Limerick artist Jim O’Farrell will host an exhibition of his watercolour paintings of schools and monasteries in India next week in the Greenhills Hotel prior to the official launch in Calcutta in December.
The exhibition was commissioned to mark the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Christian Brothers order in India.
Jim, a native of Corbally now living in Clarina, has become a regular visitor to India since he first travelled there in 2010 with a group of volunteers to Calcutta under the guidance of Fr Pat Hogan, parish priest in Southill.
He was immediately drawn to Calcutta, its history, its people and what he describes as the “extraordinary devotion of the Christian Brothers fraternity to the marginalised community in India”.
“It is a most magical place with the most wonderful people who despite having so little are so content in their lives,” he said.
Since then, the retired schoolteacher has returned to India every year, having found a new vocation teaching the street children in Saint George’s School in Calcutta.
It was on one of these visits that he received a commission to do a series of paintings of the 23 schools run by the Christian Brothers in India, hence the genesis for his Indian Collection.
The commission enabled him to travel to all the order’s 23 school sites located throughout the vast sub-continent, from New Delhi and Mumbai to Goa and as far north as the Nepalese border.
One journey alone – from Goa to Calcutta – took 78 hours by train, but Jim says it was all part of what was an unforgettable experience.
“It has been some adventure! It was just wonderful,” he said.
“I was treated with great respect wherever I went. I never witnessed any unpleasantness.”
Indeed, on a number of occasions, he was mistaken for a professional chess player as his box eases resembled a folded chess board.
The result is a collection of 40 painting of all the Christian Brothers schools in India. The official launch of the exhibition will take place in St Joseph’s College Calcutta on December 5, after which the paintings will go on permanent display.
It will be launched by the Irish Ambassador to India, Felim McLaughlin.
However, Limerick people will have an opportunity to view this unique collection prior to that when it goes on display in the Greenhills hotel on the Ennis Road on Friday, September 25.
This exhibition will be opened by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and all are welcome.