8 March 2019
By Bryan Smyth
West Cork artist Geraldine O’Sullivan’s exhibition Light Keepers will be on show at the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen from March 9th until April 10th
Light Keepers is a collection of 25 artworks capturing the unique world of Irish lighthouses. Geraldine’s paintings describe the physical structures of Ireland’s lighthouses and the dramatic settings in which they are placed, while also capturing the echo of the lives lived by the lighthouse keepers and their families. In these “Lifescapes” Geraldine uses stories, old family photographs and memorabilia given to her by Keeper’s families. It is these stories that influence her choice of locations to paint.
Geraldine, commenting on her work, explains; “I live under the sweep of the Galley Head lighthouse beam and my curiosity as to what it must have been like to live and rear a family in these remote structures led to this exhibition. A journey that brought me around the coast of Ireland to some of the most desolate and beautiful headlands and offshore lighthouse stations.
“Today, there are no longer any full time lighthouse keepers in Ireland, attendant keepers are employed in a caretaker capacity. Families no longer live in keepers cottages; their histories are confined to archives, anecdote and a diminishing number of first hand narratives.”
“Alongside this change is the modernisation of the lighthouses themselves. In July 2018, the existing light at the Fastnet was replaced with a LED light, placed on the roof of the old lantern. Nevertheless, the sweeping beams of light will still be visible at night from the balcony of the Galley Head lighthouse, as has been the case for the past 125 years. Time is bringing change to lighthouses and the keepers ,and their families, will soon be gone, confined to the world of memory.”
In 2017, Geraldine received an artist’s bursary from Cork County Council to enable her undertake this project. Commenting on the exhibition, Mayor of the County of Cork, Councillor Patrick Gerard Murphy highlighted the inspiration taken from Cork’s unique geography, “With our magnificent Coastline, it’s no wonder that there is so much artistic talent in County Cork. I’m very proud of how Cork County Council supports artists and helps them bring their projects to completion. Their work enriches our communities.”
As part of the exhibition, Geraldine O’Sullivan and Light Keeper Gerard Butler will be in conversation with Art Critic Gemma Tipton at the West Cork Arts Centre On Saturday March 16th at 12 noon.