An exhibition of paintings by one of Ireland’s most accomplished and acclaimed artists, Camille Souter – who celebrates her 90th birthday today (Tuesday) – opened last week. It is being held at the Custom House Studios, Westport Quay, in conjunction with Westival, Westport Music & Arts Festival. A comprehensive selection of her paintings is being shown alongside five sculptures by Frank Morris, Souter’s late husband, who died in 1970 aged just 42.
This nationally significant exhibition was officially opened last Wednesday night, with a host of dignitaries from the art world, from curator Garrett Cormican to artist Dorothy Cross, in attendance. Cormican, a painter and friend of the artist, is the author of the largest study of Souter’s work, ‘Camille Souter, The Mirror in the Sea’.
Camille Souter, regarded as one of the country’s greatest living painters, resides on Achill Island. She has received numerous prestigious awards and honours during her 64-year career. An honorary member of the RHA, she was elected a Saoi of Aosdána, the state-supported association of Irish creative artists, in November 2009 in a ceremony that was presided over by President Mary McAleese.
The title is awarded for life and held by at most seven people at a time. Commenting on Souter’s contribution to Irish art, President McAleese said: “Among artists she stands out, a towering figure in Irish painting, a good and noble human being. So very worthy of the title ‘saoi’.”
Though born in Northampton, England, in 1929, Souter was raised in Ireland. She originally trained as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital, London, and began painting during the 1950s while recovering from illness on a trip to Italy. On her return to Ireland in 1956, her career as an artist began in earnest.
Souter captures light and color, texture and form in intimate, almost abstract paintings of unexpected subjects, which have included landscapes, circus scenes, medical memories, fish, boxers and slaughterhouses. Large exhibitions of her paintings are rare. This is the first exhibition devoted to her work in her home county of Mayo since 1999. Her last retrospective was in 2001.
The Camille Souter exhibition will run at the Custom House Studios, Westport Quay, until December 1. For the full Westival programme, see westival.ie.