Covid 19, Arts Council award.

I am not a landscape painter.

It was in March 2020 when we all became familiar with the term covid 19 or Coronavirus. I have to share with you my first encounter with it. We had friends who moved to China in 2019 and we have a watts app group to keep in contact. As early as November there was mentions of Corona in the group, I thought they were talking about beer. As it wasnt until March we had been accustomed to it or at least had or first introductions to the virus and what it meant. At the moment we are very much accustomed to it. Masks, hand sanitisers, social distancing, Christmas dinners with no gravy boats, that was an advisory not to share a gravy boat.

Arts Council of Ireland crisis response award.

I would like to thanks the Arts Council of Ireland for their Crisis reaponse award. There were over 900 applications and only 300 lucky applicants. Id prefer to say lucky as opposed to sucessful as Im sure all applicants were as much worthy of it.

Up to now, my practice has been very much figurative and portraiture, I use alot of empty space within my work, very pared back. During lockdown my studio had beeen closed and we were unable to get access. I had the use of this studio in town through our local Arts Department and arts officer, this is the place I get to work large scale, I mean really big. Now that I am at home I am limited to the scale, not so big. I applied for the award to use the time in lockdown and beyond to address my new lockdown surroundings and how this could be incorporated into my practice. Could it influence my work, my approach.

The sun was out and I was in the garden.

The weather was fantastic and I spent most of the time in the garden, clearing neglegted greenhouse and vegetable patches. Growing vegetables became my new practice. The creative practice was being replaced by a shovel and hoe. But observaton was even more heightened, the inner creative doesnt get to take time off or go on sabatical. No it shows up sees the contorted apple tree branch in watercolours, the vivid green courgette seedlings in sap green ink.  So I wanted to spend some time through sketch and research in an area that was alien to me as a painter. However, important to point out here very loudly, I am not a landscape painter, I really wouldnt know where to start, but I was going to show up and see how it could possibly become part of my practice. I admire Plein air painters, if it was me on the street you would have no problem recognising me, I would be the one hiding in a tent, with an easel stuck out. I am definatly an artist who works in isolation and is very content.

In the beginning, there was resistance and I felt because I wasn’t out sketching my courgettes or okra that I was failing in this undertaking. I had to be kinder to myself as I think we all have to be in this strange time, no demands on self, to be as kind as possible. I realised observation was a constant. I was doing it even if I the tool in hand was a shovel instead of a paintbrush. I was adding to the inner artist filing system, recording not only visual but emotional. Processing what was happening every day, the uncertainty, new restrictions, new concepts of how life was to be lived in the immediate future.

We were out of lockdown before I started really being able to process how and what was I going to do. I found what was incredible was through all the uncertainty even to date, I know, I am a positive, the glass half full approach. I also found out I have a high grit score, if any of you are familiar with it. Basically means I don’t give up easily. Why am I saying this, well the subjects connected through their positive symbolic presence.

I wanted to explore my surrounding in the garden the colour, shapes, presence and most of all the connection to me at this time and the value of it in my practice. However, most of this only became apparent in the wrapping up of this project.

As I said, I turned to gardening, something I love to do, I am at home in the garden. Yet I never include it in my painting. My painting is figurative,  emotional depictions of the human condition, the crisp empty spaces around the figure are I suppose synonymous with my work.

Magnolia and hope.

I realised that my approach and what inspires me will be found in all I do, even if the subject matter changes. I have found approaching painting for example the magnolia, that it was really just another figure, it had line, shape, planes, light, shadow, form. It had its own personality, presence. It could imbue an emotional response. Through this time magnolia really beacame my study. I wanted to explore colour, which I did through many mediums, watercolour, pencil, oilpaint, acrylic. On reflection of the magnolia, I realised social distancing was present even here. coincidence? perhaps. Each branch holding its own, distanced from the other. This was not a planned composition.

Magnolia.

The form of the magnolia, simplicity at its best. Life was being brought to its simplest routines, the basics, essential shopping, limited contacts only the vulnerable. Which I did have to travel twice a week to my mam in Dublin as carer. It brought home how little we need to live an enriching life, food, shelter, loved ones, health. The magnolia represents hope, the hope that there is always hope. The bud will appear and will flower, it takes its time but it will appear. We gotta trust and believe and just give it the best conditions.  Life will return to normal, I do believe, it will take time and some new ways of going about our daily business. We got to support each other, look after those who need us including our own self care. My art practice is my self care.

I am thoroughly delighted to have been awarded this time, to be honest it was always there I suppose but to be given the opportunity to give myself permission with a little financial security from the Arts council and the recognition from the council as an artist is also reassuring, especially in these times.

I gained insight into my use of colour and how I will incorporate the landscape within my practice and I already have plans for a larger painting, just need to get out of this new lockdown first.  I will post a video on Instagram and show the work discussing the process.

Emerging hope, watercolour, oil, pencil.

This was a very rewarding process and I am very thankful for the support of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Stay safe, be kind.

Bernadette

HSE heroes and the next chapter.

GOMA
Caught at the opening The House That Built Me.

Whats been happening over the last few months? Silly question I know. From gardening to painting HSE heroes.

Time is flying by. I can’t believe its been July since my last blog post. I really do need to get better at this.

This day last year we were off on our incredible trip to China, we had no idea what was to come next. Here we are in lockdown bounce around.

Lockdown, well to be one of the lucky ones, I spent most of it in the garden tending to the flower beds, resurrecting the greenhouse and in doing so nurturing the soul there was also some art done during Covid.

Although at first, it was difficult to gather the where with all to step into a creative zone. However, one brilliant initiative came onto my radar. It was set up by Tom Croft, a wonderful artist in the U.K. #PortraitsforNHS heroes was born. The simple but powerful idea was to offer a portrait for an NHS hero, free of charge, either nominated by a loved one or by the worker themselves. Tom asked if other artists wanted to get involved and my goodness they did. It grew legs. You see, I think kindness and gratitude grew these legs and to be an artist I knew it was a wonderful way for me to acknowledge and thank those in the front line.

Heres what Tom says on his website about the inspiration in setting up this initiative,

“So I thought about it. What is the point of a portrait? It is an artistic representation of somebody, in my case a painting or drawing. Ideally with a good physical likeness. Then if it’s a good portrait it can go deeper below the surface and say more than just a snapshot. Done well it can be a more considered overview of them as a person and give a sense of the essence of who they really are. Character and personality can all be captured or referenced in a successful portrait. No selfie, no filters and often not smiling. In the past portraits have been seen as a status symbol, or produced to celebrate someone, mark some significant achievements, milestones and potentially to elevate that person in the eyes of others.

It also immortalises people, as the portraits are likely to live far longer than the subjects.

So who should be immortalised today? Who should line the walls of galleries and have future generations look back on as the people who really made a difference and stepped up, in our latest darkest hour. The people who put self interest and self preservation to one side and literally risked their lives knowingly on a daily basis for our well being. The NHS workers. Absolutely.” Tom Croft 2020

I contacted Tom and asked his permission, as you do, for me to give it some legs and adapt the #PortraitsforHSEheroes for our HSE heroes,Tom was delighted and so many incredible artists got involved. It was such a nice way to spend some time during lockdown to distract myself in doing something for others.

Tom has gone on to develop an online exhibition and a book. So needless to say myself and Tom have been chatting and we think Ireland and the HSE should have similar. So plans are hatching for an online exhibition for Portraits for HSE heroes, watch this space.

More to follow on that.

Other news.

Other news, my exhibition in GOMA Waterford was wonderful, they treated me so well. Its a wonderful little gallery and super staff. You can go to my website and  view the Catalogue . A little gem in Waterford city. I have a body of work bursting through the studio walls, so I am open to exhibition opportunities, studio visits and online sales , cheeky! no reality. Check out my website for new work.

The opera festival is at a very reduced capacity this year, all online. Therefore the town which is normally buzzing for the festival is quiet. However, go check out some artists online and support them if you can. They really appreciate it.

In the meantime, stay safe, play safe and above all be kind to yourself,

Bernadette

In the studio.
In the studio. oil on canvas

 

 

 

Storm Francis, I hear ya.

While storm Francis is playing with the construction of the studio roof. I am in the studio feeling inspired to keep the coffee going, the music on and not step back out until it stops sounding like the Wizard of Oz outside.

Arrived into the studio, coffee on and opened the laptop. Or should I say the black hole?  Admin if it could only be done with a paintbrush, it would be more enjoyable.

My exhibition is running at GOMA, Gallery of Modern Art, Waterford until 27th September. Its getting great numbers and some nice reviews. I will be doing an artist talk this Saturday at 1 pm, booking is essential due to restrictions. To book your bum on a seat go to https//tiny.cc/Bernadettedoolantalk  

I am delighted with the response to the exhibition both the footfall and how the work looks in such a great space, I’m delighted too for the gallery so do visit and support them if you can. In these strange times, we got to get creative and that has been demonstrated last weekend at Wexford Arts Centre with a couple renewing their wedding vows at a Pierce Turner gig.

Finally, I have got some catalogues to view http://bernadettedoolan.com/catalogue/ you can view as a turning book which I like but if you are like my husband who prefers the pdf. Let me give him a shout out as he is responsible for the website design etc with his team at TwoHeads.ie

I’m off now to finish online applications and take a look at some artists work that inspires me. Or make me ask the question, how? Jenny Saville being one.

Continue to get in touch with any queries.

Have a great Tuesday,

Bernadette

 

 

The House That Built Me

 

It has been a very strange few months. The uncertainty, the unknown.

However, when I went into the studio all was good. It was great to finally hear that my solo exhibition was going ahead, even if a few months later. Here we are now, the day before the opening. I do hope you can make it to see what I have been up to these last few months.

The title seems very apt considering we were all staying at home.

The House That Built Me  looks to express where we have come from. The snapshots of being a child and how we respond to life events and in this way how it moulds who we are today. I came across the tagline from Barnardos, ‘Childhood lasts a lifetime’ it really does. I delve into aspects of my growing up, the house, the people the memories that built me. I feel it leaves a space for the viewer to resonate with their recollecton of childhood.

As acclaimed realist painter Bo Bartlett discusses his philosophy and art through the belief that your root feeds your crown. Theres no denying your past, no point living in it either. You can however reflect on it and how it has made you into the person you are today.

Singer/songwriter Miranda Lambert encompasses this perfectly in her song The house that built me,

‘If I could walk around I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory, From the house that, built me.’

Exhibition runs until September 26th.

I am not worthy.

I am not worthy.

Limerick Museum, 4th – 28th February 2020.

A collection of paintings depicting aspects of childhood viewed through an adult’s reflection.  Through the process of reflection, I became aware of the power of words and suggestions when I was a child. It is said that children are like sponges, they absorb their environment and those in it.  The child always listening, captivated by every word, influenced by the power of suggestion.” I am not worthy” struck a particular chord with me, when I heard the mantra coming from my lips, after years of repetition. But one day I really heard the words that I had repeated without question.

This body of work is not about questioning anyone religion or beliefs, but more to do with how powerful words can be.  I did not like to be told I was not worthy, what if as children we are empowered by words that prompt us to love ourselves, believe in ourselves, be kind to ourselves.

I aim to capture the vulnerability and the strength that children have in abundance.  This is achieved through exploring the fragility of the child’s mind and the power mantras have on them. These mantras passed on in most part,  innocently from parents, school, church. We hear it, we believe it, we don’t but question it.

For me, I felt at an early age reciting prayers in school to be somewhat uncomfortable. I heard each line I was saying but some words felt very uncomfortable to get off the end of my tongue. “I am not worthy” was not an easy one.

It was not that I was brimming with confidence, it just didn’t sit with me, perhaps I was fearful that it might be true. Maybe I felt unworthy, who knows. All the more reason not to have a mantra that crushes you every time. I am not saying everybody felt the same, but I suppose I was never asked. Instead in church, I would lower my head and mumble a sound, believing that I could not lie I had to be in my truth.

It took me into my adulthood to realise that the power of the word on us at an early age can be damaging. In my work, the portraits depict this vulnerability that separates us from the crowd, that quietens our spirit, but only for a short time if we are lucky. We can tap into our strength, our feisty childish warrior to question these mantras that don’t fit with us. That our gut feeling is telling us that this does not feel right, to trust this gut.

The advantage of being an expert in childhood means we can remember what it means to be funny, carefree. This is how we developed our resilience by climbing trees and falling. How we fell down, dusted ourselves off and tried again. There were no failures just “That didn’t work this time, what can I do differently next time”. As adults we tend to be in our “adult” head, afraid to fail. Not trying, maybe because we believe we’re not good enough.

For the day that’s in it, Happy Valentine’s day. Be kind to yourself first and foremost, listen to the mantra you are telling yourself, does it fit?