‘My dream home’.

Room for other stories

Town Hall Arts Centre Cavan hosts exhibition by artist Bernadette Doolan

Many artists are reluctant to discuss the meanings behind their work, eager for the viewer to arrive at their own conclusions. Others use such cold academic language they may as well have said nothing.

Not so Bernadette Doolan.

The Wexford artist is refreshingly candid in teasing out ideas behind how she compiled work from the last two years for a new exhibition called ‘The Good Room’ at the Town Hall Art Centre.

She suspects she must have lost the run of herself because she enjoyed compiling the exhibition so much. It’s a curious counterpoint for an artist who “leaves quite a lot out” from her paintings.

“A lot of my work has a lot of empty space,” she says with My Favourite Jumper pictured right a good example. “And that’s for the viewer to bring what they have to it. I feel if I was a writer I would be writing, ‘Once upon a time’ and ‘the end’. And you fill in the bits in between. That’s what I do with my paintings.

“I paint and there’s stuff going on that I know about but I don’t want for it to be: there it is! That’s what it is and move on. I want for you to look again and go, ‘Oh’ or ‘I didn’t think about that.

“Depending on what’s going on in your life or in that day, you’ll look at a painting or an expression differently.”

When Bernadette discusses how she unknowingly brings aspects of herself to the work and likewise the viewers, it’s not surprising that she qualified as a psychotherapist in recent years.

Bernadette described the phenomenon of ‘The good room’ as, ‘a sacred space that was kept for special occasions and was only for visitors. Certainly not a room for children.’.

It’s a rich metaphor which informs and binds her wonderful artworks. As one of six children in a small house, Bernadette says they didn’t have a ‘good room’ but confesses - “oh my God did I want one!”

The good room immediately conjures up ideas of Irish people hiding their true selves and offering authority figures a false identity. This only one layer of the work for Bernadette.

“The good room and my memory of the good room, and the people around - being in the actual time and space has one meaning, and then years later, as you mature you look back on that, it’s like reading the chapter from a different perspective - you see it very differently. It’s like the book moves on.”

She has now come to a much more benign view.

“Looking back on it, the most important bit, is what’s the good room in you? The best part of you as a human being.”

“For me it’s about the vulnerability of a child, but in that vulnerability we have strength.”

Good Room opens in the Townhall Art Centre, Cavan from Saturday June 15.