‘Ireland’s St. Ives
MARTINA O’BYRNE OUTLINES THE EVOLUTION AND ASPIRATIONS OF ARTFORM SCHOOL OF ART IN DUNMORE EAST IN WATERFORD.
OVER THE LAST few years, the unique character of the seaside village of Dunmore East in County Waterford – with its red cliffs, strands, and coves – has been enhanced further by the creative presence of Artform School of Art. On a visit, you might find plein air artists, led by Dave West, working on Lawlor’s Strand; or a group of watercolourists having a lunch with John Short on the terrace of The Strand Inn overlooking Hook Lighthouse, in lively conversation with the inn’s owner and co-founder of Artform, Clifden Foyle. Around the corner at Artform, in a modern, spacious, light- filled studio, Bridget Flannery could be showing artists her summer sketchbooks; Michael Wann could be introducing the medium of charcoal through some drawing exercises; or indeed Eamon Colman could be reading a poem to the artists before they experiment with pigment during his masterclass on colour.
Following a very successful pop-up art exhibition in December 2017, in a beautiful historical building at 44 The Quay, Waterford, Clifden Foyle and I established Artform School of Art. While the Annual 44 exhibition went on to become an important yearly event, the art school project, under the corporate governance of Clifden’s family hospitality business, brought together the Foyle family’s passion for art and long-standing support for artists, with our unique artistic, technical, and organisational skillset.
When Artform studio doors reopened after the pandemic, we ran several vibrant seasons with courses hosted by many excel- lent artists mentors. This included P.J. Lynch (still life, portrait and figure drawing, and painting in charcoal and oils); Tony Robinson (plein air in oils, portrait in oils alla prima); Julie Cusack, Bridget Flannery (abstracting the landscape in mixed media); Maurice Quillinan (sampling in international painting); Mary O’Connor (abstraction; silk screen printing); Aidan Crotty (painting from observation); Gabhann Dunne (painting between representation and abstraction); Shevaun Doherty (botanical painting in watercolours); Steve Browning (plein air in acrylics); Sheila Naughton (experimental drawing); Daniel Lipstein (traditional printmaking techniques); Neal Greig (landscape in oils and charcoal); Zsolt Basti and Salvatore of Lucan (combined course on double portraits, composition and painting); Brian Smyth (copying old masters); Mick O’Dea (working from life in any medium), and others.
We welcome semi-professional and contemporary artists on bursaries, plein air artists, hobbyists, individuals, and art groups. We strive to ensure that Artform course participants feel at ease, with 24-hour studio access available during their course. Class sizes are small, with a maximum of nine per course to facilitate individual exchange between participants and tutor. While our recent audience has been primarily resident in Ireland, due to the pandemic, we have previously hosted visiting artists from the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the US, and Australia.
Artform is always searching for new opportunities for artists. Last summer, five Artform tutors were offered an Artform mini residency to create work themed on Dunmore East. They then formed a judging panel to select work from an open-call competition, which became a summer show entitled ‘Painting Dunmore’, hosted by our accommodation partner, Strand Inn. The panel also awarded a Plein Air Prize to a selected artist.
In autumn, Artform took part in the Car Boot Art Fair in Russborough House in Wicklow, to which Artform both made a donation and hosted a stand exhibiting the work of five Artform tutors. Artform also contributed to the Imagine Arts Festival in Waterford City, staging a pop-up portraiture event called ‘15 Minutes of Fame’ with Artform tutors Zsolt Basti and Salvatore of Lucan, in response to a concurrent portraiture exhibition at Waterford Gallery of Art. Artform recently supported its online partner, Big Look Art, in running an online mentoring scheme funded by Waterford Arts Office for six Waterford-based artists, and we also offered a year-long bursary to a displaced art college student from Odesa in Ukraine. Among other activities over the last five years, Artform have raised funds for the Peter McVerry Trust, through artwork sales in ‘Annual 44’; delivered outreach activities for Waterford schools; sponsored an artist residency for a project on inclusion in Waterford Cultural Quarter; run a free Plein Air Paint Out for Dunmore East Harbour Festival; and hosted 115 artists during the ‘Art in The Open’ international plein air festival.
In 2022 we made the difficult decision to reschedule our flagship exhibition, ‘Annual 44’, from winter to spring 2023, due to circumstances beyond our control. As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, war-afflicted refugees have been temporarily accommodated in our exhibition venue, and we struggled to find an alternative venue in Waterford. Next year, while continuing to offer a rich programme of workshops and masterclasses, we aim to appeal to more overseas markets through a marketing strategy that ties Artform as an experience destination with- in Ireland’s Ancient East. We plan to offer further residencies to artists looking for a space to work independently and develop the exhibition programme by continuing to foster strong contacts with the contemporary art world in Ireland. In all of this, we will continue our work in developing Dunmore East as a space for artists to meet, create, learn, show, and reflect on their art. We aspire to be a St. Ives in the South-East of Ireland.
Martina O’Byrne is cofounder and Programme Director of Artform School of Art.’
Published in: Visual Artists’ News Sheet, Jan – Feb 2023, Organisation Profile, p. 17.
In the image above of VAN cover: Isabel Nolan, Desert Mother (Saint Paula) and Lion, 2022, water- based oil on canvas; photograph by Lee Welch, courtesy the artist, Kerlin Gallery, and Void Gallery.