BY JOHN FITZGERALD
Kilkenny is renowned for its annual Arts Festival. But you don’t have to wait till August to savour the county’s prolific output of painting, ceramics, and sculpture. This month you can call to the Watergate Theatre in Kilkenny to see Clodagh Holahan’s Natural Designs exhibition. And last week I was privileged view a dazzling collection of works at the KCAT centre in Callan.
A former art teacher and a graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Clodagh has exhibited internationally. She co-authored an art textbook that is used in Irish secondary schools. Her latest exhibition was inspired by a life-long love of nature and her voluntary work with the Upper Paddock Biodiversity Garden in Thomastown.
She derives many of the ideas for her painting and sculpture from flowers, leaves, and just about anything she finds on her frequent walks through the countryside. She likes to explore the hidden gems of our landscape, seeking out little-known spots and neglected ruins or monuments.
Clodagh’s soulful interactions with these helped to inform the vivid creations that hang in the Watergate, with their riotous tints and multifaceted permutations. She relates to nature in a pantheistic way, allowing it to express itself through her art.
At a time when the quest to save what remains of our biodiversity is seldom out of the news, Clodagh’s artistic homage to the natural world is all the more poignant. It resonates with the spirit of the age and beguiles even as it evokes our precious and increasingly threatened eco-system.
Natural Designs continues at the Watergate until June 30th.
Over a hundred artists exhibited last week at KCAT in Callan. I called to the opening of the End of Year display where all of the visual arts were catered for: A bewildering array of paintings adorned the walls, evincing a variety of styles and perspectives…executed with oils, pastels, acrylics…anything that could make a squiggle on a canvass or sheet of paper.
Intricate forms and configurations vied for attention, offering insights into the personal vision and perspective of each artist. Some were clear-cut and elicited the joy of recognition, depicting local land or streetscapes as perceived or remembered by the artists.
Others delved into the cavernous depths of the psyche or made subtle statements about aspects of the human condition. Others again were “out of this world.” Vortices of energy swirled within frames that held glimpses of eternity, the transcendent or parallel realities. .
KCAT believes that everyone deserves a chance to express his or her creativity regardless of age, background, or ability, and this ethos has won it national and international acclaim, attracting students from all points of the compass to avail of its celebrated courses.
Launching the exhibition, Cllr Joe Lyons praised the artists whose work had transformed the centre in Mill Lane into a jaw-dropping gallery of accomplishment. Joe, who’s been a fan of KCAT for years, remarked how it’s become a pivotal part of the community and a fine example for similar projects elsewhere.
Some exhibits caught my eye on opening night, though I stress that these were but a few of the treasures on offer. Nicola O’ Neill, who has been working with ceramics in recent months, fashioned the lovely Earth Head (see picture).
Photographer Paddy Cunningham, who took up painting and drawing three years ago, had his comical impression of former British PM Tony Blair. Nature got a look-in with Sylvia Till’s HARETIC and Renee Reidy’s FOX.
The works were joyous and sombre in about equal measure, but all showcased the extraordinary talent nurtured by the KCAT tutors, applying their finely-tuned holistic and inclusive approach.
The artists, I’m told, are looking forward to the next exhibition.