Exhibition to feature stunning new work from Bessbrook Artist Roisin McGuigan

August 24, 2010

Ireland has long been synonymous with exquisite landscapes and the association rings especially true for Ireland’s beautifully rugged west coast. As a contemporary Irish painter inspired by the landscape, Roisin McGuigan, one of Ireland’s brightest up and coming artists, is more aware than most of the beauty that is all around us. While hailing from Newry originally, she has lived in west Kerry since 2007.

McGuigan, who grew up in Bessbrook and attended the Sacred Heart Grammar School in Newry, has had a life-long love affair with the Irish landscape. “I remember going for walks when I was a wee girl, my Dad would take us all over the country-side on long walks and drives and I loved looking at the landscape, it’s always been an inspiration to me,” she says.

Her work is as stunning as the landscape that inspires her and, unlike much of what passes for contemporary art these days, is both visually appealing and empathic. Her latest pieces are inspired by the skies of the south west and she brilliantly captures the varying moods and magical light so familiar to those living under the south west skies. And, while her work ranges from dark to light, she never paints with anything less than a clear understanding and compassion for both the landscape itself and for the celebrated traditions of landscape painting.

“As a painter I’m constantly inspired by the landscape,” says McGuigan. “I find myself considering it in all its complexity and its place within contemporary arts practice.” Because of this connectivity to both the landscape and the rich traditions of landscape painting, her work is an appealing mix of the traditional and the more contemporary.

Her work appears to doff a cap to the past and yet, somewhat paradoxically, still comes across as refreshingly original and innovative. “As a painter, I think my work has to be visually engaging and so I use a variety of approaches that are contrary to, yet still considerate of, painting’s historic traditions,” agrees McGuigan.

No where is the respect she has for the greats of Irish painting more obvious than in her video piece that pays tribute to Paul Henry, one of the most renowned of all Irish landscape artists. The piece is obviously inspired by Paul Henry’s iconic skies yet it does not try to replicate Henry, rather it addresses the very subject of ‘landscape in painting’ and tries to present it in a fresh and original manner.

The digital video work re-interprets one of Henry’s County Kerry paintings from circa 1935 (Killarney, Co. Kerry) and was part-funded by Kerry County Council’s 2010 Artists Bursaries Scheme. In this work Henry’s painting is re-imagined and re-presented as a physical obstacle, a boundary.

In fact, much of her work focuses on the boundaries, borders and limitations inherent in landscape painting. One of the methods used is a three-dimensional approach that allows the work to be viewed from both sides; it’s a novel approach that draws attention, not only to the boundaries of the landscape, but to the boundary of the painting itself.

It’s this empathy and connectivity to the everyday that brings her pieces to life; the darker pieces spring from the canvas with a sense of foreboding and melancholic power while the lighter pieces literally soar to new heights, drunk on a combination of colour and cloud.

To have one exhibition in these straightened times is an achievement but to have two exhibitions opening in the same week is a testament to the driving power of her work and her sharply rising star. The first exhibition will open in Siamsa Tíre in Tralee on Saturday, 4 September at 6:00 pm while the second exhibition will open in the prestigious Paul Kane Gallery on Merrion Square in Dublin on Thursday, 9 September at 6:00 pm.

Roisín McGuigan is a graduate of NCAD and the Burren College of Art. Her work has shown in numerous exhibitions in Ireland and abroad and can be found in a myriad of collections, both public and private. Her work is also hanging in the Department of Finance, in the National University of Ireland, Galway and in The Four Courts.

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