My exhibition ‘North Calling’ runs at Taylor Galleries from 23rd September until 15th October. There are 45 new works in the exhibition, the paintings were made from late 2018 to early 2021. Half of this body of work is based on my ancestral farm in East Donegal and the other half on the villages of Andenes and Bleik, on the island of Andøya, Nordland County, Norway. I was invited to spend two weeks there in 2018 as part of a cultural exchange between Donegal County Council Cultural Services and Vesterålen Cultural Services.
I grew up in Donegal, in the north of the country, and winter has always been my favourite season and theme for my work. In Norway I thought I would find a more dramatic aspect of the North. I have always felt an affinity with the Nordic countries and the idea of the North, enriched by literature, films and art.
The small town of Andenes where I stayed during my time in Norway lived up to my expectations. I arrived there in late Winter, just before the snow began to melt. I had never seen as much snow in my life; cars were entirely submerged in it. Many times I was the only person walking on the icy footpaths.
My work is a visual diary of my life. Each painting is based on experiences I have had in particular places where I have spent time. There are certain rare moments in life when I feel I am witnessing magic and I try to capture this in a painting.
In recent years I have watched endless Nordic Noir television series. Many times I find the location of filming more interesting than the story, or the location is what makes the story. These television series did not contribute to the paintings directly but the atmosphere may have fed into my work.
The only portrait in the exhibition ‘Christie, North is Calling’, is based on a 93 year old man I worked with during the final few months of his life. I have been teaching art with older people for over twenty years in Dublin. I spent a short but intense time with Christie making different art projects until he became ill. The spark he had for creativity made my time with him very special. My experience with Christie, and with others who were approaching the end of their lives, merged to some degree with the sense and atmosphere of an unknown destination: the North.
As is often the case with themes in my work, I wasn’t aware that houses featured in many of the paintings in this exhibition until the work was finished. This new subject matter must have arrived subliminally since 2016. It is probably the result of buying my own house beside my childhood home in Donegal, after living twenty years in a bedsit in Dublin. Since then I have begun noticing other peoples’ homes for the first time in my life.
I need to be away from a place before I can paint it, and allow time to pass. At least a year has to pass before I can even look at my source material, photographs of a location I have gathered ideas from. ‘The House on Grosvenor Road’ is based on the house where I lived in Dublin for twenty years from age 22 to 42. I painted this after being away from Dublin for nearly a year during the Pandemic. Only then could I see and appreciate the place more clearly, from a distance.
The works in this exhibition are inspired by three different places: the farm where I grew up in East Donegal; Dublin City where I lived for twenty years; and a wild prairie near the Ragdale Foundation in Illinois where I did an artist residency in the Autumn of 2016.
Most of these compositions contain a human being in the midst of the space. These figures are the focal point of the composition, while my previous work was more about the actual landscape. The people who feature in the paintings are human beings whom I met and photographed. These people range from brief coincidental sightings and meetings to more close and meaningful relations like my parents.
The human presence impacts on the atmospheres of the paintings by the emotions they project, consciously or unconsciously. I made these paintings in my new studio in Donegal after living in Dublin for twenty years.
Ann Quinn, 2018
– Ann Quinn, December 2015