A blast from the past!
“I include these paintings in my Retrospective although more than twenty years separates them from the others.
When I was mounting my final year show at the Ulster College of Art in June 1970, I was one of a group of the Fine Art students to receive the McClelland Award: an exhibition in the McClelland Gallery in Belfast. My tutor asked me for painting titles for the seven paintings chosen for the catalogue. I hadn’t thought of titles before this as the paintings were abstract; hard to find suitable titles for them. However, I thought of them as “Inscapes” and came up with Inscape I, Inscape II, Memory I, Memory II, Memory III, Memory IV and Love Memory. The latter two were my favorites. Five paintings sold and I held on to Memory IV (The one you see here.). During the exhibition, sometime over the three weeks, a young first-year art student called Eileen Maguire took a particular interest in Love Memory and wanted to know if I would be willing to give it to her as she had no money. Ego being what it is, I wrote a letter to the gallery agreeing to let her have the painting.
I travelled to Cardiff to do my Teacher’s Diploma at the university there in September. I don’t remember giving Eileen my Cardiff address (we did meet once at the Arts Ball earlier that year) but before long I received a long letter from her saying how much she liked the painting. We exchanged a lot of letters after that, which quickly became rather amorous, but our epistolary love affair was stymied by Eileen’s mother who read one of my letters and objected to the relationship! I was saddened by this. It felt a bit like Robbie Burns’ love affair with Nancy Mclehose:
…never kissed and never parted, we had ne’er been broken-hearted. (Ae Fond Kiss)
I wonder does Eileen still have the painting. And I wonder when and if she looks at it, does she ever think of the love affair we had that never really was?”
A painting I did in 1979 has disappeared without a trace but perhaps it was sold in Fionntán Gogarty’s gallery in Donegal Town in the mid-1980s. Whatever become of it, I still have, fortuitously, a transparency of it. It is unusual in that I was doing precious little painting at the time and had kind of lost confidence in myself as a visual artist. I remember looking at a thicket on my property in Drimark, Donegal Town one day and singing, as a looked, “A Chraoibhín Aoibhinn Álainn Ó…” (O Pleasant, Beautiful Little Branch). This was a song I had given to Clannad who recorded it in 1982. I sent a photo of this painting to Ciarán Ó Braonáin of Clannad, expecting to see it adorn the cover of their album but, alas, it wasn’t to be. The painting presages a series of paintings I did in the 1990s called Sceach (Hedgerow). Click on the Gallery “Sceach” to draw some comparisons.