Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory

Clare painters embrace experimental mark-making that moves beyond a physical landscape to express an emotional and cultural narrative

"Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory," curated by Sara Foust at the Courthouse Gallery in Ennistymon, Co Clare, heralds an engaging new movement of painters emerging in rural Co Clare. This exhibition, featuring the works of Matthew Mitchell, Kaye Maahs, Sara Foust, Trudi Van Der Elsen, Marianne Potterton, Gerry O’Mahony, and Mary Fahy, represents a pivotal moment in the evolving landscape of painting, where traditional techniques intersect with innovative expressions.

The exhibition marks a departure from conventional painting, embracing experimental mark-making that captures both the physical and emotional landscapes. Each artist contributes a unique approach: from Matthew Mitchell’s clay paint reflecting the geological forms of Clare to Trudi Van Der Elsen’s electric waterscapes. These works collectively evolve the expectations of the form, shaping it in unique ways.

Sara Foust, serving both as curator and featured artist, emphasises the physicality in painting, exploring the depth and movement of the medium. She notes, “This exhibition is about the physical act of making marks in painting, from subtle techniques like scumbling to more dynamic methods like flicking or flinging paint. It's fascinating to see how each artist's gestural movements create a record of their creative process.” This exhibition invites viewers to experience the intricate dance between the physicality of art (the matter) and its ability to convey and evoke psychological, emotional, and historical narratives (the memory).

"Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory" ventures beyond the conventional realm of painting. It symbolises a profound journey into a space where tangible elements of art - paint, canvas, and pigment - intertwine seamlessly with the intangible - our experiences, emotions, and histories. This exhibition documents how these artists have departed from traditional methods, embracing a broader spectrum of expression that challenges and expands the boundaries of artistic creation.

At its core, the exhibition highlights the intricate dance between the physicality of art and its ability to convey and evoke narratives. It acknowledges that art transcends physical creation, embodying a cognitive and emotional process that engages deeply with both personal and collective memories, cultural narratives, and the rich tapestry of history.

"Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory" encapsulates the dynamic interplay between the artist's chosen medium and their internal world. It recognizes that each artistic creation is not just a physical entity but a manifestation of the artist's thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It's a reflection of their intimate interaction with the world around them, a world that is continuously shaped and reshaped by the confluence of matter and memory. This concept invites us to view art not just as a product but as a living, breathing dialogue between the artist, their medium, and the myriad stories that they bring to life.

Dates for your calendar

Previ​ew and Opening Reception (Jan 12th, 7pm): We warmly invite the public to the opening reception, a celebration of artistic innovation and community spirit. Join us for an evening of art appreciation, conversation, and a first look at this groundbreaking exhibition.

Artists Talk (Jan 20th, 2pm): A roundtable discussion with the artists, hosted by Conor McGrady of the Burren College of Art, will delve into their unique approaches to their practice. This talk offers an intimate insight into the creative minds behind the artworks.

Curator’s Tour (Feb 10th, 2pm): Join curator Sara Foust for an enlightening tour of the exhibition. Sara will share her perspectives on the artworks, the thematic connections, and the stories behind the curation.

All events are open to the public and do not require booking. We encourage art enthusiasts, community members, and visitors to join us in celebrating this unique artistic endeavour at the Courthouse Gallery.

This event has been kindly supported by the Clare County Council Arts Office.

Conor McGrady to Chair Artists' Talk at 'Beyond Brushstrokes' Exhibition

We are delighted to announce that Conor McGrady, Dean of Academic Affairs and Head of Painting & Drawing at the Burren College of Art, will be chairing the artists' talk at our "Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory" exhibition. A graduate of the University of Northumbria and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Conor brings a rich background from his solo exhibitions in New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Zagreb, as well as his participation in significant group exhibitions like the 2002 Whitney Biennial. His work explores the intersections of painting, aesthetics, politics, and socially engaged practice, resonating deeply with the themes of our exhibition. As a committed and progressive educator, Conor's approach to teaching emphasizes active learning, critical thinking, and intensive engagement with subject matter. His expertise in art and conflict, tactical intervention, and architecture & spatial control will provide invaluable insights into the creative processes and conceptual frameworks of the featured artists, making the artists' talk a profoundly enriching experience for all attendees.

Exhibiting Artists

Marianne Potterton

Marianne Potterton's art transcends traditional landscape painting, evolving into abstract forms that resemble maps. Her works are deeply rooted in her experiences with the landscape, particularly during her time in Snowdonia. Marianne describes her journey: “I started to paint the landscape while living in Snowdonia... Over time, my paintings became more topographical, resembling both internal and external maps.” Her process involves building up layers with meticulous detail, resulting in artworks that grow organically through an intimate relationship with her materials and environment. Her piece ‘Fire on Babylon’ is a testament to this, a symphony of hot color and marks emerging from a manipulated structure of drips.

Trudi Van Der Elsen

Trudi Van Der Elsen’s artwork is a profound exploration of the Shannon Estuary's landscapes, featuring multi-layered imagery in mysterious riverine landscapes. Her intuitive process results in artworks where organic forms and pen marks create a sense of depth and mystery. Trudi shares, “I work intuitively, connecting on a deeper level with all senses involved.” Her paintings, such as the massive ‘G5 Estuary,’ are dense with marks that capture our multi-layered experience of the world, blending actual and virtual inputs.

Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell’s unique approach to painting involves wild-harvested clay paint, evoking aerial views of geological forms. His process begins with harvesting clay, creating a palette that is fundamentally the colors of Clare's earth. Matthew reflects on his work: “This is the landscape of the global digital age, the Info-sphere of unseen signals and grids.” His paintings, such as Kilmacreehy and Ballycotton, showcase a blend of earthy textures with modern enamel paints, capturing our multi-layered experience of earth and sky.

Kaye Maahs

Kaye Maahs' paintings are a masterful distillation of the Burren landscape into abstract marks. Living and painting within the Burren landscape in Corofin, Kaye captures its unshowy aspects, transforming them into a canvas of grey, lavender, ocher, and mauve. She describes her process: “It is only with distance, and perhaps a kind of squinting, that the Burren landscape emerges.” Her work showcases a subtle understanding of the landscape, capturing its essence in a unique abstract form.

Gerry O’Mahony

Gerry O’Mahony's paintings are a vibrant exploration of symbols and marks that evoke mystery and depth. Working from his Limerick studio, Gerry's work is uncontained by the borders of the canvas, bubbling over with forms and colors. He says, “These riotous paintings are inner worlds of immense diversity, reflections of the world.” His work reveals a joyful clarity while remaining mysterious and compelling, a reflection of inner worlds and the unseen aspects of our reality.

Mary Fahy

Mary Fahy captures the essence of north Clare in her vibrant and dynamic paintings. Despite their small size, her works are intense in their depiction of local scenes. Mary's paintings pull and push the viewer into the landscape, whether it's the waves at Freagh or the flow of the Inagh river. Her work is a treasure, offering a new perspective on the local landscape with each brushstroke.

Sara Foust (Curator and Featured Artist)

Sara Foust, the curator of "Beyond Brushstrokes," brings her unique perspective as both a curator and a featured artist. Her inspiration for the exhibition came from her exploration of mark-making in her paintings. Working from her Ennistymon studio, Sara's paintings are alive with movement and texture. She shares, “I love to mess around with different painting tools to create deep areas of moving water.” Sara's work celebrates the playful and technical skill in art, making for an exciting and diverse exhibition.

Image credit:  Trudi Van Der Elsen, G5 Estuary 2019 

Éanna Byrt January 9, 2024
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