06 November 2015

A walk by the sea and
an art exhibition in Bray

Enjoying the blue skies and blue sea at the seafront in Bray this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I am heading into a full working weekend with a residential weekend for part-time MTh students.

So, in the early afternoon [6 November 2015] two of us took the opportunity to have a walk on seafront in Bray, enjoying the rolling waves, the blue water and the blue skies, followed by lunch in Carpe Diem, before going on to see ‘Exploring Inwards,’ an exhibition of works by Olivia Bartlett in the Signal Arts Centre on Albert Avenue, Bray.

‘Exploring Inwards’ by Olivia Bartlett (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Olivia is both a psychotherapist and an artist, and lives in Dalkey, Co Dublin. I have known her many years now, along with her husband, the Revd Canon Professor John Bartlett, a former Precentor of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, who was the Principal of the Church of Ireland Theological College when I was completing my studies for ordination.

‘Professor JR Bartlett MRIA’ by Olivia Bartlett (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Olivia Bartlett began her career as a senior ballet mistress with the Arts Educational Trust in London, where she prepared young professionals for their stage roles. She then moved to Ireland, and over the years she became a psychotherapist of long-standing.

Both these aspects of her life provide her with rich material and inspiration for her paintings. She is fascinated by the way the human body conveys experience and emotion, as well as how choice of colour, brushstrokes and tonal values combine beautifully to set a particular mood.

‘Old Friendships’ by Olivia Bartlett (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Olivia was the winner of the best in show of the first-ever Signal Open two years ago [2013] with a self-portrait, ‘Old Woman with two Pearl Earrings.’ Since then she has received two commissions from Christ Church Cathedral Dublin to paint portraits of two former deans for the Chapter House. Her portrait of Dean Tom Salmon was unveiled at Candlemas last year 2014, and her portrait of Dean Des Harman was unveiled at the Patronal Festival later that year [June 2014].

Her portrait of the late Professor Robert Edmund Blackith (1923-2000), a former Vice-President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Irish CND) hangs in the Zoological Department in Trinity College Dublin.

‘Goodbye To All That’ by Olivia Bartlett (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

There are 28 paintings in this exhibition, which includes a selection of portraits, figuratives, abstracts and landscapes.

It was easy to pick out Olivia and John in two of the portraits, but I found myself imagining that I knew some of the other sitters or the cities seen in other paintings.

Olivia Bartlett’s exhibition continues in Bray until Sunday [8 November 2015].

‘Cloud of Unknowing’ by Olivia Bartlett (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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