The Idea of an Island

Made in response to Spike Island, this collection was painted during the COVID period. Initially intended to be painted on the island, lockdown  restrictions  prevented access, necessiating this collection to be painted in isolation.

A former fortress, monastery and prison, Spike Island is steeped in history and atmosphere. This collection explores the idyll of an island  – the wild places in our hearts and heads and notions of isolation, freedom, home, connectedness and redemption.  It seems despite our longings for splendid isolation – no man is an island, after all.

  • Oil on canvas 36cm x 47cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €745.00 The Covid quiet time was an interesting time to be painting about Spike Island. Pausing our own lives and regular routines gave rise to questions about why we do what we do and how we are spending our time / lives. It felt often, as if we were all sent to our rooms to examine our collective conscience! After the initial terror, I - and almost everyone I know - was grateful for the silence but that relief soon became a resolve to do things better when we were back to 'normal'. In many ways it felt as if I was primed to restart - almost evangelical - as inhabitants of Spike Island must have felt upon their re-emergence to civilisation - as if A Dweller on the Threshold -'tis ALL before us.  
  • Oil on canvas 45cm x 35cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €745.00 I have been fortunate to undertake many artist residencies. It's a period of time - for me, it's been anything from a week to three months - most usually spent in solitude, contemplating new work quietly. The kind of time most parents would sell their teeth for! The quiet gets intense in the beginning - thoughts of being an utter fraud with a wasted life, devoid of any talent get noisy - and days and nights are long. I believe  - wholeheartedly - if you are to make your own unique work, you must hear your own unique thoughts - warts and all - thus, there is nothing for it but to turn off your phone, walk in all weather and face forward the maelstrom of the mind. Slowly, fresh grounds of a new idea, germs of connectedness with nature shoot surely  - and an enchantedness with the work begins again. Soon the silence that was solitary is now a balm - your thoughts and indeed your place on the earth seem to rhyme - or at least have a co-herence - a rhythm! It's then, in that super sweet spot,  I have my best shots of inspiration  - sometimes it seems a simple download, a hymn to the silence.    
  • Dark Sky Island

    Oil on canvas (SOLD) 94cm x 69cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €2250.00 Inspired by the imagined longings of historical inhabitants of Spike Island. The tranquility and beauty of their setting, with the far shore still in site, must have been jarring to say the least.  A constant taunt for liberty denied and life going on at pace just beyond them. For all the beauty of our surroundings, having peace in our hearts and minds is the prize.    
  • Oil on canvas 40cm x 40cm In slip frame, ready to hang. When painting in response to Spike Island, I thought often (almost obsessively) about how it must have felt to be captive - as opposed to captivated on / by the island. Inhabitants - be they monks or prisoners - must have looked at the sea and the far shore - with longing. I imagine imprisonment is difficult at any time but  to have civilian life literally in your sites must have been extra challenging. I imagine their proximity to the shoreline, gave island inhabitants endless estuaries in to which their minds could wander  - satisfying and nourishing their longing for liberty and home.    
  • Fools Rush In

    Oil on canvas 112cm x 112cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €4,450.00 Spike Island was once a remote monastery, a fortress and the world’s largest prison! 'The Idea of an Island' collection attempts to present the contrast of what is potentially an idyll and a place of pain and suffering. The palette in these paintings is itself a contrast –  a mix from cheery pinks to a spectrum of blacks. ‘Fools Rush In’ was made during the Covid isolation and draws on the idyll of the sea – it’s spectacular beauty which can be so comforting – but also it’s inherent power and danger. One of the first things I did post-lockdown was to swim in the sea – it was freezing but full of freedom! ‘Fools Rush In’  I hope illustrates life’s contrasts – how nothing is ever completely lost or indeed perfect – but made up of a series of magnificent moments. The present happening over and over again.  
  • Inner Life

    Oil on canvas 60cm x 60cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €1250.00 A meditation on solitude and connection. A wise man - Michael Kirby - who has been a great influence on my work, showed us that everything that lives is connected. While I'm more than fine being alone, the quiet time of lockdown reminded me how my inner life is nourished by my time out in the world. I am richer for connection, community and having a sense of place in the world - all of that helps me feel at home in myself!  
  • Oil on canvas 120cm x 120cm In slip frame, ready to hang.   At a young(-er!) and (more!) impressionable age, I read May Sarton's A Journal of a Solitude. I remember being floored by the line 'Hope, but for what?'. The lack of hope or vision or joie de vivre struck me as utterly sad and terrifying too. I have known the feelings of being rudderless and at times been terribly lost. I think that is part of the human experience. Many of us anticipated the recent Covid quiet period with dread - it smacked of 'the end is nigh' and yet on the other side of it,  many of us feel renewed and are facing forwards with some hope. And we are certain what we are hoping for. On the other side of solitude, I think the things  we are hoping and hopeful for are not 'things' - there is a communion in that too. It reminds me of the words of another great writer, Mary Oliver:

    'Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

    The world offers itself to your imagination

    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

    over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

  • Oil on canvas 124cm x 112cm In slip frame, ready to hang. SOLD You have to keep your wits about you in the sea. Sinking or swimming are ultimate options. As  a very recent - and occasional - sea swimmer, I love the immediacy of immersion. It's impossible to feel wishy washy about the sensations. 0.5 seconds after immersion you are fully alive - senses accelerated, at absoute optimum. Although I am in possession of a rambly mind - and prone to projecting forwards or harking backwards, I am a fan of being in in the moment. Sea swimming helps me be 'all in' and be fully alive one moment at a time.  
  • On Silver Strand

    Oil on canvas 90cm x 90cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €2950.00 Silver Strand on Sherkin Island has a dreamy quality - it is a time and place. And it is time out of time. 'Holding On & Letting Go' is a theme that flows through my work. Inspiration is a feeling - sometimes fleeting - and sensations like how I felt at sunrise on Silver Strand are often like water in my hands. I hope this painting goes some way to capturing all of that.    
  • Oil on canvas 36cm x 47cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €745.00 One the first things I did post-lockdown (V1.0) was to got to the sea and swim. I had missed the sea and a full body immersion (while baltic!) was invigorating and restorative. I am a fair-weather swimmer but have a notion of a dry robe, flask and those flipper-bootie-thingies - I love the communion of it  and the connection to both the elements and ones own innate vitality. Even if I don't always brave beyond the shore, everything is significantly better when I Sea through Blue!  
  • Silver Linings

    Oil on canvas 90cm x 60cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €1950.00 Post the first COVID lockdown I took time out to spend a weekend on a yoga retreat Sherkin Island. It was my maiden voyage - I now know what I missed. It is glorious - idyllic, super lush in Summer time and so close to Shore. Going against all my usual holiday pre-requisites, we did yoga at sunrise on Silver Strand. It was cold and damp but just as the sun came up - the sun slid across the sand (giving a full explanation to it's name!) and it was the most glorious setting I have known. Immediately afterwards we swam in the sea. Had you asked me to partake in such a dawn excursion pre-Covid, I would have excused myself impolitely! And yet - it was wonderful - an absolute Silver Lining.  
  • Starting Over

    Oil on canvas 40cm x 40cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €745.00
    During my final year in secondary school, I had, for a brief period of time, a substitute English teacher. I remember this woman for many reasons but principally because of here peculiar analogies. She told us we should always remember that a good story was like a fish with its tail in its mouth!
    In the decades that has swooshed past since I left school, I have forgotten a LOT but I could never shake that analogy!  And so here I am at the end of one collection facing towards the next one. Starting Over feels like a culmination but also a beginning of the shape of things to come in my future work, beyond the precipice.
  • Oil on canvas 40cm x 40cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €745.00 While making 'The Idea of an Island', I became familiar with the work of late Mayo musician Conor Walsh.  His work is splendid. Sadly his album The Lucid was only released post-humorously - following Conor's sudden death. I listened to The Lucid a lot while making this collection and called this painting after Conor to some how honor his contribution. The Irish Times review described the album as "a victory for his music and a partial triumph over death itself".   I'd strongly recommend a listen to it HERE. I have included the track on a Spotify playlist of music I listened to while making this collection in solitude. You can hear the full playlist HERE.  
  • The Precipice

    Oil on canvas 5ft x 5ft (152cm x 152cm) In slip frame, ready to hang.    

    “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

    - Anais Nin -

    When I visited Spike Island, I was struck by how stunningly beautiful it is, how wild and yet how much grows there. It feels otherworldly - a strange edgy energy is pervasive. I couldn't help thinking about all the pilgrims, monks and prisoners who have passed through. The island's small surface area and it's situation make it impossible to forget you are on an island. I wondered were those temporary residents taunted by the lapping tide from the far shore. Many must have contemplated making a swim for it! It would require courage to leave and maybe another courage to stay. I think all of us in this quiet time have contemplated change - our personal precipice. For me making these big paintings is a personal jumping off point. When painting, I jot down notes - often a series of words - random ramblings and gems. For this Precipice - I noted:

    Resilience - Connectedness - Home - Belonging

    I think all of us - pilgrims, prisoners and painters - maybe sing to the same tune.        
  • Oil on canvas 50cm x 70cm In slip frame, ready to hang. Inhabitants of Spike Island - whether monks or prisoners - must have had a particular relationship with time.  The Covid Lockdown time, and spending so much of it in isolation gave us all pause to reflect on time and how we spend it. When you start to think of time as a man made construct - it can get quite loose  or dense. Eitherway, during the quiet time I had time to be in nature and to think of all the things I would do post-lockdown. First up was to see and be in the sea - There will be Time - is a tribute to looking forward, even when things are sticky and having fate that there is time - and good times - before us!    
  • Tide Lines

    Oil on canvas 36cm x 47cm In slip frame, ready to hang. €745.00 It is said there are no lines in nature - and yet - the tide lines on the shoreline mark the sea's  inhalations and exhalations.  If ever I need to settle my mind, I take it down to the sea where the tides eases my freeflow and scattered thoughts - soon my breath keeps time with the tide and my thoughts harmonize - or dissipate. Perhaps it is more true to say there are no straight lines in nature - as in life.  


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