Ian discovers his idyll in West Cork

July 21st, 2017 11:50 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Arist Ian Humphries bringing one of his paintings into Liss Ard House, Skibbereen, for hanging.

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WHEN the British artist Ian Humphreys was flying to America in the 1980s he looked out the window of the plane and saw the beautiful islands and peninsulas of West Cork.

Ian turned to his friend, the painter Gerry Browning, and said: ‘I'm going there next for a holiday.' 

But the funny thing about plans, said Ian, is that you forget you made them. 

As it turned out, Gerry bought an old convent outside Rossmore, near Clonakilty, and Ian came to visit him.

‘I had taken the ferry and arrived in Cork at a ridiculously early hour. I was driving an old Range Rover at the time and when I arrived at Gerry's, he, his two kids, and our two dogs, piled into the car and 

we went off to Skibbereen.

‘Everything was shut, so we drove to Baltimore. Everything there was shut as well, so we decided to take the early morning ferry to Sherkin Island.'

To their surprise, the Jolly Roger pub was open and, in a moment of great clarity, Ian looked around and counted 39 dogs and a clatter of children and decided: ‘This is a great place.'

Ian said he kept coming to West Cork on holidays, especially after his agent and art dealer, Chris Boon, moved to Cunnamore. It was only when Chris said, ‘Why don't you move here,' that Ian thought: ‘What a good idea.'

That was in 1998, and within 12 months Ian had moved lock, stock and barrel to West Cork. 

‘I went straight to Cunnamore, where I rented a house owned by Chris. He was kind enough to build me a studio too. I stayed there for six years before relocating to Heir Island. It took that long to find a plot and build a house and a studio on the island.'

Ian, who grew up playing on small islands on the upper reaches of the River Thames, said his first visit to Heir Island was a kind of homecoming. ‘It was like a grown-up version of the islands of my youth.'

He said there is a calmness and serenity about Heir Island that can be found nowhere else. ‘That's what drew me, in the end, to live there and to paint it. I couldn't paint the works I create anywhere else. Even though they are abstract they are the essence of the place.'

Ian is a painter of international standing. His works feature in public and private collections nationally and internationally. And his two current exhibitions in West Cork are already attracting considerable interest by local, national and international collectors.

Liss Ard Estate in Skibbereen is a showcase for 25 of his selected works, his larger oils on canvas. Liss Ard will also be the venue for the launch of his book on Friday, July 28th. 

Meanwhile, his second solo exhibition of smaller and more recent work will run at the Doswell Gallery in Rosscarbery until August 10th next.

The book is a limited edition and comes with a limited, signed lithograph print of a watercolour that can be framed.  The book features photographs of Ian in his studio by John Minihane, a foreword by Peter Murray, the former director of the Crawford Gallery, and an introduction by Nicholas Fox Weber, who is the director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Connecticut in the USA.

The book is a magnificent tour de force because it features 29 full colour reproductions of Ian's paintings. That, and the fact that the print run is limited to 200, means it is likely to become a collector's item.

The book will be available for sale at both venues, and Ian said everyone is welcome to attend the launch at 7pm on Friday, July 28th at Liss Ard, and at 6pm on Saturday, July 29th at the Doswell.

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