Exhibition of Watercolours
by Phyllis Del Vecchio
8th August - 29th September 2002
Opening Speech by Professor Pat Finnegan
There is much to admire in the work of Phyllis Del Vecchio which even cursory inspection of tonight's exhibition confirms - her careful attention to the design of the scenes and the clear evidence of a deep emotional and aesthetic involvement with the subject matter. The natural beauty of the landscape is displayed with gradations of green, brown, white and grey often creating a subdued and atmospheric effect. Her technical mastery is indicated by the balance of colour and composition, which she achieves apparently without effort but we know that cannot be so.
The title "Habitats" for tonight's exhibition recognises the importance of these wild and desolate places that are destroyed by man the predator, the destruction justified by paramount commercial concerns and the disparagement of the value of the habitats and the wondrous flora and bird-life that they support. Robert Browning who celebrated the song of the thrush in his "Home Thoughts for Abroad" would surely be dismayed that the thrush population of his homeland has been reduced by 70% in recent years due to changes in agricultural practice. Indeed with the very public mutilation of roadside hedgerows and more intensive farming similar changes can be anticipated in Ireland.
It might seem strange that summer is not the most interesting time of the bird watcher - no - the excitement begins in the autumn with the return of the migratory birds to our seashores, rivers, lakes and turloughs. It is then that the bird-watcher wakes from his hibernation. The local branch of Bridwatch Ireland has been very active for at least a quarter of a century documenting the statistics of bird-life and at times mitigating some potentially harmful development. Very often the last thing the habitats depicted in these paintings need is for them to be developed. Fortunately, local government planners are beginning to appreciate this and also the fact that Lough Corrib, the Shannon Callows, Galway Bay and the turloughs scattered through the county host bird numbers of national and international significance. The activities of the local group include lectures, outings to places of interest - monthly visits to Nimmo's Pier and the Docks and the small wood at Rusheen Bay.
Looking to tonight's paintings inevitably reminds me of poetry and there is no doubt the poetry and paintings have very strong affinities - the Poet's eye and ear is in tune with the same aesthetic concerns as the artist. One of the characteristics of tonight's paintings is the way that they give the birds a sense of possession and entitlement - for example the thrush is No. 14, which in the words of the American Poet, Mary Oliver demonstrates - "the perfect balance of things".
Michael Longley shares with Phyllis the gift of encapsulating the essence of a scene and his verses on the wren watch very well the scene in No. 20.
Two wings criss crossing
through gaps and loop-holes,
a mote melting towards
the corner of the eye:
or poised in the thicket
small spaces circumscribed
by the tilt of this tail.
In conclusion, I give you a brief quote from another American poet, Robinson Jeffers which has relevance to the swans in No.'s 31 & 32.
Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can
hear the music, the thunder of the wings,
love the wild swan.
I urge you to love these beautiful paintings.
Professor Pat Finnegan