Mayo-based artist Paula Pohli’s subject matter is one of wild contrasts, from farm buildings rendered in soft watercolour to bold and witty linocuts. Pohli’s work goes on show this month in Galway. Sandra Andrea O’Connell got a preview …
“Juxtapositions” is an admirably well-chosen title for this solo show by Irish artist Paula Pohli who feels a sense of belonging to her adopted West of Ireland landscape as much as she does to the various cities she has lived in throughout her career, which include Dublin, Quebec and Paris. This juxtaposition leaves her work both rooted to a place and fugitive at the same time, with an underlying yearning for the experience of “somewhere else”.
Artist Paula Pohli.
Pohli’s subject matter juxtaposes the natural world of wondrous birds and insects and the manmade structures of Irish farmyards. Here, Pohli discovers a broad range of architectural styles, from stilted barrel-vaulted sheds on delicate long legs to the ageing patina of derelict outhouses and the overlapping geometry of Irish farm settlements, known as “clachans”. These vernacular forms are captured in a wide range of media, oscillating between the strong graphic lines of her linocuts, the vibrant colours of her egg tempera paintings and the soft shades of her watercolours. Pohli carefully chooses her papers and pigments and prepares her own colours according to traditional techniques and recipes.
“Ballyglass egg tempera”
For her influences, Pohli’s work also juxtaposes two German art movements – the forceful woodcuts of German Expressionist artists Otto Dix and Käthe Kollwitz and the bold colours of the Blaue Reiter artist group, who resided in Murnau in rural Bavaria and included Emil Nolde.
Both movements broke with realism and adopted a new and emotional way of seeing the world. Germany, the home of Pohli’s late husband Walter Pohli, continues to inspire her and she paid homage to his native city Wuppertal with a beautiful linocut of its iconic suspension railway, the Schwebebahn.
A slight melancholy appears to enter Pohli’s art with paintings such as “Lantern Leaves” or “Connemara Shed”. Other works are bright and luminous such as “Postcard from Home” or “Robeen”, yet with a new heightened emotion. Common to all of Pohli’s works is specificity and her attention to even the smallest of details, captured with the finest of brushstrokes. Pohli is closely attuned to the natural world around her – her home and studio are in rural Co Mayo – and she finds empathy for each living thing, as in her linocut “Scapegoats”, which depicts the masked artist and a little bat, a creature that has become synonymous with the pandemic.
“High Rise Cliff”
While life during the pandemic has been challenging for Pohli, her output has been prolific at the same time. Her exhibition at The Kenny Gallery as part of Galway’s European Year of Culture had to be postponed and she is delighted that it is finally opening in September. Pohli is an artist with a strong and loyal following whose works are in the collection of the National Gallery. Visitors to the Kenny Gallery will be enthralled by this juxtaposition of new and older work.
“Juxtapositions”, September 8-October 6 at The Kenny Gallery, Galway; www.thekennygallery.ie.
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