Lee Valley artists drawn together for Macroom show

Emer Kelly’s work in a Macroom exhibition was often inspired by Cork’s urban environment. However, her move to the country may bring some changes, writes Mark Ewart

THE market town of Macroom, Co Cork, and its wider agricultural hinterland of the Lee Valley, is the focus for an exhibition entitled ‘Here and Now’.

The emphasis of the show — which is a reprise of an exhibition held last year — brings together artists who live and work in the area, but is also a look back to the inaugural 2006 survey show, ‘Time and Place’.

Under the guidance of curator Norah Norton, a series of exhibitions over a decade has become one of the area’s premium visual arts events — encouraging locals and visitors alike to respond to the issues and themes that preoccupy the invited artists.

The 20 contributors this year present a captivating variety of artwork, realised through traditional and contemporary artistic styles and processes. They include John Philip Murray, Debbie Godsell and Sarah O’Flaherty.

One of two new artists to enter the fold since the 2006 exhibition is CIT Crawford College of Art and Design graduate Emer Kelly, who recently moved to the rural location.

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Her subject matter, however, is purely based on the built environment. “I spent a lot of time in Cork city and I always loved it,” she says, “and soon found I was really drawn to the architecture and landscape of the city.”

Her mixed media drawing reflects this and is homage to an older age of neo-classical architecture that will be appealing for many people.

What might the relocation to the Lee Valley bring to her work? “I moved to Carrigadrohid a year ago and have already taken lots of photographs of the surrounding area and Macroom, of the countryside as well as the architecture, and I plan on interpreting these rural images in my work in the future.”

Consequently, any evolution in the work which may come about from the switch to a rural environment is likely to prove seamless for Kelly — as her use of photography, tracing and sketching allows for flexibility and experimentation.

“In the past I have tried just using traditional techniques but I began to feel quite restricted.”

She elaborates: “My work is a process of adding and subtracting images, blurring images and drawing over images, finding a balance between lines and spaces.

“There’s no real conceptual reason for this, I’m literally illustrating fragments of my observations, focusing on details that I’m drawn to.”

A change of scene or environment can be a healthy thing for many artists, bringing about fresh opportunities to respond to new inspirations and ideas. And certainly the chance to align with her Lee Valley compatriots is welcomed.

“I draw so much inspiration from the artists — Marie Foley’s use of architectural and geometric lines, Jill Dennis’s phenomenal painting technique, Con Kelleher’s subject matter and his ability to capture a moment, Michael Quane’s stunning sculptures and drawings.”

The exhibition in Macroom is a shot in the arm for Kelly and the emerging artist seems excited at the prospect of moving her career forward.

“Now that I’m making more time for my work, I want to start working towards another solo exhibition and more group exhibitions. I eventually hope to get back to college to do a Masters.”

Whatever direction she goes in the future — and with a young family still a central part of her life — she is sure that creativity will be ever present. “I always want to make time for my artwork,” she says, “I couldn’t imagine not doing it, to be honest.”

‘Here and Now 2’ is at the Town Hall Gallery in Macroom until Sept 18


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