Tramore Coastguard Cultural Centre: Lupita de Bháil Art Exhibition
I HAD a very interesting conversation with artist Lupita De Bháil last week when we explored her passion and commitment to her role as a full-time artist.
Like all full-time artists, I wondered why she paints. “Because I have to”, she told me. “I just love it when I see something that grabs me; I just have to paint it. And then I stay at it. It’s like an obsession to get what the subject says to me down on canvass. And it mustn’t appear consciously worked at…but the picture must feel that it comes from the heart.”
She points to a still-life of a watering-can with camellias falling and flopping about. ‘See that one?’ she asks. ‘What grabs me is the lack of regularity…the misshapen form and haphazard arrangement of the subject…and yet the vibrancy of the colours comes through…the strong green stem against the oranges, yellows and elusive filaments creates its own sense of structure.”
Did Lupita always want to work full-time in art? “Oh yes, definitely. When I was a full-time art teacher in the Presentation Convent, for what seemed like forever and I loved it, I often envied the girls that went on to do their own thing. I loved teaching but when it came to retirement, I just knew that I had to do this. I love searching for that 3D effect when I’m sketching and the chubby pastels are just right for this.”
Lupita works from her own art studio in her native Kilmeaden and is also a member of the South East Plein Air Group, taking part in their ‘paint out’ competitions every summer which attracts artists from all over the world.
Artist John Cullinane challenges the group to forge an artistic bond with chosen international painters and three of Lupita’s paintings are inspired by the Spanish painter Sorolla (1863–1923) who was referred to as the ‘master of light’.
‘The Fish Seller’ is a real attention-grabber. Pensive, handsome and athletic, he clutches his basket of fish on a beach-scene that is a swirl of grey-blue shades where a family of bathers swim in the azure foam. The enigmatic, quixotic stare of the astonishingly handsome young seller with his tiny basket of fish tells a story of social inequality and mind-numbing privilege set against a scene of incredible beauty.
‘Boys on a Beach after Sorolla’, featuring young boys at play against a background of swirling blue and dancing light, is right on the money.
“Figure drawing is simply the most difficult discipline of all,” explains Lupita. “Getting the foreshortening and the sense of the person coming at you. And the correct scale, of course.”
With a regretful air, she added: “People don’t do enough sketching anymore, especially in art colleges. And life-drawing is so important.”
A child with a ‘sore foot’ on a rock beside the sea has that young girl’s lipdown frown that insists on sympathy from her boy-companion. Both children are sketched in a way that suggests the artist has clearly forged a relationship with the two characters that is based on events in the painter’s past.
Boats feature in a number of works. ‘All Tied Up’, ‘Tides Up’, ‘Dungarvan Harbour’, ‘Moored at New Ross’ and ‘Glendalough’ all invite the watcher to see boats in settings that have a certain twist to them.
Lupita loves nature and flowers and they feature extensively throughout the exhibition. Winding pathways of vibrant purple and multi-shaded pink peonies skirt a pathway in Mount Congreve and a multi-coloured floral gazebo at Rosslare grabs the eye. ‘Circle of Life’ is an adorable picture of a mother duck watching lovingly over her two chicks.
Exhibiting is brave. All artists know that not everyone will like what they see but it’s the immediate and intuitive response that they seek. When the picture hangs the artist no longer exists. The only thing that matters is the picture and the response it excites. “It’s a great life,” said Lupita. “Full of challenges and hard work – and a search for answers.” Somehow, I think this artist is committed to the search.
Lupita de Bháil’s ‘Summer Synergy’ continues at the Coast Guard Cultural Centre at Tramore until Sunday next, August 29.