The Skibbereen Arts Festival opened last Friday evening and The Visual Arts Trail is a regular feature, combining solo and group shows of a wide spectrum of artists. Many of the exhibitions are held in pop up venues; buildings or commercial premises that are currently unoccupied and kindly lent for the duration of the festival by the owners. This makes for interesting and unlikely settings for many of the shows including a retail premise on Townshend Street which had been abandoned since the 70s, housing The Souvenir Shop by Rita Duffy, commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland 1916-2016 and marks the centenary of the 1916 Rebellion. The Old Bottling Plant behind the Southern Star is the venue for Works from the Angela Flowers Collection at Downeen, a personal collection of paintings housed in Ireland belonging to Angela Flowers, Chairman of the Angela Flowers Gallery in London.
Permanent gallery spaces participate in The Visual Arts Trail, too, putting on special events to coincide with the festival including Uillin: West Cork Arts Centre which has a full programme of workshops, exhibitions, talks and concerts. The Catherine Hammond Gallery on Bridge Street is currently showing Contemporary Realism featuring paintings by artists including John Doherty, Martin Gale and Maeve McCarthy.
In The Old Quay - an unfinished, contemporary building empty for around ten years, is an ideal space for a pop up gallery with high ceilings, expansive walls and lots of natural light. Painters, including Charles Tyrrell, Billy Foley and Ian Humphreys and sculpturers Holger Lönze, Don Cronin and Moss Gaynor were invited to submit their largest works for MÓR, the Irish word meaning 'big' or 'great'. "The idea for MÓR," says Donagh Carey, "is that so many artists have big work and they get few opportunities to show in West Cork and we are lucky we had access to a building like The Old Quay. It's very rare. Thinking back to when I last saw a large Charles Tyrrell painting; in Uillin: West Cork Arts Centre last year and the Kinsale Arts Festival four or five years earlier. The smaller galleries just won't accommodate larger work."
Working on large scale paintings is a very different experience to working on average size pieces, Donagh explains, because everything changes, especially managing the composition, tone and colour. "I'm lucky because I can work outdoors on good days. The first thing that challenges large paintings is space, you have to stand so far back to judge the work; you get a lot of exercise going back and forth. There are two issues with big work - space to work in and space to exhibit."
The Skibbereen Arts Festival continues until Sunday 31st July and there are more than a dozen free exhibitions to visit.