Friends launch joint exhibition inspired by lockdown

Lockdown prompted two Cork-based artist friends to create an exhibition together, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Friends launch joint exhibition inspired by lockdown

I Draw Slow by Kirsten Murray.

TWO Cork-based artists, who are good friends, are exhibiting together at Market House Craftworks in Cappoquin until October 30. The exhibition was opened by poet, Thomas MacCarthy, a native of Cappoquin.

Kirsten Murray, originally from Dublin, and Mona Power, who grew up in Germany, Dublin and Mayo, are presenting very different work, but as Kirsten says: “If there’s a single idea underlying Blueprint for the Gathering, it’s that the spirit of good times is carried through the darkness for warmth and safekeeping until it can be rekindled on the other side.”

Kirsten has been living in Cork for 25 years, having come to the city to study at the Crawford College of Art and Design. Although accepted to art college in Dublin, she said the Crawford was “better for drawing at the time”.

“Also, I wanted to leave home and have a bit of independence. I’ll be a blow-in forever, even though I’ve been living in Cork longer than I’ve lived in Dublin.”

Kayleigh Chameleon & Midleton’s Finest by Kirsten Murray.
Kayleigh Chameleon & Midleton’s Finest by Kirsten Murray.

It was Kirsten’s idea to have an exhibition with Mona. She thought it would be a good lockdown project. She started drawing ink portraits of musicians that she’d like to play at an imaginary festival, people that she had worked with in the past.

“I call it my fantasy festival league. Everyone from Shane McGowan is there, to the not-so-famous such as a band called Draw Slow, a bluegrass band that are one of my favourites. They’re the last band I saw before the original lockdown. I saw them in Coughlans in January, 2020.

“Also in the fantasy league is Kayleigh Nic Gearailt, who is my queen of the accidental session. You never know who you’ll meet when you’re with her. She always meets the best people.”

Friends Mona Power and Kirsten Murray.
Friends Mona Power and Kirsten Murray.

Kirsten’s day job is at Cork Art Supplies.

“I like having the interaction with the public. Ideally, I’d like to have more time to do art but at the moment, I take what I can get. I need a definite wage coming in. You meet great people in the shop. 

"Meeting artists every day has become a source of inspiration.”

Kirsten met Mona on Culture Night in 2017. John Power, from UCC’s philosophy department, introduced the two women to each other. Mona is now married to John.

Understandably, then, Kirsten is a big fan of Culture Night.

“On Culture Night, you never know what’s going to happen or who you’re going to meet. It’s a great immersion in the arts scene.

Work by Mona Power.
Work by Mona Power.

“After that meeting, Mona (who works in the archives of the Crawford Gallery) started coming in to Cork Arts Supplies. She is a loyal customer there. We became friends. We have so much in common. Having both attended and admired one another’s exhibitions in Cork city, we ended up doing an art swap. Well, I tried to buy an original artwork of Mona’s which was on show in Union Grind on Union Quay, but she was too shy to give me a price. She was trying to get me to suggest the price!

“Instead, I suggested a swap with a piece of mine from a Quay Co-op exhibition which she had shared on social media the previous year. Luckily for me, she went for it.

“While Blueprint for the Gathering is our first collaborative exhibition, it could be said that our artwork has been on display together in Cork for a few years now - just in our homes rather than on public display.”

For the Cappoquin exhibition, Kirsten’s work is mainly portraiture with some mosaic work there as well. Mona’s is botanical.

Work by Mona Power.
Work by Mona Power.

“What really attracts me to her work is the illustrative style as well as the storytelling aspect of it, which is childlike. The work is in beautifully rendered pencil work.”

Mona, says Kirsten, is a very diverse artist. “The storytelling quality of her work appeals to me. My work this time, has a storytelling element to it. We have been cooking up this joint exhibition for a while. The ‘gathering’ for the two of us means different things.

“For me, I’m putting an imaginary gathering of people together at a time when you couldn’t put people together. It’s a celebration of these people.”

Mona’s work in the exhibition is an appreciation of the cycles of nature.

“It’s to do with the time of the year, the gathering of the harvest,” says Kirsten.

Mona’s exhibition offerings include mixed media prints.

“She uses cyanotype, a photographic printing process that’s very much old school. It’s what architects used for the original blueprints.

“This method uses the light of the sun before all the technology came along.”

Mona does pinhole photography using pinhole cameras that she makes herself, taking long exposure pictures. Her work is printed from photography or from real life.

“Because a lot of the work is floral, it’s a bit like nature worshipping, showing the cycles of life and the cycles of nature. Mona thought October would be a good time for the exhibition - a time of gathering.”

Securing the Cappoquin venue for the exhibition is thanks to Kirsten’s family connections in the Waterford town.

“My family are originally from Cappoquin. The woman who taught me to do mosaic is Joan Casey. She runs the Market House Craftworks. I popped in to see her one time, about a year or two ago, and she offered me an exhibition. The building used to house a sweet shop in the ’80s.

“When I realised it used to be Mescalls shop where I used to go as a kid, I had only the most positive vibes to do with the place.”

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