Paintings by Gearoid O Duinnin: A Conversation
’100 shows not to be missed’…The Irish Times.
‘A man who’s accidentally landed just where he wants to be’……………..…..The Kerryman.
‘A riot of texture and color’…The Evening Echo.
A colorful new world as seen in the eyes of Irish painter Gearoid O Duinnin.
The seed of this story came about a few months ago when someone in the internet shared a beautiful painting titled Clydagh Valley. When I shared it on my status post, everyone responded and re-shared that painting. I found a parallel of it to music. It doesn’t need too much analysis to be appreciated. You just respond because there is something about it that makes you feel something: Be it a sense of inner joy or fascination.
With my relentless search for the novel and the awesome, I made friends with the artist himself, Gearoid O Duinnin. He is from Cork but now lives in Co. Kerry Ireland. He describes himself as independent, free spirited, slightly reclusive yet prone to bouts of wildness and devilment. He also likes to analyze his dream/night travels upon waking up in the morning. He would reach for a rollie (home made cigarette), make a pot of very strong coffee (something he learned in Brittany) and then it’s full steam ahead which he fondly calls as “hell for leather, all systems go.”
His time in Brittany also made him a good cook. Food is an event where he lives. Cooking is his passion and considers it a very relaxing thing to do. He went to Brittany when he was 18. “They made such a thing out of the whole dining experience.” He has been trying to recreate it ever since. I also asked if he has other form of interest aside from cooking. I asked him if he has a favorite movie. He said that he didn’t have a television of any kind for almost five years. So he had a lot of catching up to do. He’d take a good movie any day over a TV program. He noted that there are so many good movies that it’s really difficult to pick a favorite. “The Field probably. That’s a great movie.” He considers Richard Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer as favorite actors.
As a musician, I asked what’s his favorite instrument. “I have a sitar that came all the way from Bombay. The house is full of musical instruments. I Love them all.I listen to all kinds of music. Except bad music. There are only two types, you know…Good and Bad.” So if ever he gets stranded on an island, what should he have with him? “My daughter, my girlfriend, my pets (especially the parrot and the cat) a few guitars. Paint, canvas, a hammer, a saw and a box of nails.” He added that living in a fairly remote area can make one become reclusive. Having internet strikes a needed balance in a situation like that. He appreciates the fact that when he finished a painting, within seconds someone can see it on the other side of the world even though I live miles away from anywhere.
Now here’s a question that I like to ask painters: What do you love most about being in the art scene. He gave me a surprising answer. He said, he never really spent much time in an art scene. “It’s not like we live in New York or Paris. Painting is a pretty solitary scene confined to the house for me at the moment. People buy paintings privately most of the time. I have been invited to go to London to soak up the art scene there and be introduced to it. Until then, I doubt that I will even know what an ‘art scene’ really is.” About his favorite painters, he said,” I do like Jackson Pollock and Francis Bacon a lot but mainly for what they had to say about the subconscious as regards to painting. The pictorial result is different but the experience is the same feeling.”
I decided that we focus our conversation his creations. I showed him pictures of his paintings and started from there. Here’s the first painting:
Clydagh Valley generated a lot of interest when it came out. How did you layer the colors to create such stunning effect?
It’s not layered. All I used for that one was 6 or 7 tubes of paint, linseed oil and one brush. I used the canvas as the palette. It was a fairly big canvas. Started painting at 5 am and had it finished at 8.30. On a big canvas you are working in a close up way. The brush, and the subconscious did the rest.It isn’t always as straightforward as painting that one was. But that one was start to finish, no trouble to paint.
That’s less than 4 hours! What’s so special about Clydagh Valley that you made this painting?
I had just moved there…It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place. By the way…have you seen the face in the painting?
I remember people were talking about the face when it first came out. Where is that again?
There are a few ghostly faces in the sky but one of them was pointed out to me a year after it was painted. I got a real kick out of that as I hadn’t seen it myself.
Let’s talk about this one. What’s the title of this and can you give me a background of this painting?
That one has a working title of ‘Here Comes the Sun’ (not sure if I’m happy with it yet)… it’s oil painting again. That was painted in much the same way but took longer to do. Around that time I was advised to try landscapes. People seem to like them more.
You have a way with colors. I think(personally) you create hues I seldom see in artists these days. How big is the importance of creating deep and interesting colors in your work as a painter?
It’s hugely important to me really. It’s my most free from of expression. I have an eye for color that I wasn’t totally aware of for 38 years. That’s like picking up a musical instrument late in life and being able to play…well. A discovery like that can change your life. I paint how I feel. It’s my therapy. Color is a great vehicle for feeling because it moves the painter but quiet often, it moves the viewer too. I can’t really draw at all. I use color to make the image.
Well that it‘s a free form of expression because it is universal. Everyone responds to it at such a primal level that for me, that is how music is like to the ears. Now before we continue with our art discussion, let’s move a bit to your music since you mentioned it. You have a soundcloud account in which you store most of your music.http://soundcloud.com/gearoidoduinnin.
You mentioned once that you also make music for the fun of it but do you ever plan being a professional musician?
I always wanted to be one. Make a living from it. It’s a tough business. I’ve been semi professional for 20 years, mainly in traditional music, as an accompanist. I’ve had some of the best times of my life doing that. We have a lot of world class traditional musicians in Ireland and I’ve had a chance to play with some of them.The stuff I put on soundcloud, I do here in the house. I bought some recording equipment with the proceeds of ‘Clydagh Valley’ with the intention of recording my own music and friends music.
So when are we finally going to hear an album from you?
I don’t know if your ever going to hear an album from me….I can sing but I don’t consider myself as a good singer. I’ve always been interested in soundtracks/instrumentals. I play a good few instruments. I like recording musical ideas in my spare time but I’m still learning the home recording process and I’m not sure if something will become of it.
Now let us move to this one…
‘Southern Comfort’…I really love that painting. It was hanging over our fire place for 2 months and I didn’t want to part with it. Eventually I had to but I sold to a friend I know.
As far as I know there are four different paintings under the one you see there, spanning attempts over 2 years. It worked out in the end.
I love it! I think it’s because I love the color red. Ha! Sow how do you work on the framing of these paintings?
Up to a year ago, I had paintings professionally framed which was great. It was one less this.It was one less thing I didn’t have to worry about. Now I can’t afford to so I had to give it a go myself. That ‘Southern Comfort’ painting was the first one I sold that had a frame I did myself. It’s been a real headache to do, Ironically an African friend of mine has asked me to frame his work.
Since you discussed that you’ve been an accompanist for 20 years as a musician, which do you identify yourself more? As a painter or as a musician?
I’ve always played music from a very early age. Always wanted to do it full time. As I got older it was very much the vibe of ‘when are you going to get a real job’. Musicians hear that one a lot I’d say…. So I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the years. Never really happy in any of them. I was always happy when playing music though. And then one day…the painting came along. For me that was like winning a lottery that I didn’t buy the ticket for. I don’t consider either of them as a job and that’s the best part. I’m a painter/ musician….musician/painter…it doesn’t really matter as both blend together as two colors would.
That is an amazing realization. I think I can relate to that as well! I guess we all have second chances in life.
Yeah it’s so important to follow your instincts, heart etc.. it does pay off…maybe not financially but finance is bringing this world to it’s knees isn’t it? We have to do what makes us happy…
Geaoroid and I ended the conversation in good spirits. He was going to collect his daughter from school. He caught me off guard earlier by asking me , what’s my story. I told him that it took me years and years to really do what I love to do which is blogging. He replied with this insight:
“Brilliant….I’ve always loved the question teachers ask kids…’what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Because quiet often the teacher asking the question has ‘grown up’ so much that they’ve lost that spark the kid obviously, still has.”
More of his paintings here: http://gearoidoduinninart.wordpress.com/
Gallery (all photos taken by Colette Murphy):
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