Majella O'Neill Collins: I don't fear the sea but I have major respect for it

Majella O'Neill Collins: I don't fear the sea but I have major respect for it
Calm Among the Chaos; Sherkin Island artist Majella O'Neill Collins. Picture: Brid Ni Luasaigh

Majella O’Neill Collins is an artist based on Sherkin Island. The sea acts as a metaphor in her work.

WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OCEAN?

“I live almost on the sea. When I wake up in the morning and I go to bed each night, I can see and hear the sea. It is a constant companion.

I go to the mainland in a small boat and our lives are revolved around the sea because one thing you get to know is that they wait for nobody, so we time our trips around the tides.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE LIVING ON AN ISLAND?

“I am living on Sherkin Island over thirty years and I fell in love with it the minute I arrived here. I was enthralled by the sea more than the landscape because there is a comfort of being surrounded by it, in kind of a mad way.”

DO YOU FEAR THE SEA?

“I don’t fear it but I have major respect for it. I would never untie my boat myself and tear off into the deep blue ocean myself because I don’t have the skills to successfully navigate my way to Turk Head. Some people know where the rocks are, without having any information on board but that’s not me.”

HOW DOES THE OCEAN INFORM YOUR WORK?

“Obstacles on the sea really inspires my work. I would never paint the sea by putting an easel up and painting it as I see it. I look at it and then paint my memory of it or it might become a metaphor for what is going on in my head at that time. At the moment, I am playing with paint and layering more, and therefore there is a lot more movement to my paintings.”

WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST CAREER MOMENT?

“A number of years ago I had an exhibition in New York. I remember going into this amazing gold-panelled lift, which seemed to me to be a total contrast to my life here on the island. As we went up the floors, all the galleries were separated by glass and there was a Picasso hanging in the gallery next door to where I was putting my work. My beliefs in myself became real for the first time and I remember thinking for a moment when those lift doors opened, that it was like walking into another world.”

IS THERE A PAINTING FROM THE CURRENT COLLECTION THAT YOU FAVOUR?

“There is a piece in the Yellow Door at the moment which is totally different to everything else. It’s almost like being underwater and it feels like that protection that we put on before we go out – how we mask ourselves these days.”

Majella O’Neill Collins is currently exhibiting her work at The Yellow Door Baltimore along with Helen Walsh.

www.theyellowdoorbaltimore.com

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