Kaleidoscope: An exhibition of paintings by Kate Hennessy

Kaleidscope, an exhibition of paintings by Kate Heonnessy at Galway Bay Galleries, Lower Fairhill Road, Galway. Show runs until 31st July 2012. Not to be missed.

Kate Hennessy: Skill, talent and colour sense are not appreciated

Artist with a new exhibition on ‘Galway Bay Galleries, Lower Fairhill Road, Galway.

I was born in Limerick city and have lived here all my life except for a five year period when I lived in Dublin and Kilkenny.

Myeducation took place at the Salesian Convent in Limerick, for both Primary and Secondary School.  Later I went to the High School of Commerce and Limerick School of Art. I also attended classes at the National College of Art in Dublin under Maurice McGonagle PRHA  and was Awarded an Art Teachers Certificate and  Ceard Teastas Gaeilge. I qualified in shorthand and typing because my parents did not approve of art at all.

For as long as I can remember (maybe to the age of four or five) I have always loved drawing and painting, and knew from an early age that this is what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I loved to paint in oils and acrylics, and have experimented in many different types of artistic media since.  My work is basically figurative, not photographic.  I work in a colourful, imaginative, expressive way. Indeed, I will be showing 24 pieces of my work in Galway city next month. The paintings were inspired by the sketches I make on my many trips abroad. I am especially attracted to Middle Eastern countries, and have visited Iran, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, as well as Sudan, and India. I also enjoyed medieval Spain, the Alhambra at Granada and the great mosque in Cordoba, for instance, and have been in more far flung places also.
I select the paintings myself for all my exhibitions and have never had a
curator for any of my exhibitions, and do not see the need for one.  Art is a matter of personal taste; there are no absolute standards any more.  The public should decide.

My parents were not artistic in the visual sense. 

When they went to school art was definitely not on the curriculum.  They were musical, however, and I got my love of Classical music from them.  My grandmother was an amateur sketcher and   she gave me her sketchbook when I was only ten.  All my many aunts were excellent needlewomen; crochet, knitting and embroidery were their crafts.  I got one of my aunts interested in painting and she studied it in the USA, took part  in many shows there and won prizes for her abstract work.  Her name was Phil Murray and she died in 2002.  I have a younger sister named Mary Meskell who is a  successful  photographer who studied at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD).

There are many reasons why a person wants to be an artist. 

For me it was about the great sense of pleasure and satisfaction of working with beautiful colour, mixing it and enjoying the results.  I am not a political artist, and do not use human pain as a theme, although I am very aware of the problems in the world. Instead, art is like beautiful music,  it excites, soothes and takes me on to another deeper (may I say spiritual) plain where I can forget everything. If I could not be an artist, I would have loved to have been a dress or interior designer. I always encourage others such as my little grandchildren to make art and  I started an art studio for asylum seekers  with Doras Luimní,  to give them something to do with their time,  as they were not allowed work.

Everyone has a certain amount of creativity; it is not confined to professionals.

Many older people did not have the opportunity to paint at school as it was one of the first things abolished by the Irish State and this situation continued until the fifties.  Art was also seen as a subject for ‘dunces’ by many teachers then.  Instead, art is like writing poetry, people do not go into it for the money.  Almost all artists have to work at teaching or other jobs to fund their materials and studios.  Only the very fortunate make it to the top and make a good living. The dole currently allows artists to exist, however, it amounted to just one pound a week in the sixties so that was not an option. Therefore, In order to make money, it helps to be dead, for example Vincent Van Gogh or the Irish art auction results.  The biggest prices are paid for  dead artists such as Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) and Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957). The collectors know there is a limit to their number of works.


I will remain in Limerick for life as my home is here.

However,   if I won the Lotto I would get a hideaway in London, another great city. Limerick was always an artistic centre.  In the sixties, I was a member of the ’67’ theatre club and did some set making at one time. I also attend poetry readings every Wednesday in King John’s Castle and had an annual exhibition in the City Gallery called ‘The Irish Artist’s Winter exhibition’. I also organised   shows paintings on the railings of  Pery Square  three years in succession, for my fellow art students.  That brought a little touch of Montmartre to Limerick years before they thought of doing it in Merrion Square Dublin.  Limerick once had a world class symphony orchestras play  in the Savoy Cinema which had a huge stage and a Wurlitzer organ. The venue is now badly missed in the city centre. It was sheer vandalism for the planners to allow it to be demolished. 

Limerick was always an artistic centre even when there was little money around and no Arts Officers. 

People will always express themselves by whatever means they can.  It is as old as the Stone Age and is what makes us human.  The earliest cave painters were the only original artists on the planet, everything that followed was influenced by everything already seen and still is.  There is nothing new under the sun, and no such thing as originality. It always rests on the past, even the recent past. I see life in terms of repeating patterns and colours.   I was lucky enough to visit the Taj Mahal twice, once at dawn and again in the afternoon, when the very colour of the walls seem to change.

I have been blessed to have made a few good friends in Ireland’s Iranian community, where I learned some basic Farsi and used it on my visit to Iran two years ago. 

The Khomeini Mosque in Isfahan is one of the great wonders of world architecture  as is the Golestan Palace in Teheran.  The experience of visiting this wonderful country contradicts all the negative ‘axis of evil’ stuff we read about.  True, there are great political problems both within that country and with the outside world, but I can honestly say, visitors are welcomed with great hospitality. This interest has led me to other crafts such as mosaic design, and patchwork quilt design, which occupy my free time. 

Nowadays, art is dominated by one type of curator who tries to be ‘cutting edge’ and ‘supercool’ with Conceptual Art  and Minimal Art dominating.  

Any piece that requires a paragraph of unintelligible gibberish to explain it is plainly not working. The idea has become more important than the result.  Consequently, we see balled up sheets of paper on the floor and lumps of concrete as exhibits. No account is taken of what most artists are doing, therefore, skill, talent and colour sense are not appreciated.  I think the era of the YBA will not last and the recession will herald a return to more accessible and beautiful art to be enjoyed by all. 

If I had to choose between spending a week in Tate Modern or the National Galleries  of UK or Ireland, I would choose the latter.  We have much to learn from the old masters.

INTERVIEW: JOHN RAINSFORD

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Posted on July 13, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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