Thursday 18 January 2018

Arts: What Lies Beneath

'The Green II' by Patricia Burns Oil on canvas 2016, courtesy of Taylor Galleries

Oil on canvas 2016, courtesy of Taylor Galleries
Oil on canvas 2016, courtesy of Taylor Galleries

Niall MacMonagle

'In MY family, being a painter equalled not having a job," but when Patricia Burns, 10 years out of college, semi-unemployed, was lent a studio space, she began handling paint and then "everything happened".

That was 1998. Her parents had left Cork for Dublin in the 1950s, and bought a house in Ballyroan. "My father, a man without a Leaving Cert, started a business, wanted the best for his family."

As a suburban teenager, "I couldn't wait to get out," she says.

Nonetheless, she remembers a happy childhood, a big wild garden, huts and tree houses.

Though now living in The Glen in Cork, "in a poured concrete house set up on a side of a hill", it's Ballyroan that features in her recent work. "Home," she asks, "is there ever a home like the home we knew when we were small?"

Once, a three-month residency in Ballycastle, Co Mayo, meant "sublime landscape, but no connection and I didn't paint it."

But "if there's a house squat in the landscape, then I'm fine: I knew a lot about living in a house, but not about living in a landscape. An imprint of a blank tree against a house with a light on upstairs - that's my painting, and that's what I've been painting ever since."

Is it always winter?

"Yes. October to February is my time and especially that time of day when the light is fading. I love the year's cycle and when January comes you remember the last January, or Januaries when you were eight or 12 or 20."

She doesn't draw or sketch. "I go straight to the canvas, use big house brushes, put it on thick but end up with the littlest amount of paint." This large painting, The Green II, is Orchardstown Drive, Ballyroan, and her own favourite from her recent show at the Taylor Galleries. "I loved making it, it's not overly done; I like that ordinary window and that low corner."

The feeling of "after-rain freshness" is deliberate, but her wintry moods contain mauvey blues and deep greens. For Burns, wintry Ballyroan is still special; for Burns, bleak is beautiful.

Sunday Independent

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