Wednesday 13 December 2017

What Lies Beneath: Kealfadda Bridge

Kealfadda Bridge by Damaris Lysaght, Oil on board, Courtesy The Open Window Gallery

Kealfadda Bridge by Damaris Lysaght
Kealfadda Bridge by Damaris Lysaght

Niall MacMonagle

Even before you set foot in Manhattan, the grid allows you to plan ahead: see you at 81st and Fifth. Bingo! In Molly McCloskey's marvellous new novel When Light is Like Water, we read: "The only good thing about Preethina was that it was the one city in the world where you could say: I'll meet you at the corner of Bill Clinton and Mother Teresa." But a more romantic meeting-up point might be this place, Kealfadda Bridge, between Schull and Crookhaven, a bridge artist Damaris Lysaght crosses frequently.

From Doneraile, north Cork, Lysaght studied at NCAD under John F Kelley and spent four years in Florence under Signorina Nerina Simi - "she was 90 when I arrived there". Then it was to Kanturk but "when a limestone quarry started next door", and always having had "a hankering for the sea", she headed for west Cork.

A Damaris Lysaght painting captures an untouched, wild world of shoreline, cliff top, woodland and bog. ''Some are done speedily - it's amazing how much a fiddlehead fern or a bindweed can grow in a day. I do not do sketches. For me, that would lose the freshness and interaction with the subject. I use no black; I use a lovely Italian colour called Pozzuoli." Entirely weather-dependent, in bad weather she'll paint stormy seas from her cramped car, saying: "The interior is paint spotted."

Lysaght's art reflects her interest in natural history, archaeology, her love for walking, wandering the landscape with her dog Blink, adding: "A great way to be present, to live in the now. Between April and September I walk a specified route, once a week, on a sunny day, record the butterflies I see and send the data to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. In winter I count birds on the estuaries for Birdwatch Ireland."

In Kealfadda Bridge, she says: "I was attracted by the beauty of the craftsmanship, the cut local stone on the arch, the rougher work on the rest, the purple seaweed just under the water."

Lysaght likes how, "nature takes over and colonises a man-made structure. Spleenwort, rosemary, ox-eyed daisies, rock samphire, lichen, are found in crevices between the stones. Mussels cling to the base". No troubled waters here.

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