Wednesday 29 January 2020

What Lies Beneath: 'Séamus' by artist Carol Cronin

Séamus by Carol Cronin, oil on canvas [2004], courtesy of the artist
Séamus by Carol Cronin, oil on canvas [2004], courtesy of the artist

Niall MacMonagle

We've become so disconnected from an older way of life that children could be forgiven for thinking that milk now comes from a nifty cold carton on supermarket shelves and not from a cow's swollen teat. And remember glass milk bottles, with tinfoil tops delivered daily to the door? The practice and act of milking by hand hardly exists in Ireland today. Electrified metal tubes have replaced fingers. But not for Seamus Malone from Dun Chaoin, who still milks his six cows by hand. And raw milk is still drunk. Queen Elizabeth believes in it and she's going strong.

An old man with a fine head of white hair, on a low stool, is milking in a stone outhouse. It's a calm, long-ago scene and it's happening in the 21st century. The cow stands still, the milker takes his time, the thin spurts of milk, tinkling in the 
metal bucket, the only sound. This painting by Carol Cronin contains only three colours: burnt sienna, raw umber and white but "burnt sienna is 
the basis of all my work, it creates beautiful greens and blues".

Cronin lived in Glasgow and Paris, Amsterdam for ten years, but a summer on the Great Blasket meant Kerry became home. Early work was abstract but it underwent a sea change and the sea itself played its part. Seascapes are her speciality, big, surging, moody seas but occasionally she does portraits: this one and one of Jimmy Deenihan holding high the Sam Maguire which featured on the cover of his book.

A man from Montserrat saw her work in Green Street, Dingle, and invited Cronin to paint a Caribbean seascape as a present for his wife. He flew her out. A painting of hers in Canada led to another commission. She was awarded a residency in Abu Dhabi and visits Cuba frequently. Seamus, dated 2004, is one of her all-time favourites. It sold but she bought it back and paid 200 euros more than she had sold it for. There's money in them there paintings.

Sunday Independent

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