Sunday 20 October 2019

What Lies Beneath: Clew Bay from Murrisk, County Mayo by Kitty Wilmer O'Brien

Clew Bay from Murrisk, County Mayo by Kitty Wilmer O'Brien

Oil on board. Courtesy National Gallery of Ireland

Clew Bay from Murrisk, County Mayo by Kitty Wilmer O'Brien
Clew Bay from Murrisk, County Mayo by Kitty Wilmer O'Brien

Niall MacMonagle

For such a small country, Ireland contains dramatically different landscapes and how those landscapes have been shaped by nature and man is revealed in a marvellous new exhibition at the National Gallery. Imaginatively and intelligently curated by Donal Maguire and inspiringly presented, it not only delights the eye but brings the viewer many places.

Painting, sculpture, video, photography, ranging over 250 years, capture images of railings and graffiti at St Stephen's Green, a wide open field, views of Clontarf, Ballyshannon, Beleek, Glassilaun, the Dodder, Aran stone walls, Mullough Mor, the Lee Tunnel, Skellig, the Ringsend Docks, Powerscourt, Clonmacnoise, hand cut bogs, Odlum's Mills, Muckross Gardens. Works are arranged to prompt a fine awareness of difference and temporal perspective but the exhibition also sparks us to question and alerts us to how human interventions have affected this island. Seeing an elegantly formal garden, a sinister closed border road, a bronze foxglove, Kilkenny limestone, West Cork mountains, side by side is an enriching experience.

Also included is this delightful Clew Bay from Murrisk by Kitty Wilmer O'Brien, painted in the 1950s. Murrisk, meaning sea marsh, is south of Clew Bay. It's where pilgrims begin their Croagh Patrick climb, and Wilmer O'Brien's painting is as alive and fresh as the scene itself. Beyond the stone wall the variegated landscape dotted with whitewashed houses, then the sea, the mountains but it's the sky with those geometric clouds that adds energy and dominates the scene. Pamela Kathleen Helen Wilmer was born in India in 1910. Her father, an army major, was killed at Gallipoli when she was four. Aged 16 and living in Dublin, Wilmer studied at the RHA and later at the Slade in London. In 1936 she married Dublin surgeon Brendan O'Brien and having spent some years abroad settled in Dublin. She also painted in Tasmania and Florence.

'Shaping Ireland' at the NGI until July 7

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