Born in Tralee, I am the second oldest in a family of five.
My parents, Sean De Bhulbh (Woulfe) and Mary Murphy, from Abbeyfeale, moved to Limerick City in 1968 where I spent the rest of my childhood. I attended An Mhodhscoil, (The Model School), and then Laurel Hill Coláiste. My parents were keen Irish speakers and instilled in me a love of Irish culture, bringing the family to The Kerry Gaeltacht each summer. Indeed, I married a Kerryman, Tony Lyons, and we now have two adult children, named Eoghan and Aisling.
My first memory of being exposed to art was in ‘The Model’ under the tutelage of Beatie Culloo in Fourth Class.
Here, I was free to be creative and productive. Unlike my other subjects, art had no boundaries. Ms Culloo had the class enter The Texaco Children’s Art Competition, annually, which created great excitement. Today, my art tends to be influenced by the school of painting known as ‘Impressionism’. This is because I like to use short brush strokes and bright colours, in addition to being fascinated by the effect of light and shade. I tend to like Impressionist artists like Monet, Degas, Renoir and Cézanne, as their paintings convey intense emotions and shifting patterns of light and shade. I am of the view that if you want an exact replica of a scene, then you should take a photograph of it; however if you want a painting with mood and atmosphere, it is the impressionists who best capture that.
My path to artistic practice was not straightforward, however.
In fact, I moved to Dublin, in 1978, to work in the Eastern Health Board. Nevertheless, I continued to attend art classes by night and it was while taking a career break that I happened to attend an evening art class being run by Dundrum Vocational Education Committee (VEC). The art teacher, there, called John McKevitt, asked me if I would take his class if he ever happened to be ill. He never did get ill but next term class numbers were big enough to warrant two classes so I found myself taking the second class. In fact, this new found role of teaching art continued for the next few years. At this time, also, I exhibited and sold paintings in the open air, in Merrion Square, Dublin, at the weekends, while painting cartoons (with permission) on the walls of schools and houses. Meanwhile, I was attending Trevor Geoghegan’s evening art classes in the National College of Art and Design (NCAD).
Finally, I retired from the HSE, in 2010, and founded The Gallery, on Bedford Row, in December 2011, under The Creative Limerick Scheme.
The studio space is situated on the grounds of the refurbished façade of Central Hall, a Methodist Church dating back to 1830. Once this Church closed in the 1920s, the Grand Central Cinema operated there until the mid-1990s. We are on Bedford Row, beside Limerick Travel. Initially, it was just my son Eoghan and I who exhibited, but once our doors were open to the public, we were attracting in excess of sixty exhibiting artists. Today, not only is The Gallery a place for exhibiting but, it also acts as a hub for both amateur and professional artists, to meet and discuss their work. The Creative Limerick scheme, run by Limerick City and County Council, is where a vacant space is given over to student artists (my son Eoghan was a student photographer at that time) with the rate and rent being free. Without Creative Limerick The Gallery would not be the viable business it is today. For that, I would like to take this opportunity to thank that organisation for all their support down through the years.
While encouraging others to be artists, I would, also, advise them not to expect to make a living exclusively from art sales.
Like all creative professions, such as musicians, actors, and dancers, it is only a small percentage who will survive in the business. It is to be recommended, therefore, to have a fall back job, be that in teaching or something else. Artists tend to be creative and have a desire to capture a mood, a feeling or a scene, and to recreate it for others to see. They tend to envision the extraordinary in ordinary things. Indeed, those who devote their lives to art are usually not driven by money, as unfortunately, it is often only after an artist’s death, that their value appreciates. Instead, It is a love of art for itself that motivates them.
Limerick has always been a hub for artists.
The Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) and the Limerick College of Further Education, for example, offer a wide range of courses. The Limerick Art Society continues to offer many evening classes throughout the city and county. ‘Street Art’ is, also, alive and very visible throughout the City, with one piece on the ESB Box, outside The Gallery’s front door, being illustrated by L.U.A.S ( Limerick Urban Art).
Art is often seen as a luxury item, so the last few years have been particularly hard on our sales.
People have enough difficulty providing for the necessities of life, I suppose. However, The Gallery’s theme has always been to provide affordable art for everyone, and over the years, it has been the ordinary people of Limerick who have been our best customers. The Gallery hopes to host a solo exhibition by the renowned Limerick artist, Myra O’Reilly, in the autumn. Details will be announced on our Facebook and Web pages soon!
The Gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 12 noon until 5.00pm. An Exhibition will be hosted from 1-29 August for two Limerick-based Romanian artists, Dr. Angela Haq and Ms Alina Farcas. For more information please Tel: 087-6750754 or visit the website: www.slyonsart.com