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Late brush with success for Redmond as his debut art exhibition a sell-out - 40 years on


John Redmond with a selection of his paintings. Photo: David Conachy

John Redmond with a selection of his paintings. Photo: David Conachy

John Redmond with a selection of his paintings. Photo: David Conachy

As a child, John Redmond took chipboard and lollipop sticks and painted them bright blue and green to fashion a fire screen for his grandmother. On another occasion, he transformed the family's Child Of Prague statue with bright pink, yellow and blue poster paint.

While some would have baulked at the unusual bursts of colour, his eagle-eyed mother spotted creativity and invited him to use his flair to dress the window of her Carlow store. His displays became the talk of the town. Soon, he was working on most other shop fronts on the street.

Fast forward to 2018, and John has spent over 30 years with the Brown Thomas department store - and over a decade as its creative director, bringing magic to the lives of Dubliners with iconic Christmas window displays.

Even as adults, we are not beyond pressing our noses against the windows to ogle his display of fashion's changing seasons from animated fairy tales to 1950s domestic wonderlands.

"Ideas can come from anywhere," John says. "The butterfly theme we have at the moment came from a garden in Spain. Next week, our Dublin store is being covered with rainbows. Dublin's Pride festival will run that same week. Rainbows will be in the windows, created with lights.We bring the rainbows outside of the building. It really is going to be something special."

There is one talent that John, who is married to Karen Higgins, a senior buyer with the Brown Thomas group, has kept hidden. Every weekend, he retires to his studio to indulge in his love of painting.

He has quietly harboured it since the age of seven and such is his obsession, he often wakes at 5am to paint before going to work at the store.

It has taken more than 40 years for John to pluck up the confidence to make his canvases public.

"I paint every weekend," he says. "I don't play sport, so this would be my yoga.

"I only got the confidence to show them publicly when friends and family encouraged me, and when I turned 50, I decided to do it."

When his first exhibition eventually went on display, it sold out in 48 hours. "I couldn't believe the response," says John, "I was completely overwhelmed. I was baffled. I absolutely shed a tear."

The paintings went to decorate the walls of private collectors in Dublin, London, New York and Los Angeles.

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Now with his third exhibition, entitled Full Circle, John is bringing his paintings home to Carlow.

"My eye came from my mother," he says. "She could have worked in the creative world, and I think that she would have loved to do what I do now."

The exhibition opens this Wednesday and runs until June 23 at the VISUAL arts centre during the Carlow Arts Festival and will comprise 12 medium-sized works.

John says: "I feel I'm going back and showing what my mother and family taught me."

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