Rose Cottage is off the beaten path. The sort of “off the beaten path” where the road has a green Mohican haircut and cars have to pull up on the verge when they meet each other.
It’s the rural isolation that encourages people to nod and wave from their vehicles as they pass on the road. It’s not a million miles from Kilnaleck, but far enough to allow trees form a canopy over the barely there tarmac.
There’s a gentle buzz as bumble bees bumble around the bright yellow flowers of St John’s Wort at the front door of Pauline Halton’s home. It’s the sound of summer that
can only be heard when there are no other audio distractions.
It’s easy to see this environment as a wellspring for artistic inspiration. The bright sunshine, the verdant vegetation, the tranquillity all feed a creative atmosphere. On a pleasant summer morning Pauline throws open the door of her home to talk about the latest exhibition of her work.
Inside there’s vernacular art in every corner of the cottage. A fine bone pheasant embossed Carrigaline china tea pot with gold trim, a collection of plates passed down from her grandmother, trinkets and the accoutrements of the artist sit side by side with countless art books.
Tea is served in a china cup along with biscuits whose lives will not be spared by any amount of, real or imagined, self control.
The artist has a wonderful modulation to her voice, it adopts the undulations of the drumlins of her surroundings. Like a politician going over a prepared statement she is reading a short note about her exhibition in Grogan’s Pub. Tommy Smith’s hostelry in South Williams St, Dublin is famous for art.
Pauline’s one woman exhibition is called “Sheelin Rose Celtic Dreaming”. Well technically it’s not a one woman show because she is sharing wall space with her nephew, John Halton.
There is a lovely contrasting, yet complementary, relationship between the two artists’ work. The wonderful lush lines of deep colour of Pauline’s work are almost the opposite to the draughtsman like detail and pastel pallet of her nephew’s art.
Speaking off the cuff she traces her artistic history.
“Since I was three, I am an a artist,” she says with enthusiasm. She attended art college in Dublin, Sligo and Dun Laoghaire. My first job was lace making with Mrs Lord in Ballinacree, Carrickmacross. After college I made stained glass windows with Peter O’Hanlon,” she tells of her route to full time painting.
A charge of having an unusual interpretation of perspective elicits the, almost coy, response: “Do you think so?”
When pressed she says, “My father was a builder, and my brother too,” as an explanation for why she looks at things the way she does.
“I have a strange perspective. I don’t look ‘eye on’ things, I look up. Not looking down, not looking at, but looking up at things. It’s with wonder I look at things and I think that comes through in what I paint,” she concedes.
Pauline has traditionally worked in the primary colours plus black and white. The Sheelin Rose Celtic Dreaming collection moves slightly away from this.
“I feel I’m doing more than I was before. More blues, more pinks and more pastel colours.”
The artist’s themes are rooted in where she’s from. Her paintings are about love of place: “I draw only what I love, and only what I know. I have lived here all my life. I lived next door and I lived here and they are the only doors I have lived behind,” she says.
There is also a simplicity to her subjects: “All of Uncle Mickey’s hens had to be painted. Then everybody’s cows, then the sheep and then on to the houses, of course. All the interiors of the houses on the road,” like Escher’s sketch of the hand drawing itself the road shaped who she is and her view of the world, now in her studio Pauline presents to the world her view of the road shaped in pigments.
The display in Grogan’s Pub will be a combination of watercolour and oil. The more breathtaking are the oil on canvass representations of red boats, red swans, the reeds, views of Mullaghameen Mountain and the vivid peach-red sunsets over scenes of Lough Sheelin.
Another painting is of Miss Rose, the artist’s moggie, depicted with flamboyant whiskers perched atop the ledge of the window.
Then there are the interiors of Rose Cottage; the bedroom, the window from the kitchen, the rose bush creeping up and around the front of the door.
The oil painting techniques include palette knife, flow painting and scatter painting. Some take up to two months to dry: “They are all done since last Christmas. They are full of magic and whimsy,” Pauline laughs at her own description.
This exhibition gives her a chance to share wall space with her nephew: “John and I are so happy to be showing in Tommy’s pub. I have had work there for 30 years, John has shown his work there for the last three years. We have to thank Cavan Arts Office and Cavan County Council for all their help with the exhibition. It’s very much appreciated.”
John’s intricate Celtic inspired work is sure to attract a lot of attention at the show. Pauline has exhibited at the Blue Wall Gallery, Cavan, Jo Rain Gallery, Dublin, the American Embassy, Dublin, The Mansion House in Dublin, and in Januay Clan, France. Her paintings are held in private collections in Ireland, Europe and America.
Patrick Shafrey performs the official opening of the Grogan’s collection on Sunday, July 7 from 12:30-2pm. An architect of national renown Patrick’s involvement comes through his daughter who has strong Cavan connections.