Thursday 24 October 2019

What lies beneath: Norway Series - Calm by Maura Connolly

Norway Series - Calm by Maura Connolly

Mixed media on canvas Courtesy of the artist

Norway Series - Calm by Maura Connolly
Norway Series - Calm by Maura Connolly

Niall MacMonagle

In Junior Infants, four-year-old Maura Connolly drew a winter scene. In the annual Children's Art Exhibition in the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery she was not only the youngest entrant but the youngest prizewinner in the annual Lions Club/Texaco art competition.

Decades later, Connolly completed a history of art diploma in UCC and, another decade on, graduated from Crawford with an honours degree in fine art.

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In between, having studied science, she pursued a career in the financial sector during which time "communication was written and verbal". But all the while, Connolly took art courses, and when she discovered spatialism, an art movement founded by Argentinian-Italian artist Lucio Fontana, and viewed his 1960 work Waiting, what Connolly calls "an inspiring alternative art form", she found her own way of making art. Now, for her, "communication is visual".

Connolly works with plaster, acrylic, shellac, charcoal, watercolour, stone. Mixed media gives her freedom. "Form comes first, then colour. I look at something and I can see the form in various shapes. It can stand alone with or without colour. Form does not dictate the colour which emerges as my work develops. To me, colour cannot stand alone as it has to have some kind of boundary."

In this large work, Norway Series - Calm, "the paring away of ornamentation in the painting allows the viewer to experience the solitude and tranquillity of the wilderness I encountered during my time in Norway".

Intrigued by Norway's dramatic transformation, "from winter white and dark silence of snow cover and absence of daylight to midsummer continuous daylight with profusion of flowering plants and berries, the majestical imagery of sailing though the summer fjords was imprinted on my imagination".

The fjord wall is stark, impressive, eternal. Images of "the vastness and purity of Norwegian fjords, the rawness and beauty of the natural environment", and limiting herself to two colours, yellow ochre and a blue/black, Connolly builds up texture that become her austere and beautiful canvases.

Art, says Connolly, does not have to be literal, "it should also be interpretative".

Similarly, "art does not have to be representational". It can be sensory. What interests her is how does it make a viewer feel?

Norway. Connolly's been there. Her work captures it.

As for calm? "This is where I am today." The viewer feels it too.

New work by Maura Connolly at Good Day Deli, Nano Nagle Place, Cork, until September 28 Instagram: .../maura_connolly/ FB: .../Mauracon/

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