Castle walls, tall grass and an Understory

Going Out

IDENTITY EXPLORED Waypoint statue, mixed media, by Kian Benson Bailes.

Westport gallery hosting two intriguing exhibitions

Artist Helena Gorey’s home is a cottage situated in pastoral landscape close to where she grew up, with a view to a field with an almost perfect horizon line.
One of her earliest memories is picking blackcurrants in this field planted by her father. The experience of growing up and living in this place and its surrounding nature has influenced much of her work. She aims not to represent but to distill the essence of her childhood place. Her approach is intuitive and her paintings are developed slowly over time; desire is to make works that have a sense of depth but may appear effortless.
Her paintings are sometimes bisected by a subtle horizontal line, suggesting a possible land or seascape, and conjure the atmosphere and wonder of nature through a veil of – light, mist, fog and rain. When a sense of completeness is not achieved on first touch a process of layering from light to dark and dark to light is developed in order to arrive home.
In ‘Understory’, currently running at The Custom House Gallery, The Quay, Westport, she continues this engagement with nature and focuses on the beauty in humble plants of the hedgerows. Concentrating on the richness of colour and texture in nature, she uses such titles as ‘Lady’s Bedstraw’, ‘Leaf’, ‘Sloe Berry’ and ‘Brindled’. The scale, form and installation of these paintings are determined by the architecture of the long narrow path like space of the upstairs gallery at the Customs House, with a nod to the remnants of sessile oak woodlands at Brackloon just outside Westport and the Gallery facing the sea at Clew Bay.
Helena Gorey’s most recent solo exhibition was the first iteration of ‘Understory’ at Highlanes Gallery earlier this year. Other exhibitions include ‘Proscenium’ at Ashford Gallery, ‘The Orchard’ at Butler Gallery, ‘Two Trees’ at The Dock, and ‘The Blackcurrant Field’ and ‘Landscape & Memory’ at Kevin Kavanagh Gallery.
Her work can be seen in many public collections including The OPW, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Limerick City Gallery of Art, The Arts Council, Highlanes, Butler and Glebe Galleries.
Also running at the Custom House is ‘Inverts on the castle wall, Perverts in the tall grass below’, by Kian Benson Bailes. The body of work is the culmination of investigations into rural Ireland, aesthetic language associated with rural and regional art spaces, and queer communities.
Using historical canon to construct alternative narratives around queerness, and more specifically rural Irish queerness, the title of the exhibition frames language, and Anglicisation of queer academia and asks how this written and documented theory manifests and is engaged in Irish culture in its pre- and post-colonial history.
Throught, the artist draws on a childhood in rural Ireland, an art education in an urban centre, and a re-evaluation of queerness and reconciliation of place and self upon return to rural Ireland.
Benson Bailes’s multifaceted practice explores rural Ireland, visual language and identity politics. Recent exhibitions include ‘Bog Cottage: Life in the Community’ at The Hyde Bridge Gallery in Sligo, ‘Queer As You Are’ in Athlone’s Luan Gallery and ‘Shiftings’ at Kilkenny Arts Office.

Both exhibitions will run at the Custom House Gallery until Sunday, January 15.