Art to inspire hospital patients

A remarkable collection of paintings by a Franciscan brother who devoted most of his life to art has gone on permanent display at Cork’s largest hospital.

At the handover of Br Ambrose O’Mahony’s paintings at CUH were, from left: Simon Cronin, consultant neurologist; staff nurses Jennifer White and Fiona O’Leary; student nurse Megan Dorman; Dr Paul Gallagher, consultant geriatrician; Frank Higgins, portering dept.; Veronica Deane, assistant director of nursing; staff nurses Ger Desmond and Sylvia Kowalski, and Edelle Nolan, arts co-ordinator, CUH. Picture: Denis Minihane

Artist Br Ambrose O’Reilly with his friend Sr Carmel Keogh. The Franciscan Order in Ireland has gifted 54 paintings by Br Ambrose O’Mahony, 82, to Cork University Hospital where they will be used in the rehabilitation of stroke patients.

As well as a selection of his work painted abroad, the Canticles of Colour collection includes scenes and landmarks from all over Ireland, and several views of Cork’s Shakey Bridge — one of his favourite landmarks.

His lifelong friend, Sr Carmel Kehoe, a member of the St John of God order from Co Wexford, collaborated with him over the years, writing collections of poetry inspired by his paintings.

She played a key role in ensuring the collection was made available to a wider public.

“He used to say ‘my painting is my prayer — my life was one of deep gratitude, grateful for all things’,” she said.

“He was a quiet, gentle soul. He loved to retire from people and just wanted to paint. He was a contemplative at heart. He simply loved to paint and he loved Cork with a passion. Even now, he longs for peace, solitude and quiet places.”

CUH arts co-ordinator, Edelle Nolan, said the collection will help stroke patients during their recovery.

“Staff in CUH’s stroke unit will use them to help patients get moving after a stroke,” she said.

“They will encourage patients to walk towards them, to have something to focus on, to admire them and talk about them. They can also be used as a talking point to help patients recover their speech after a stroke or brain trauma.”

Br Ambrose, who was born on North Main St, Cork, in 1932, is currently in poor health and is being cared for in St Martha’s Nursing Home in Charleville.

Hugh McKenna, the minister provincial of the Franciscan Province in Ireland, said: “Through a lifetime of painting Br Ambrose has helped all of us to see the world through the eyes of the artist, lifting us beyond the boundaries of this world to catch a glimpse of eternity.”

Several other paintings by Br Ambrose have already been donated to hospitals and hospices.


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