Artist Liz Doyle responds to ‘Other Worlds’ exhibition.

Thursday December 21, 2023
Untitled design

Aileen MacKeogh ‘A Break in the Clouds’

Martin Gale ‘The Appointment’

When I first saw an image of Aileen MacKeogh’s ‘A Break in the Clouds’, from the Errigal College leaving certificate students’ visit to the ‘Other Worlds’ exhibition at the RCC, I was struck by a visceral feeling of recognition of our rugged landscape here in Donegal. However, from such a tiny image, viewed on my phone, I initially misinterpreted the little black sticks of trees studding the hillside sculpture as wind turbines. 

When I got to visit the show ‘in the flesh’ last week, I was again struck with a lurch of belly- felt recognition. In the last few years, my local ‘home turf’ landscape of Cruit Island, and Belcruit Mountain, in the West of the County, in the Rosses, has been violently visited by the scourge of raging fires. Fires that quickly roared through the scant tree cover, leaving blackened areas of scorched land and dead black tree stumps.

Of course, the way that Aileen MacKeogh’s sculpture is built out from the wall, appearing to peel away from the wall towards us, reaching out like a tongue, brings the burnt trees and paper-like, fragile earth right into our personal space. It is as if I can feel again the heat of a local fire, smell again the charred wood, taste the ash on my tongue, hear the crackle of the flames so dangerously close. 

I find the juxtaposition of Aileen MacKeogh’s sculpture, with the neighbouring small painting by Martin Gale very moving and thought provoking. The notes accompanying Martin Gale’s ‘The Appointment’ say: ‘ Gale’s work ponders how people are changed by the landscape, and similarly how they change it.’ Here we see the figure of a young girl, within the frame of a greenhouse, looking out at the land beyond. This painting again gives me a guttural feeling of recognition. Recognition of my own place in the land and how it influences me and my work. Recognition of a long line of artists and works of art drawing on the landscape. Recognition of our responsibility to care for the land that we inhabit. 

The placing of these two works alongside each other on the gallery wall starts a conversation in me with myself. These two works, so different in scale, material, style and subject are both excavated by curator Daniel Nelis from the rich resource base of the National collection of Ireland. They both speak to me, the viewer, of how we live within our surroundings, how we interact with our landscape and how the landscape feeds our life and perhaps our work. The mutual influence of land and humanity.

These two works together, also for me, bring to mind Andrew Wyeth’s ‘Christina’s World’ where a young woman is portrayed in the foreground, lying in the grass and gazing outwards at a building on the horizon.

I am grateful to the RCC and Daniel Nelis for bringing us, the residents of this beautiful area of stunning landscape, the opportunity to have these conversations with ourselves, the land and her story.

Born in 1956, Liz Doyle has lived full time in County Donegal since 2007. To a large degree a self-taught artist, she attended a distance learning painting course in her 40s at Aberystwyth University in Wales, and has been painting ever since. She completed a cold wax medium course with Rebecca Crowell, at Ballinglen Foundation, in 2014. Drawing inspiration from all aspects of the environment, her use of colour and texture define Liz’s dramatic, bold and sensual art. Liz had a solo show in Bridgehampton, New York, 2018, with Mark Borghi Fine Art, with a second solo scheduled in New York for 2022. Five of her paintings featured in the RTÉ television series ‘The Great House Revival’ (Series 2) in 2020.

Other Worlds explores artistic responses to the natural environment within the Irish context. Through the works of 20th-century and contemporary Irish artists, the exhibition invites us to consider nature not just as a reality we encounter but as an interpreted space that reveals the diverse perceptual worlds we inhabit. The works shown range from pure formal visuality, and treatments of nature as allegories for psychological and ideological themes. This speaks to the idea of engagement with the natural world as both an internal and external creation; a presented and represented space.

The works selected articulate lenses of scientific inquiry, folklore, and ritual. Through these past and present interpretations of the natural environment, the exhibition hopes also to direct us outward to forge our own connections with the living world.

The exhibition includes artworks from the Arts Council of Ireland Collection by Richard Ashrowan, Barrie Cooke, Laura Fitzgerald, Martin Gale, Tom Haran, Sandra Johnston, Vera Klute, Louis le Brocquy, Christine Mackey, Theresa McKenna, Aileen McKeogh, William McKeown, Maria McKinney, Miriam O’Connor, Tony O’Shea, Alan Phelan, Bennie Reilly, and Nigel Rolfe; Gary Coyle, Martin Gale, and Caroline McCarthy from the IMMA Collection; Dorothy Cross from the Kerlin Gallery; as well as recent and newly commissioned work from Donegal artists Cáit McClay and Éiméar McClay, Charlie Scott, and Celina Muldoon.

1 December – 2 February

Curated by Early Career Curator in residence Daniel Nelis.