Artistic License: Róisín O’Farrell

Exploring the NOTION OF HOME and defining it as a mixture of comfort, colour and chaos, a new exhibition by RÓISÍN O’FARRELL opens at THE DOORWAY GALLERY this week …

Entitled “Silver Paper Gold”, O’Farrell swaps her usual oils for a range of textures and techniques.  In the process the exhibition shows why she is one of Ireland’s most successful professional artists and teachers.

Your vibrant paintings often depict interior settings – are these real or imagined?

We’re lucky here in Ireland to have so many gorgeous period homes. I love to paint small country house hotels like Marlfield House, Castle Leslie, and Kilruddery, but I also paint real period homes. Whenever I find them and whenever their owners are happy to let me in, that is …

What draws you to painting interiors particularly?

To me they are all about a feeling of home and I purposely don’t add figures. I like the viewer to be able to imagine themselves about to take a seat by the window for a moment of calm in a busy day, or to head out the door for a walk.

Tell us about your new exhibition at The Doorway Gallery?

I’ve been working with The Doorway Gallery for nearly nine years now; gallery owner Denise Donnelly is my cousin and she is an extraordinary women.

In this new series I’ve gone right back to the scary start. Rather than work in oils as I have for nine years, this new work allowed me to explore other textures such as acrylic, metallics and papers, as well as oils. That said, the new series will be accompanied by a selection of new works in oils that continue the themes of old world interiors and the familiar “welly boot” family portraits.

The title “Silver Paper Gold” is significant …

Much of my work has been an exploration of home and family. The new series is the result of my ongoing reflections on the idea of home as a complex layer of comfort and chaos, strength and fragility, messy relationships and unconditional belonging. For “Silver”, I was inspired by silver vintage cutlery, old and traditional, belonging in a velvet-lined box or on a mahogany table with starched linen, but here they are presented within the untidiness and the mess of life. Strong, bold and beautiful, to me they speak of the structure of inter-generational family.

For “Paper” it’s all about the wallpaper for the “good room”.  It papers over the story of life underneath. The good and the bad, the hurt and the joy. The paper is the side we show to the mother we meet in the supermarket with the perfect life. In this work the paper is torn and unapologetically allows the story behind to emerge. “Gold” can be found in the depth of the ground (background), it can’t be easily seen. It must be looked for – it’s the vein of wholeness. It’s the unexpected resilience.

How and where do you paint?

I am blessed with a huge kitchen, with space on the side. I love to be in the thick of it with my daughters and their friends popping by, combined with the quietness during the day when it’s just me and the studio staff, Maggie the lurcher and our cats.

What advice would you give someone wanting to take up painting?

Whatever dream is lying dormant in your heart, my advice is to go for it. Not in the “quit your job and take off in a camper van” kind of way but just to make a start. So often we say “I’ll do it when I have more time, when the kids are older, when I have some time off, next year, when I retire…”

Start now, start small and keep practicing. That’s how one day we find ourselves doing what we thought impossible.

Need to Know: “Silver Paper Gold” opens on September 6 – 27 at The Doorway Gallery, 24 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2. O’Farrell will also be doing a live demonstration in the The Doorway Gallery for Culture Night on September 21. www.thedoorwaygallery.com.

Penny McCormick

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