1979 – 1999

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In memory of the beekeeper's son

Exhibition Archive 1979 - 1999

River Walk

Vangard Gallery | Cork |

This body of work was inspired by walking along the banks of the River Nore in County Kilkenny. As an avid walker I witness plant cycles of life and death. Following the agrarian calendar the pace at which one walks - enabling a person to ‘notice’ becomes slower and what could be deemed as ‘invisible’ is what inspires me. The acid colours of the first bloom and the subtle tones of the vegetational chaos found along the riverbank captures my imagination. I translate the experience - the fertility and lush seasonal growth to autumnal colours of decay through my use of colour.

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And now a feather falls

Post Cards Home

RHA Gallagher Gallery | Dublin |

In 1995 I was elected President of The European Council of Artists – an NGO lobbying for better living and working conditions for all artists in Europe. Around that time artists’ organisations in Eastern Europe were in disarray as a result of the Berlin Wall coming down. I spent a lot of time working in rural locations in and around the former Soviet Union developing and implementing projects with artists groups. Over this period I began using notebooks to record these encounters with people in places - in landscapes that had not been touched by modernity. I made drawings/ watercolours on cards and posted them ‘home’ to Ireland. These paintings were made in response to the stories told to me of both personal and cultural hardships resulting from political censorships and lack of artistic freedom.

Opening Speech by Dermot Healy

Is that a scrotum I ask you?

A mountain is titled to suit a perspective. Images shift across the canvas till they find their place.

But all the time, at the heart of the abstraction, is a line yielding to the linear. A place.

He dithers in the outside worlds, hungry for what is inside. Then he brings a little of what is outside in, and a little of what is inside out. He sends home some os what he took away with him and brings back something of where he has been. It’s a two way system the world of symbol and the world of light. Tenacious, ever searching, physical, Colman listens well to what the elements are saying. Over the years I’ve watched a painting of his I had on the wall of my study slowly slip sideways down out of it’s frame. And I went with it. Only a half an inch maybe, but it was very unsettling. It threw the room off kilter.

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Digging for pearls

Digging for Pearls

Droichead Arts Centre | Drogheda, touring to the Rubicon Gallery | Dublin |

This body of work was inspired by the west of Ireland’s Co. Mayo landscape experienced when on a residency at The Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ballycastle. Taking no particular route or path I meandered and found the bog lands near the village. Day after day I walked and looked into the deep inky bog pools and streams, at once impenetrable and on occasion transparent, when the light filtered through the silted bed colours appeared as if an apparition.

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Dawn lament for the beekeeper's son


Rubicon Gallery | Dublin |

In and around the time my father died I spent time walking in south Kerry - along the coastline examining the inlets, headlands and rocky peninsulas. Whilst walking these remote places of resilience and defiance I remembered the fictional stories told to me by my father during my childhood – of remote places conjuring up images so removed for the everyday that they could only be islands.

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On a mackerel lake

Ballinglen Art Foundation Residency

Ballinglen Art Foundation |

I was invited for the first time to The Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Oct. 1992, where I spent the winter. The painting ‘Star Fish Turns’ was painted on discovering a starfish in a nearby rock pool, placing it on it’s back and watching with amazement as it ‘righted’ itself - upright again. These series of paintings come from looking at the minutiae in a landscape – small streams, rock pools, and from collecting flotsam on the beach.

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Drawing series 1

India 1990

Rubicon Gallery | Dublin |

I was invited by the Calcutta Artists Union - sponsored by June Levine (an Irish journalist, novelist and feminist) to spend a year travelling in India. This series of paintings was inspired by walking to the source of the River Ganges, travelling around the Indian Pakistani border, around Nepal - witnessing religious rituals and visiting holy temples along my journey. Making links between the historic and the contemporary - the layering of colonial pasts and the contemporary now was translated using layers of torn handmade paper. The traces of the past resonates through these layers, as if layers of wallpaper, torn to reveal a time before.

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Mary's House

Early Work 1986 - 1989

Tulfarris Art Gallery, Wicklow; United Arts Club, Dublin; Monaghan County Museum |
1986 - 1989

My first exhibition in the Rubicon Gallery Dublin was in 1990. The paintings were based on a period of time spent in Wales - around the Sellafield Nuclear Plant. I likened the chimneys to the underworld, imagining Orpheus’ visceral response upon seeing evidence of the underworld and realising that entering it was his destiny.

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