Rossahilly Gallery Opening

The launch of the Rossahilly House Art Gallery gave the Visual Arts Fermanagh Collective a chance to show off their 'Ego'

When Rossahilly House was built in the early 1930s by John West – no relation to the John West of salmon fame – it was considered the last word in modern design and craftsmanship. Current owner Rory Houston, a professionally trained photographer, wants to return to that hey-day by making the House a cultural must-see destination stop. To that end, he has converted the expansive garage into an art gallery. A gutsy move in the current economic climate. 

The first exhibition in the new gallery space consists of fifty works by twenty-four local artists from the Visual Arts Fermanagh collective. Chairperson Susan Hughes is at the launch and expresses her delight at the exhibition space and the chance to further the VAF collective's mission of improving accessibility to the arts. 

One of the artists, retired art teacher Douglas Hutton, is, like Houston, a ‘blow-in’. In his case from Dunfermlin in Fife. Hutton came to Fermanagh for one year and has stayed for thirty. He blames the hospitality and friendliness of the Fermanagh people.

Contemplating two of his oil paintings inspired by the wild beauty of Connemara, Hutton quotes Jack Yeats, the Irish painter he most admires, and who believed a good painting should express ‘the ginger spice of life’. His own use of vivid primary colours, laid on thickly with a palette knife, creates an intensity and brightness that resembles stained glass.

Charlie McClintock has created ‘Spade for the Toilers’ from a common or garden spade gilded in gold leaf and painted with a Christ-like image. Below the handle is a figurine like a sheelnagig and two small crosses representing the crucifixion of the thieves alongside Jesus. It is idiosyncratic, earthy and beautifully carved.

Talie Mau, who hails from Hamburg, has lived in Fermanagh for the past five years. Her tape art tableaux are as original as they are unusual. Nicola Woods’ ‘Ode to Georgia: Life is Never Black and White’ depicts a fullblown blossom, its petals defined in shades of grey. It makes a bold statement.

Alan Milligan’s ‘Raindrops’ is an array of miniature metal shapes made from molten lead, their jagged edges evoking the patter of heavy raindrops. His cast bronze ‘Ploughsail’ is quite exquisite and sadly not for sale. Nearby is Rory Houston’s dramatic panoramic view of Benaughlin. The mountain rises majestically into a clear blue sky, its foothills shrouded in early morning mist. The foreground trees, festooned with autumnal foliage, obscure all traces of human habitation.

Perhaps the most striking piece in the exhibition is Cezary Bieliki’s ‘Ego’ hangs alone on a gable wall. Bieliki, who was born in Brodnica in North Poland, now lives in Newtownbutler. He says he spent a month working on this canvas, meticulously adding layers of paint and allowing them to dry so that he could achieve the desired effects of light and shade and something of the luminosity he admires in the work of the old masters. ‘Ego’ depicts a man wearing dark glasses who is unwilling to listen or to change while his female companion, who sees the light, strives to open up their relationship to change.

The Rossahilly gallery will be open at weekends from 12 – 4pm on Saturday and Sunday until December 4. Visitors can partake of afternoon tea and enjoy music.

Images thanks to Donnie Phair.