Physics and the traditional musicians of county Clare are among the varied inspirations behind two new exhibitions of artwork which go on display in Athlone’s Luan Gallery this week.
‘DE_Cline’ by Paul Quast and ‘Soul Space’ by Dympna Bonfield will be officially unveiled at a reception in the gallery at 6pm.
The artists - both of whom have strong local connections - spoke to the Westmeath Independent ahead of the launch.
Paul is from the Kiltoom area of Athlone and is currently based in Limerick. Dympna, a religious sister with the La Sainte Union order, is a former principal of Our Lady’s Bower who also taught in St Mary’s National School.
Now based in Ennis, Dympna said she looking forward to seeing some familiar faces at the launch on Friday.
“I’m delighted to be presenting in the beautiful new gallery because my life has been tied up with Athlone in so many ways,” she said.
Her first job as a teacher was in St Mary’s Infants School in the town and it was only after she had spent some time working there that she decided to join the La Sainte Union sisters.
“I was very impressed by (the sisters’) attitude to education. I was very interested in art and the emphasis was very much on the importance of art in education.
“They looked not at ‘cramming’ the students, but at drawing them out. I’m not saying they were perfect - they had their flaws like the rest of us - but I was impressed by them and I thought to myself, ‘I’ll join this crowd’,” she laughed.
Dympna’s first exhibition was in Our Lady’s Bower - “many years ago” - and she said she “loved every minute” of her time in the town.
Now based in Ennis in her native county of Clare, she has qualified as an art psychotherapist and has exhibited her work in Dublin, Paris, Carcassonne, and London. She generally spends half of her week practising art psychotherapy and the other half working on canvas with paints.
Her work has been described as “an expression of the soul’s response” to the landscape and people of Clare - in particular the county’s traditional musicians.
“I start messing with a bit of paint, working with oils on canvas. I let it go where it likes and see what emerges,” she said.
Her ‘Soul Space’ exhibition will be introduced on Friday by Michael Tierney from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Paul Quast’s interest in art dates back to his school days when he would regularly sketch drawings all over his copybooks.
The former pupil of St Mary’s NS and Athlone Community College has been an active member of the Athlone Arts Group and the local Making Space collective.
In recent years he has been based in Limerick, where he graduated with a first class honours degree in fine art painting from the Limerick School of Art and Design in 2012.
He said Limerick seemed to have “the most appropriate creative scene” to assist his development as an artist. Now based in the Wickham Street Studios, he also serves as a Senior Gallery Assistant at the Ormston House Gallery in Limerick.
A conceptual artist, his exhibition in Athlone will feature quirky installations in which viewers will find projections, prisms, lasers and bulbs creating rainbows, galaxies, floating lights, and magnetic fields.
“Since I graduated I’ve become very interested in physics and the reality of how life is able to function. The installations juxtapose physics into predicaments that make you question what reality is,” he said.
When asked how he thought visitors to the Luan Gallery would react to his work, he replied: “That’s what I’m curious to find out.”
Paul’s work has previously been exhibited in towns and cities such as Newbridge, Limerick, Stockholm and Dublin. He said his whole family was planning to attend the launch of his latest exhibition in his home town.
Emilia Krysztofiak, Marketing Assistant at Luan Gallery said: “Electromagnetic fields, optics and entropy in Paul’s exhibition are sure to get all viewers engaged with the artwork.
“Dympna’s work, on the other hand, does not describe either the people or the landscape. Her paintings have the lightness, freshness and spontaneity and invite viewers to relax. The opening show of 2014 is a promise of an interesting, engaging and exciting programme for the year ahead.”
The ‘DE_Cline’ and ‘Soul Space’ exhibitions will run from this weekend until March 16. Admission to the gallery is free.