Slievenamon

This summer I spent a week in Ireland with my partner’s (vast) Irish family. His Dad thought spending some time there would improve my art, which I shrugged off as a bit bizarre without thinking much more about it. His previous interest had focused on convincing me of his merits as a life model, so I was really just glad of a shift of attention away from nude poses and onto the Irish landscape, and didn’t think much more about it.

Despite my initial scepticism though, like all parents (mine or otherwise) he did of course turn out to be right. From every window, walk and stomach flipping drive through the stunning countryside we could see the form of a mountain, Slievenamon, swelling out of the land.

It was blue in the mist, as lush and green as I had imagined Ireland up close and it even caught the soft pink light as we watched the sun set behind it, wine in hand on the from the back of the gorgeous house they had rented to contain brothers, aunts, nephews and cousins.

Its name translates as The Mountain of the Sleeping Woman, and it inspired this painting. The gentle blue curves rising out of the ground were, however, deceptive. Once we reached its slopes for the annual hike to the top it was steep and harsh, with unforgiving scrambles up brown scree, and false peak after false peak.

And so the series began with this painting. After a couple of years wanting to change things and work with reflections, I finally took the plunge. With smooth, flowing inks hanging elegantly on the wall, the deceptively difficult mountain seemed a good place to start for this year. Much like its curves hid the knee-busting inclines from a distance, I knew that nobody milling round the smartly presented exhibitions at the Staithes Festival would see the long nights we have all spent ruining our postures, the tears over the phone when the sleep deprivation was too much, and wrestling with frames and hanging systems at the last minute to get everything just right on time.

Despite a climb that exposed my cardiovascular fragility, and ruthlessly brought into focus the impact of a desk job on my fitness, the view from the top was of course, so, so worth it.

As is every exhibition, every single time.

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