Shelagh completed an MA in Renaissance Literature and Culture in 2006.  She taught English up until 2013 and now concentrates on her art.

‘My paintings and drawings are primarily an emotional response to a subject rather than what I see. When I paint, I become absorbed in memories, colours and favourite motifs such as birds, chairs, lamps, ceramics, flowers, hares, the moon, snow and rain – all things deep in my sub-conscious, sown in my Irish childhood. These are frequently otherworldly, as I feel enveloped in another world when I work, just as I do when I read poetry and novels. Favourite writers include Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Mary Oliver, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Gaston Bachelard and Niall Williams. More recently books that evoke the poetry of landscape – Robert Macfarlane.’

On her landscape painting…

‘These little paintings emerged after drawing for 20 minutes a day to see what would emerge from my sub-conscious – an exercise encouraged by Andrzej Jackowski. He advocates this as way to ‘access the unconscious’ and ‘to tap into patterns of underlying thinking.’ He assured those of us in his class that images would be waiting – and he was right.  After a few sessions I found myself using oil bars to juxtapose and layer colour, eventually recognizing that the colours I made were those of the landscapes where I had grown up in Northern Ireland – teals, mosses, burnt sepias, slates and heathery mauves.

These initial sketchbook experiments grew to encompass memories of the farmhouse where I had lived. At first I didn’t realise what the little white houses with few windows and sometimes no doors, which had crept into my work were, but they were compelling. I eventually realised that they were symbols of the house were I had spent my childhood and where my father had died after living there for fifty years.

Seamus Heaney lived locally and recommended that you should ‘trust the feel of what rubbed treasure your hands have known’ and that is what I’ve tried to do here. Thus these paintings are repositories for my emotional responses to the treasure I have gleaned from  Irish landscapes.’