Saturday 18 January 2020

What Lies Beneath: River in Flood by Bernadette Kiely

Bernadette Kiely, oil on canvas, courtesy of Taylor Galleries

River in Flood
River in Flood

PICK your time of year. There's no right answer. For Bernadette Kiely, "winter is my favourite season" and its power and beauty can be seen in this recent work which captures the river Nore in flood.

This large canvas is a-shimmer with flood waters in late-afternoon light; she recreates its translucent, transparent quality. Bare, dark winter trees though stark and drenched have a lacy delicacy. "The trees were a dark bluey black and the river was almost silver." The swamped but green riverbank opposite reminds us that spring will come, eventually.

Kiely's work has always celebrated the elements. Right now it's water, water in abundance, water in full flow. She photographs the reality of water at different times of the day. "The paintings come from the photographs and the naked lines of the trees are like sky drawings and the shadows and reflections in the river are stronger and more delicate." Fog, mist and low light, the muted winter colours, inspire her. She celebrates atmospherics.

She's also discovered that paint poured directly on to the canvas allows her to catch water's movement and flow, a technique and process that also add an element of risk and chance.

Having grown up by the Suir and now living on the Nore she is in her element: for the past four years she has focused on the stretch of river outside the house and studio, in Thomastown, where she lives, never seeing the same river twice. She called her most recent show ". . . everything flows . . ." , words from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and a phrase once written on the wall of her studio by Barrie Cooke, a studio that Bernadette Kiely has been using for 21 years. "Barrie was here for seven so I feel it's mine and it is a blessing to have it."

Scientists claim that when we're near water our minds become "blue" and calm. Her tranquil flood painting has that effect. Or five minutes in a hot shower reduces anxiety levels. Pre-water-metering days, obviously.

River in Flood is now on view at the 
Summer Show, Taylor Galleries, 16 Kildare St, Dublin 2.

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