Chris O'Brien Shanahan

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News / Exhibitions

Suburban Floodplain
Suburban Flood Plain
Oil on Canvas, 2010
Contour in green cobs
Green Winter
Acrylic on Canvas, 2008
Green Winter cobs
Contour in Green

Acrylic on Canvas, 2010


Farranshooneen Lane cobs
Farranshooneen Lane
Oil on Linen, 2010
Farranshooneen Park cobs
Farranshooneen Park

Oil on Canvas, 2010





Bibbulmun Track
Bibbulmun Track
Oil on Canvas, 2008

Suburban Floodplain cobs
Fenor Bog
Oil on Canvas, 2008
Feor Bog : Weave
Fenor Bog : Weave
Oil on Canvas, 2008
Blue Mts : Crater
Blue Mts : Crater
Acrylic on Canvas, 2008

Boundary Lines at Solstice - 29th December 2010 - 20th January 2011

A collection of artwork inspired by the field walls and tree lines that visually and environmentally impact on our landscape. The practice of capturing fleeting scenes in pencil and committing colour to memory shifted my awareness of symbolic meaning and expressive gesture. Over the years field boundaries have come to be seen as lines that divide and protect. Tangled hedgerows are highways protecting wildlife and connecting established woodlands. These natural habitats respond to micro environmental conditions and are remnants of our ancient forests. Boundaries, whether suburban or rural - natural or man-made - are meeting places, points of communication and cross fertilization of ideas. They are also barriers that separate, divide, protect and connect. The exhibition was reviewed by Liam Murphy.

Can you see where i am coming from?
Can you see where I am coming from? Acrylic on Canvas, 2006
Bealtaine - Daughter cobs
Bealtaine: Daughter

Oil on Canvas, 2010
Fomhair - Mother
Fómhair: Mother

Oil on Canvas, 2010

The exhibition was opened by Mr Ray McGrath

Ray McGrath is chair of Irish Wildlife Trust in Waterford. The IWT is one of the lead agencies in the development of educational progames promoting awareness of our natural heritage. He developed, and is external examiner of, the National Heritage Curriculum for Fáilte Ireland Marine and Countryside Guide programme. Ray is also the Environmental Pillar representative on a number of bodies including Waterford Leader Partnership Ltd, County Waterford SPC on Housing and Corporate Affairs and Waterford Sports Partnership.

The following extracts are from Ray's pre-opening lunchtime talk on December 21st

Isn’t ‘Boundary Lines at Solstice’ a wonderful title for this exhibition of exciting, pleasing yet provocative work? From ‘Crater: Blue Mts’ which is over here by the door to the enigmatically titled ‘Can you see where I’m coming from?’ at the other door the exhibition invites us to engage with boundaries in the natural world. And of course we are at Solstice today a boundary between two worlds, the spiritual and habitual, the end and the beginning. And I suppose a reminder of the boundary that separates us from possibilities. And reminding me also of the lines of TS Elliot

'Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the Rose garden'
Burnt Norton

But I don’t want to talk about social and psychological boundaries as important as they are and as implicit as they are in some of paintings here. There are so many boundaries in the natural world which Christine’s work opens up for us and I want to share with you some thoughts on those boundaries. The exhibition brings to mind a whole range of different kinds of boundaries – the boundary between tide and shore, between field and wood, between field and field, between townland and townland, and especially between surface and under surface. All of these boundaries are points of contact much more than points of separation. And in this United Nations Year of Biodiversity I am particularly interested in the weft and weave of biological life that is so essential for all of our lives here. And so to Christine’s weave series over here in the corner. What an intriguing way of bringing our attention to the fundamental fact of existence on this planet - the underlying rich variety and inter-dependent network of life forms. Christine’s Weave and weft series is rich in its suggested layering, its use of natural colours and above all for its sensitivity to and awareness of the weave and weft of life. Brilliant. And being hung along side Fenor Bog makes the point all the more forcefully.

Boundaries at the edge of the woods and the edge of the river … to be explored and enjoyed … These edges are very rich and full of possibilities. Fenor Bog is in many ways at the edge. It can quickly disappear entirely if we are not vigilant and keep an eye open for the kind of development that could destroy it. But it’s the edge or boundary between surface and under surface that comes across to me in this work. There is an apparent stillness in nature in the surface of the bog pond which is good for the soul and I see a stillness - almost a pregnant stillness in this work and in a lovely work from her that we have hanging in our house. And this can only be captured when the artist has a stillness of attitude, an openness of attitude, to seeing what happens when nature does its own thing. How often have we heard the expression time stands still but how seldom do we open ourselves completely to the experience. ‘Fenor Bog’ works for me at many levels but it is the stillness of attitude and the talent to capture that stillness that comes across very strongly for me here.

When art opens up a new window another way of looking at nature and understanding it a bit better it is giving us a wonderful and sustained present. ‘Bibbulmun Track’ with its winding way through cathedral like woods is such a window. … When Christine said to me it was inspired by a day long trek on the Bibbulmun Trail in Western Australia … I recalled Bruce Chatwins Songliness and how directions for ancient aboriginal trackways were embedded in song and story. And these directions were anchored in the features of the landscape, a landscape without human boundaries. Her arrangement of trees is a real invitation to wander just a bit of the beaten track.

Boundaries also appear in the almost abstract work inspired by a reflection on Farranshoneen, the townland where Christine lives. It is the colour and the subtle contours that capture me here as much as the hint of a boundary in the distance. It’s bold, it’s sweeping, it’s confident. Living in the country I have a particular interest in townland boundaries, and the very old hedgerows that separated them. … But these works do more than provide a pleasing aesthetic response - they suggest to me that when we open our eyes a bit more we can begin to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. And whenever art does that for me I see it as good art.

The hedgerows in ‘Peripheral Vision’ are symbolic but they do lead me to think about the value of hedgerows. And to remind me of their precarious state in this country of ours. We know of their value as a wildlife habitat. During the snow I watched the chaffinches and beautiful thrushes fly to the bird table, grab a piece of apple or nut and dart back to the shelter of the hedgerow. During the height of the Celtic Tiger we were losing approximately 1000 km of hedgerow a year. I hope we will never again allow this to happen. And nowhere was this happening more than in the boundary land between town and country.

‘Suburban Flood Plain’ works for me at a purely aesthetic level. I know it elicits from me a response at many levels but I am content to soak up its splendid tranquillity and colour and its gentle composition. I love its perspective and maybe that makes a traditionalist but it invites me to journey down the road and see what eventually lies around the corner. I know there’s teeming bog life on either side of the road but I am content this time to simply enjoy the colours and the ripe textures of autumn.

The weave appears again in the two almost three dimensional paintings which remind me of the openness of receptacles hinting at the openness of attitude that I mentioned earlier. I think you call these Mother and Daughter.

Which brings us to 'Treeline' and I know this was an expression of a transforming moment in Christine’s life and maybe she can be persuaded to tell us a little more about that. Was it a boundary finally crossed?

'Crater : Blue Mts' and ‘Can you see where I am coming from?’ are the end pieces. Crater is an amazing piece of art. When I first saw it I thought Turquoise Sun but I didn’t see the crater and the amazing floor of the crater where another world of biodiversity existed. So there are layers of boundary here to be seen by those with the courage to climb to its rim. I don’t know if you went down into the floor but even the knowledge that it is there and so rich in life forms may be sufficient to blow our minds. And again there is an aesthetic dimension here of colour and form that is most appealing and compels me to come back to it.

And the other end piece – 'Can you see where I am coming from?' - well maybe – there’s a bit of time travel here. Look for the weave again at its centre. Its colours and angular patterns suggest to me that life experiences come to us from all sides and directions and that these are woven together in ways that we always don’t understand.

Before finishing I want to say a word about the hanging of the exhibition. A lot of thought goes into this important process. … The exhibition led me on a real journey through so many aspects of the natural world. Its contrasts and ‘matchings’ added to my enjoyment. 'Boundary Lines at Solstice' is an important step toward a greater awareness of the weft and weave of the rich variety of life forms we have on our planet and in our backyards.

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  © Chris O'Brien Shanahan 2006- 2014, all images, paintings, photographs © Christine O'Brien Shanahan