The theme of my work centres on the feeling of belonging, the notions of physical space and place. Enveloped, where I live by space, I am compelled to regard my own place within this space, often feeling very small in an extensive expanse. Sometimes during these occasions’ moments arise when everything seems connected. A place of liminality. This simple and common-place experience becomes elevated beyond the ordinary, the uncomplicated act of being transforms to abstract resplendence – everything is connected and perfect.
I try to catch those little moments of perfection. That sudden intuitive perception or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something ungraspable. The experience I am attempting to capture is the sense of belonging and connectivity within an empty place, where the horizons seem endless and the immensity impressive. I am not trying to paint these places, they are not my subject, I am trying to express how I experience them.
My palette can be vivid and lively, akin to bright sunlight on a clear day but can also be subtle, not unlike diffuse sunlight on an overcast day. Much of the inspiration for my work comes from growing up in rural Mayo, and more recently living in the Tipperary countryside, as well as from time spent in Kerry, at the Cill Rialaig artist’s retreat and on Achill Island, at the Heinrich Boll artist’s retreat.
With all my work I seek to have an interplay with subject, composition and technique, to produce work which is restrained yet airy. I want to combine subtle gestures in material, light and tone to form carefully planned minimal planes.
I paint using oil applied on canvas built up with plaster, and work on as many as eight pieces simultaneously. I cut, scratch, etch into the plaster and then create thin layers of colour and texture by applying, scratching back and re-applying paint, gradually building a richness of depth. The paint settles into the scratch marks, and these marks remain permanent. While the scratch marks are pre-planned and determine the compositional framework, it is at the paint application stage where I relax and allow chance to partly intervene. The plaster causes the paint to act and react in random and uncontrolled ways and my responses to this are intuitive and spontaneous. It is this element of chance that provides the moment of excitement, when the work is led somewhere unexpected.