazine road and surrounding areas residents association; her grand daughter Lola May Sheehan, ; Aidan Cahill, secretary and Rose Walsh Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Local artist Barry Looney who has painted two incredible landscape pictures on electrical boxes on Magazine Road , included are Barry Looney and his wife Mai, Catheine Clancy, chairperson, Magazine road and surrounding areas residents association; her grand daughter Lola May Sheehan, ; Aidan Cahill, secretary and Rose Walsh Picture: Eddie O'Hare

About a month ago, he set out with his oil paints, brushes, and a stool and got to work.

“It took me around four or five hours to complete. I love West Cork and I’m missing it at the moment so that was the inspiration for the painting,” he said.

After a great reaction to the first painting, Mr Looney was approached to do another electrical box. This one was inspired by Connemara, as Mr Looney regularly visits the Aran Islands.

Modest about his efforts, Mr Looney said he is satisfied if the paintings have brightened up just one person’s day.

“I am hoping the paintings will be left alone and not tarnished by anyone … but I suppose that’s the chance you take.”

Surprisingly, he has never had an art lesson.

“I went to Greenmount school but I left education very early, at around 14, to help support my family. 

"I started work as an apprentice glazier and glass cutter and travelled around Ireland fixing and repairing leaded light and stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals. 

"That’s where my love of colour and shape comes from. I never had an art lesson so I developed my own style and techniques,” he explained.

Local artist Barry Looney who has painted two incredible landscape pictures on electrical boxes on Magazine Road (pictured a scene from West Cork)Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Local artist Barry Looney who has painted two incredible landscape pictures on electrical boxes on Magazine Road (pictured a scene from West Cork)Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Mr Looney then moved to London where he worked for 36 years on building sites glazing. One evening, he turned his hand to painting and, encouraged by the support of his wife, has kept going ever since. 

“I have had several exhibitions in London and many of my paintings are in different parts of the world.”

Mr Looney recalled how at the opening night of one of his exhibitions in the UK, the ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom turned to his late mother and commented that she must be so proud of her son.

“‘I never knew he could paint,’ was her response,” Mr Looney laughed.

During lockdown, Mr Looney has been busy painting away in his studio. 

“I’ve got around 70 to 80 paintings ready for an exhibition. I’m hoping to source a venue in the city centre for an exhibition when the corona-virus crisis passes,” he said.

When he’s not painting, Mr Looney is playing his guitar or mandolin. 

“I’m in a band as well so I can’t wait for the pubs to open back up so I can play a few gigs,” he said.

Whilst he may be modest about his electrical box paintings, members of the Magazine Road Residents Association were quick to sing his praises.

“He just went out one day, told no one, and painted the first box,” said Catherine Clancy, chair of the association and former Lord Mayor.

“‘I can’t get to West Cork so I’ll paint it’ is what he said. The paintings are a really positive addition to the area and we’re very grateful to him.”

:: Do you know someone who is going above and beyond to help people in this time of need? Send an email to news@theecho.ie, nominating the person you think deserves to be a community champion, along with your name and contact details and we will feature one champion every week in The Echo and on Echolive.ie

More in this section

Sponsored Content