Kathy Tiernan

Artist and co-founder of local action group 'ArtLimerick'

Kathy Tiernan

Kathy Tiernan artist and co-founder of local action group 'ArtLimerick'

Born in Kildare, the seventh of nine children, I was educated at St Conleth’s primary school and the Holy Family post-primary, both in Newbridge.

It was the late 1980s when I set out on a mission to leave the country forever, and living on the road visited Canada, Israel, Belgium and the UK. The same ‘long and winding road’ brought me to Co Limerick some years later, and Grange has been my home for almost two decades now.

Always a lover of art, I remember that crayons were invariably top of my Santa list, indeed, the smell of oil pastels still reminds me of those Christmas’s long past.

My family is creative in other ways though, for example, through knitting, sewing, and photography, but I have always painted. I am not at all sure if I was always an artist per se, but I love creative work, and over the years have made everything from shoes and medical devices to fibre optic cabling as ‘real jobs’.

Today, my painting is mostly oil-based, as I have always loved this medium.

It gives me the freedom to return to the canvas like a long lost love who is welcomed back with open arms again and again. Currently, working in landscapes and portraits I have been strongly influenced by country scenes, fairy lore and ancient myths, that surround me at Grange Stone Circle and Lough Gur. The poet, Lady Jane Wilde, once described Ireland as a land of myths and mystic shadows, of cloud wraiths on purple hills alternating with glorious sunset splendours. Similarly, if I lie down on the grass and inhale its freshness, I am soon painting ‘a thousand shades of green’. I have always looked at life through rose tinted glasses, but these days it gets easier to paint what I see. In my upcoming Exhibition at Friars’ Gate Theatre, in Kilmallock next September I hope to display a combination of all the above. Indeed, Manager Caoimhe Reidy and her staff display an outstanding ability to make everybody feel like the theatre is their home. ‘My house is your house’ as the old saying goes.

You are born to be a ‘creative’, and so sometimes I feel like I am not ‘real’, unless I am painting.

When I have a really good day, I want to do nothing but paint. On ‘dog days’ though, I tend to forget about the ‘oil’ until it calls me back. People should follow their dreams and if that dream is to be an artist then follow it with all your heart and soul. It is a very tough road, so if you want riches, a steady income or relative normality, then this may not be for you. Not all brilliant artists make a living from art but then again not all masters of fine art are brilliant artists.

I struggle with the idea that you need a college education to be an artist.

It certainly helps to hone your skill, learn to critique your work and have it assessed by others. However, this was never an option for me and it still isn’t something that calls me. The need for self-expression makes me paint, so personally I am not so sure that a college degree, at this stage of my life, would necessarily enhance that need or the need to be recognised as an artist. There are different levels of artist, and I am not aiming to have my work displayed on the walls of museums. Instead, I get the most satisfaction from looking at the face of somebody who has given me an idea from their head and now finds it down on canvas.

Life seems to be picking-up a little for Artists at long last, with the recession almost making the word ‘Art’ as toxic as a bank.

It’s good that the public want to buy from artists again, rather than from a collection of canvas that has been printed and shipped by the thousand from abroad. In order to obtain a better deal for artists I co-founded the group 'ArtLimerick' last year with fellow artist, John Hellewell. We now have a website up and running thanks to his wonderful programming skills. Regular ‘Outdoor Exhibitions’ run every Sunday from midday until 4 pm on Bedford Row, where diverse artists exhibit their work and meet to discuss common issues. There is a limit of eighteen artists per week but with a pool of over 30 artists the range of art is quite amazing. Limerick City Council is very supportive of the idea and granted a licence to trade. Indeed, it seems to be catching the public’s imagination, with more and more people gathering here to browse and chat with the artists who soon form part of their network of friends.

Being solitary beings, artists would rather stay in their painting space and so find it difficult to come out and show work, much less try to sell it.

This is one view while another is that spaces for artists to meet are still very limited in Limerick. We have Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD), but for some, once they have completed their degree, the business know how lets them down and sales are sparse. Others may feel that because they have no connection with LSAD or Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA), that their success in the Limerick Arts community is often ignored, or somewhat disregarded. Personally, I would love to see a venue for those holding the middle ground. Such people mix college degrees with life experience, and would benefit from places to meet, display or discuss Art!

Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock will host an exhibition by artist Kathy Tiernan from September 4 to 30. For information phone: 063-98727 or visit the websites: www.friarsgate.ie and www.artlimerick.com

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