Sheila Rennick Zero Perks
The Mercy nuns in Tuam, Sheila Rennick’s family holidays in Achill, and “local madness, such as characters known as Greyhound, Hubba Bubba and Johnny Lakes were all good for my imagination. Johnny, wearing sunglasses, would stand in the square, topless, in white shorts, lifting kegs of beer.”
Time with her grandparents in Claremorris meant regular trips to Knock. “Observing the mix at mass was great as a child, all very theatrical and entertaining,” she says.
From her father, a vet, and mother, a pharmacist, Rennick took “an entrepreneurial spirit and interest in people”.
Seeing Andy Warhol’s artwork at IMMA, Rennick found “the repeated cow head patterns and floating silver pillows so exciting”. Similarly, the Saatchi YBA Sensations show as a teenager. And she also “got a lot out of sitting in a pub as a child”.
“I think being allowed to sit and watch and be bored can spark your imagination. Pubs and cafes are great observational spaces. Even now, in London, and though I have a 16-month-old, my half-Irish/half-Chinese husband will find an interesting bar in which to decompress.”
At 16, Rennick, “a restless teenager”, got a place in NCAD. Her “quite naive” portfolio included portraits of a tiger, boy band torsos, reggae artist Lee “Scratch” Perry, but she “lost her way from painting” until her third year. Then she made “a series of portraits of criminals and black and white macabre ink paintings of lynchings and big, fat clown-like figures in the electric chair. Instinctive work. I loved making it and my love affair with painting really began.”
Her brush stroke is fluent and lush. “I enjoy squeezing the tube, handling the thick oil paint, moving it around the canvas.”
Do dead white male painters weigh upon her? “I like to think of male dead painters like Francis Bacon and Martin Kippenberger as floating around somewhere, slightly pickled from booze and cadmium oil paints.”
Storytelling is important to Rennick. In the park recently she got chatting to a woman with a rescue dog from Crete. While her son Bill patted the dog, “she told me she had just left her husband after 25 years, had just turned 50, their children were grown.
“She kept saying I don’t know why I am telling you all this. I said talk away. These short encounters trickle into my work. Life is hard. Everyone has a story and I like my viewer to interact and make up their own story.”
Being a vet’s daughter, animals also feature in Rennick’s work. “Mixing humans and animals can take on a circus-like quality” but she sees her work as “definitely dystopian”.
‘Zero Perks’ echoes Rennick’s time working in an office in London, where she learned professionalism, but soon became aware of “the depressing corporate structure and how workers lower down the work chain rarely get ahead. Dolly Parton sums it up perfectly in her song ‘9 to 5’ but my version has less fizz than Dolly’s.”
Made pre-pandemic, two men in a half-empty office, 4pm, Friday, clowning about, capture the big drinking culture that exists in London.
“The woman, disengaged or lost, dressed for work, applies her lipstick. pre-pandemic office workers were expected to work in an office every day,” she says.
“Presenteeism was the name of the game. I worked in a glass box and felt like an animal in a zoo. ‘Zero Perks’ is how I felt.”
Rennick’s work is at ‘A Different Horizon’ at Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, until August 21; Wells Art Contemporary, Wells UK, until August 28. sheilarennick.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Paintings from The Last Gallery and Studio
Limerick artist Ramon Kassan is preoccupied with landscapes: a field extending into the distance, a town at night, studio windows containing a superimposed sea view.
New work focuses on cities, suburbs and rural towns and explores local and national identity. Kassan also imagines paintings being created in a studio space no longer in use.
Temple Bar Gallery, until September 10
Yellow, Pink and Blue Horizon
O’Connell’s palette has always favoured Cerulean Blue, Magenta and Cadmium Yellow. Sea, sky and sun are celebrated in this new exhibition, where bright colours, as Barry Kehoe says in Dreamboat, an accompanying text, “dance through the work” and “push and pull”.
“They defy visual expectation, guided by the deliberate composition of the artist.”
Kevin Kavanagh until August 13