‘Don’t Be Afraid’, oil on canvas, by Ann Quinn.
‘Other Worlds’, an exhibition of new work by Robert Ryan and Ann Quinn, opens in Claremorris Gallery this Saturday night, February 23, at 7.30pm. It will run until March 9.
The show is well named, with the two artists employing landscape art to magical effect, conjuring a peculiar hyper-reality – an otherworldliness. Viewers are invited to step into these alternate realities, where fantasy and fable collide with the mundane.
Limerick painter Robert Ryan borrows qualities from European old masters, using traditional characteristics in a modern context. He paints landscapes, but his work cannot be described as ‘landscape painting’. Concepts like solitude, vulnerability, fragility, infinite space and time, and the cycle of life are explored in his paintings and drawings, in which ethereal four-legged animals are always central.
“My images are of a universal landscape where generic creatures wander like lost souls,” the artist explains. His images, both the landscapes and their inhabitants, ultimately celebrate the commonality between man and all other creatures – past, present and future.
An interest in zoology and travel has hugely informed Ryan’s work. He has travelled widely, visiting over 60 countries on all continents, encountering many different eco-systems, observing how living things interact and how they respond to their environment, how man responds to other evolutionary groups and how we value that fact.
Ryan lives and works beside Lough Gur in Co Limerick. A small placid lake, Lough Gur surrounded by rugged limestone hills and deciduous woodland. It has been continuously inhabited since the arrival of neolithic people 5,000 years ago, and it is said to be of outstanding archaeological significance. The evocative qualities of this environment have also been a constant source of inspiration for the artist.
Ann Quinn’s work is also very rooted in her environment. She calls her childhood and growing up on a Donegal farm her ‘first artist’s residency’. Memories of her parents and brothers and sisters blend with the mythical, stunning landscape that surrounded the farm.
“Every piece of work I have made is based on a specific place I have spent time in. My paintings are about places, but in fact I am going for the atmosphere,” Quinn explains. “I use places in order to instil an atmosphere, it is the main element I go for.”
While growing up on her parent’s farm, she sometimes used to take out the huge family bible from underneath their bed and make drawings from the paintings by Rembrandt, Bosch, Caravaggio, Delacroix and other painters. This was the artist’s only exposure to art and it made a lasting impression on her influenced her work.
“As a child I had a vivid dream in which I was walking down the fields that surround the farm of my parents, climbed over a ditch and suddenly there was a red sun soaked in a massive ocean that I never knew was there before. I was full of both fear and awe and could hardly look at it. I remember thinking in the dream, 'Wait till I tell the others about this ocean that no one knew about'. When I woke up I was disappointed to realise the ocean didn’t exist, only those same green fields. The vision of the dream felt so real it stayed with me into adulthood, and through my life as a painter I try to recreate such sense of wonder in my work.”
The Claremorris Gallery, Mount Street, Claremorris, is open Wednesday to Saturday, from 1pm to 6pm. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 087 7912337.