One of the major benefits of the IMMA Membership programme is the IMMA Members Calendar. These are a series of events that are designed to bring Members closer to art, to further engage with IMMA’s Collection and Exhibition Programme and to explore the national and international art ecosystem.
One such event took place on Saturday 28 September 2019, a daytrip to Carlow and Kilkenny. A group departed from IMMA by coach to visit VISUAL for a tour of Close Encounter: Meetings with Remarkable Buildings followed by a tour of O’Hara’s Brewery, IMMA’s hospitality partner. The final stop was a visit to the studio of the artist Eamon Colman in rural Kilkenny. As the coach navigated the small tree lined roads we arrived at the studio to be welcomed by Eamon, the artist Pauline O’Connell and their son Reuben.
In this magazine article, Stephen Taylor from our Development Team describes the visit to the studio of artist Eamon Colman, one of the highlights of last years IMMA Members Calendar.
The group made their way into the studio, a light filled space full of pigment – soaked drawings and paintings. A selection of wine, smoked salmon and horseradish, cheese and other delights were laid out on a table and introductions were made.
We gathered to hear as Eamon brought us through the story of his practice. Eamon makes paintings, colour arrangements that combine abstraction and figuration in a series of washes, strokes and marks on a variety of surfaces. The titles of the works gently prompted contemplation and suggested associations; Through the forest undergrowth the wind hesitated and moved towards day, Tangling Shadows, Shaking all roots deep in solitude, Cold earth slept below the valley of the Thrush. Eamon explained the genesis of the works, the importance of memory and recollections of moments when walking in the landscape. The artist Howard Hodgkin was mentioned and Eamon told us of a time working in Hodgkin’s Studio in London.
As the conversation continued certain connections and recollections emerged, since the 1980’s Eamon has worked on a number of community projects with various groups in the Dublin 8 area that many of the Members were familiar with. As these re-introductions were made there was a special atmosphere in the studio, a positive and inclusive feeling of old friends brought together in a whirl of serendipity. Eamon told us of his serious health condition and how upon diagnosis he got up one morning and walked to Kerry. He explained the magic of the Japanese Yupo paper that he uses, the process of making paint with powdered pigments and linseed oil and of his love of gardening.
We presented Eamon with an IMMA oak sapling, grown from the oak tree planted in memory of Joseph Beuys in the grounds of IMMA in 1991. Eamon invited us all to his exhibition The Width of Yourself in the Solomon Gallery. The bus engine started up again and slowly we said our goodbyes, the Members and the artist both slightly wistful that the visit had come to an end. We waved and drove off on the return to Kilmainham with our hearts blown open.
We asked some of the Members for their recollections of the studio visit:
“When it was time to leave there was a collective sense of reluctance to depart from this truly special place and these beautiful people. Our memory is of looking back from the minibus to see Eamon and Pauline waving us off on our journey home. As Bill Watterson says, “It’s always better to leave the party early”. Thereby keeping the memory of a privileged visit to a special place and moment in time.”
Karl & Monica
“An enduring memory of the visit was my question to him: “ if he had worked with marginalised groups” (prompted by a neighbours question that morning when they heard I was going to meet him). His answer was so prompt and revealed an openness about him that spoke volumes: you could feel the affection he had for all strands of society and cultures; and the environment they inhabited, and his paintings reflect that. In short, a lovely man in tune with nature.”