Sunday 25 September 2016

What lies beneath... Holding onto the Familiar

Holding onto the Familiar by Eileen O'Sullivan, oil on board (2015) courtesy of the artist

Niall MacMonagle

Published 27/07/2015 | 02:30

Elegance: Clearly, it's a special occasion and there's a
beautiful liquid silvery shimmering feel to this close up of cutlery, cruet, glassware and linen beautifully, asymmetrically arranged
Elegance: Clearly, it's a special occasion and there's a beautiful liquid silvery shimmering feel to this close up of cutlery, cruet, glassware and linen beautifully, asymmetrically arranged

In the 1953 movie Roman Holiday, when the Audrey Hepburn character discovers that Gregory Peck lives in a kitchen-less flat, she asks, "But wouldn't you like to have one?" And Peck replies, "You don't always get to have what you like."

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Nowadays, in some trendy New York apartments, kitchens are even surplus to requirements. Busy, busy people rarely eat in.

Domestic interiors have always interested artist Eileen O'Sullivan. The kitchen table she grew up at, in Ashbourne, Co Meath, is remembered in many of her paintings. She chose the title Holding onto the Familiar not only for its subject matter, but "because of the marks and brushstrokes in the painting itself.

"And people are looking at what they know; they are in their comfort zone". Painting it was, "a guilty pleasure: it was straightforward. I worked at it while listening to a documentary in my headphones", she notes.

In many of her works, brightly-coloured teapots, jugs, plates, a table corner, a chair feature. This particular painting is beautifully elegant. It's that same kitchen table elegantly set - "it was around Easter time". Clearly, it's a special occasion and there's a beautiful liquid silvery shimmering feel to this close up of cutlery, cruet, glassware and linen beautifully, asymmetrically arranged. The contrasting half-inch of Coca-Cola in the plain glass tells another story.

Though delicate, the image had a solidity that convinces the viewer that you could pick up this thin-stemmed glass, that spoon. "Oil paint is forgiving. You can build it up or rub it back". Last year O'Sullivan's work was quite abstract - "it all stemmed from a small glass bottle. This year the subject is clearer" and she cites artists Paul Winstanley, Eleanor McCaughey, Mollie Douthit, Diana Copperwhite, Dana Schutz, Mairead O hEocha, Vilhelm Hammershoi as important influences. Google them and you'll see why.

The kitchen table has a deep-rooted place in many people's memories. It even played a part long ago in the cringe-making, risqué parting shot in the Best Man's speech. Toasting the Bride and Groom, he hoped that the happy couple's Honeymoon would be like a kitchen table - all legs and no drawers. Blush. Blush.

 

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