My work is rooted in the town land of 'Ummeryroe', Co. Sligo. It was my mothers birthplace and the name of the townland derives from the Gaelic, iomaire rua, meaning red ridge. The Feorish River flows through the fields and red clay can still be found on the land.
I spent many summers there in childhood. A winding lane with high banks full of wild flowers and grasses led into my grandparents house. The comings and goings along this path were always full of expectation. I have made a series of paintings based on the lane on copper several years ago. Recently I have made paintings on copper based on water colours of stone weathered surfaces and summer skies.
I feel the need to go back to Sligo and make paintings and drawings. This work is then re-examined in the studio in Dundalk. I like the freedom of abstraction, and the moods and atmospheres of landscape always in a fluid state, favour this approach. I am fascinated by oil paint and it's reaction to different surfaces, wood, copper, and canvas.
Farm implements which I have in my studio have inspired paintings and prints.They include a pitchfork which I used to make hay as a boy, a sickle, potatoe-sprayer, a hay rope winder, a grape for turf. A knitted cushion cover made by my grandmother on a sack used to contain chicken feed 'knitted' itself into several large paintings. Painting the cross-stitch patterned coloured cover linked me with my past and to a simpler time.
I have made paintings on old floorboards, where the marks of nails and time still exist. Memory plays a part. Paintings of white enamel buckets, hearthstone, wash-stone, all tell a story which is imbedded in my mind.
I found this piece by Michael McLaverty, written in 1952
" Be artists of the normal, it is the normal that survives, and it comes from exploring the resources of your own people and environment - no matter how small the latter is, if it is deeply pondered the resultant work will overleap its boundaries. "
John O'Connor, painter
We are delighted to include an exhibition of the work local artist, John O'Connor, in our Festival this year. His work is based on a town land in Sligo called Ummeryroe and is explored in his studio in Dundalk. John has had solo exhibitions in The Basement Gallery (Dundalk), Hamilton Gallery (Sligo), and group shows in the Blackbird Gallery (Kilkenny), Louth County Museum (Dundalk), Highlanes Gallery (Drogheda), among others. He has also had several pieces on display in Cafe Joly at the National Library of Ireland.