Sunday 22 July 2018

What Lies Beneath: The Leap by Jenny Richardson

The Leap by Jenny Richardson, Oil on paper, courtesy Taylor Galleries

The Leap by Jenny Richardson
The Leap by Jenny Richardson

Niall MacMonagle

When John Donne wrote, in 1624, that "No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main," he wasn't thinking Brexit - but Donne's words were "shimmering away there," says artist Jenny Richardson when she created this painting.

But Richardson is also turning Donne's idea on its head. This isolated, islanded figure, "a dear friend whose energy and enthusiasm I love", looks pretty content. It's a small work with a big emotion.

Born in Edinburgh, Richardson has lived in Allihies in West Cork since 1998.

"I first came to Ireland with friends who were buying a house here and I have been swithering backwards and forwards between Beara and Scotland ever since.

"I built a lovely tin studio where I love to work in the mornings when the studio is much lighter than my old house and very cheering to be in."

For Richardson, since attending art college back in the early 1960s, there has been the portrait phrase, the still life phase, a lot of dog paintings commissions, and six or seven years ago, her stark, powerful Polio Paintings that record a life on hold in 1948.

"They were painted from memory. I made them for myself, astonished at how much I recalled from the years between four and five - but Sarah Walker unearthed them, she showed them in her gallery in Castletownbere, and they became a book, a healing job," shown at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Waterford Healing Arts Trust also exhibited the paintings at Waterford University Hospital. And, adds Richardson, "Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Frida Kahlo all had polio so maybe it has wonderful side effects!"

This recent work is one of Richardson's island paintings. Many of them, she says, are about: "isolation and fear of heights".

"The increasing lack of strength in my limbs which has limited my movement seems to have liberated my imagination. My bad balance inspired me to paint my self portrait standing astride the roof of my house conducting the ravens and choughs."

And there's a similar exuberance in The Leap, "maybe it should be The Lep!" Though isolated, the figure, with raised arms thrown back in wild abandon, drinks in the sunshine that casts a shadow on a little island that stands rock solid in a beautifully green, beautifully blue sea.

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