LAST SATURDAY afternoon the Town Hall Theatre bar hosted the opening of Timeless, a delightful exhibition of paintings by Kathy Ross, inspired by her locality of Coolreagh, near Tuam.
Ross and her family moved to Coolreagh just last year and she was immediately struck by the beauty of the surrounding landscape and began a collection of work inspired by the area. “I am particularly drawn to abandoned and derelict country houses and sheds in the area hidden away like treasure waiting to be found; reclaimed by nature to become something infinitely more interesting and beautiful.
These rural areas are like pockets in time, untouched and unchanged by modernity, they possess a stillness, and silence that is captivating, it is this slow way of life that I wish to capture,” she has said.
Ross’s observations were echoed by Tom Kenny who launched the exhibition. “I’m always telling artists that they don’t need to go to exotic places, just look around your own area, exotic places are here and in the west of Ireland especially,” he noted. “If ever we needed proof of that it is here in front of us. The gift of many artists is to point out to us everyday things that we drive by and don’t see.
"This is a highly personalised vision, there is a lovely old expression which says the higher the art the fewer the gestures and these paintings have what may seem simple gestures but they are very subtle, evocative, and technically fine with strong colours and lots of light. It is a celebration of the neighbourhood and even those neighbours who moo and baa –there are no people here at all. This is a hugely impressive show and a major statement from a strong voice.”
Kenny’s words of praise are not misplaced. Ross’s images of rustic, rusted, sheds and farmyard lanes and livestock are lovely. I especially like the way the cows in her paintings gaze out directly at the viewer. If not quite as totemic as the cows in Dermot Seymour’s art, Ross’s cattle still eloquently stand forth as intelligent, emotional creatures.
Her paintings of dilapidated, corrugated-roofed, sheds also enliven a familiar icon of the rural Irish landscape and make it fresh. Tom Kenny observed that while there are no people featured in the paintings, one senses their presence nevertheless and the way in which these buildings and farmlands represent generations of family. These sheds and barns are portrayed by Ross with a pristine and beguiling summery brightness (though it would have been interesting to see an image or two drawn from rainy or wintry days ).
I spent childhood holidays at relations’ farm in Donegal and the title of Ross’s show Timeless conjures how these artefacts and images linger in our minds; to look at her paintings is to be taken out of the busy moments of the present, the world of Facebook and whatsapp, and to reflect upon and enjoy the simple structures and rhythms of life as it used to be.