“I hope that my readings of particular terrains, although naturally couched in terms of human scales, those of my own limbs, eyes, breath etc., are suffused by an awareness of almost inconceivably greater and unimaginably smaller physical dimensions, not to mention those of the flowery fields and terrible cliffs of dreams.” – Tim Robinsoni
Over the course of five decades, writer and cartographer Tim Robinson (1935-2020) mapped with precision, attention and lyricism, the landscapes of Connemara, The Burren and the Aran Islands. Robinson referred to this deep mapping practice as ‘Geophany’, which he defined as the “sudden showing forth of the nature of a landscape” or a “brief epiphany of place.”ii Robinson’s durational fidelity to the west of Ireland landscape comes to mind when considering the plein air painting practice of Donegal-based artist, Cornelius Browne, since the cartographer and the landscape painter share many affinities and motivations.
Both chronicle – through exposure to the elements – the shifting landscape across the gradual arc of the seasons, and each are tasked with transcribing this encounter into some tangible form. Just as Robinson preferred the slow pace of a land traversed on foot, Browne largely paints within walking distance of his house, rendering his immediate landscape a microcosm, inscribed with the patterns of a body in motion. Like all pilgrims in search of divinity, they are rooted in contemplations of scale, from the vastness of the cosmos to the tiny segments of earth they inhabit. In considering human connection and what it means to dwell, the painter and the cartographer often convene with ancestors who have inhabited this terrain since prehistoric times. Yet despite the seemingly fixed nature of rock and stone, landscape is an elusive force that perpetually transcends our knowledge of it.
Extract of text by art critic and writer Joanne Laws. The full exhibition essay ‘From the Periphery to the Centre’ is available to read in the gallery.
Born in Glasgow in 1968, Cornelius Browne grew up near the small coastal village of Maghery in West Donegal, where he still lives and paints. He studied painting at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, graduating with a degree in Fine Art. He worked for many years at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. In recent years, he has had two solo exhibitions, Weathering and An Invite to Eternity, at the McKenna Gallery in Omagh. His paintings have also been exhibited in many group exhibitions around Ireland. Since 2016, he has tutored plein air workshops at Glebe House & Gallery in Churchill, and last summer he tutored the closing workshop of the Dublin Plein Air Festival. He has worked in film as a production designer and screenwriter and has published fiction and poetry. For the last four years, he has written a column for The Visual Artists’ News Sheet, published by Visual Artists Ireland. He is currently working on his first book.