Oonagh Hurley Margaret
In Clonakilty, Oonagh Hurley lived over the family shoe shop. Trips with her mother to the Lavit Gallery in Cork, with a ‘Don’t Touch’ warning, and her father’s home movie camera meant an early awareness of art. She drew on shoebox lids.
Hurley studied physiotherapy at UCD, worked in Dublin, returned to Cork where she worked in hospital settings, took night classes at Crawford Art College and with “a leave of absence from HSE, a nudge from my husband to go for it”, Hurley went full-time.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted. You need a thick skin to take the criticism. I did first and fourth year full-time, second and third part-time while raising three small kids. Some life experience under the belt is a good thing.”
In Hurley’s work, she says “the continuing thread is finding and illuminating what we all have in common across time or location. It’s often life’s incidental and mundane moments that stir in us the most visceral emotion.”
In Women Unremembered, Hurley features sidelined and forgotten women. The series began “gradually and unintentionally”. Captivated by a picture of Amelia Earhart, she says, “several other images caught my attention and their stories were astounding. I hope that the scattergun approach I’ve taken of a diverse group of women might ignite curiosity and consciousness of what these women did and what women are capable of.”
Why paint these women when there are photographs? “My gaze on these women through time is a very different perspective from that of the photographer for whom they posed. I know the outcome.”
In the case of Margaret Cousins, “I am staring into the eyes of a woman in her 30s who doesn’t know what’s ahead of her, who is unaware of the sacrifices she will make for her cause or how history will see her, or not see her.”
Using black and white photographs, Hurley painted Margaret “through a different prism. These women deserved vibrant, celebratory colour. The upper two thirds of Margaret’s portrait is well defined, the lower section is quite loose. The pouring, layering, smearing and dripping of paint makes for interesting underpainting.”
And the book before her? “In the photograph there’s an image on the page. The underpainting made it look as if the pages had been carved out of the book, like she had been extracted from her own story. I felt so lucky to have been gifted that nugget by the paint.”
Margaret’s gaze is steady. “She has a calmness, a gentle strength and fearlessness.”
Hurley uses first names for her subjects. “It adds strength to the individual woman who is neither reliant on her father’s nor her husband’s name.” This Margaret, born Boyle, Co Roscommon in 1878, who was advised by her headmistress “not to be so independent”, did a bachlor of, and then taught, music, married poet and playwright James Cousins. Both were committed to vegetarianism, theosophy and women’s suffrage.
With Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, Margaret co-founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League and The Irish Citizen newspaper. She was imprisoned twice for damaging government buildings, in Dublin and London, during protests for the right to vote. In 1915 she and Cousins moved to India where she continued her campaign for women’s rights, was the first woman magistrate in India, and was imprisoned for supporting Ghandi.
She died there in 1950, having ignored her headmistress’s advice.
‘Women Unremembered’ by Oonagh Hurley runs at The Blue House Gallery, Schull, Co Cork, from July 8-20. bluehousegalleryschull.com/ Insta @oonaghhurley_art
Print and Works on Paper
Baldwin’s work includes nostalgic and innocent landscapes, recently described as “Psychological Landscapes” by BBC Arts correspondent Maeve Doyle, that explore death, love and decay. Cartoon characters and skulls are side-by-side in work that is multi-layered and full of vibrant colours and intricate details. Born 1972, Baldwin has also designed book covers, album art, and clothes.
SO Fine Art, Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin 2, until July 2
Eva Gonzalès Is What Dublin Needs
Édouard Manet and others
Manet’s one formal pupil, Eva Gonzalès, began her apprenticeship aged 22. She died 14 years later, an accomplished and admired artist. Manet’s portrait of her, acquired by Hugh Lane, features in a new exhibition of self-portraits by women and paintings of women artists by men. George Moore proclaimed that “The portrait of Mademoiselle Gonzalès is what Dublin needs”.
Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin 1, until September 18