Artist Birgitta Saflund celebrates 80 years with solo exhibition at the Blue House Gallery, Schull

Birgitta Saflund

THE Blue House Gallery in Schull continues its season with two very different but complementary exhibitions by painters Birgitta Saflund and Tom Weld, whose shows run from 12 – 24  May.  They will be joined by sculptors Fiona Coffey from Wicklow and Carrigaline based Mick Wilkins.

The Gallery is delighted that an exhibition of work by Swedish born artist Birgitta Saflund will mark the 80th birthday of this remarkable painter whose mastery of her beloved watercolour is displayed in beautiful new free-form bird studies. Viewing each of these paintings, that have been inspired by a wide range of species from visitors to her bird table in Ballydehob via the exotic to the endangered, one has a sense of meeting a personality; or maybe it is something of the artist whose long, rich and varied life can be glimpsed in the fierce gaze of an eagle or the bright intelligent glance of a long tailed tit that feels so alive it might fly off the paper.

Birgitta’s work combines influences from varied sources, ranging from the freedom of approach displayed by the great twentieth century American exponent of the medium, Andrew Wyeth, to the nineteenth century tradition of ornithological artists such as John James Audubon or Edward Lear who recorded exotic species with similarly spirited and exact observation. (175)

Tom Weld’s ‘maps’ on paper explore concepts including climate change, the refugee crisis and segregation. His work has changed over the years from a lyrical, non-topographical approach to the natural processes that form landscape, through a focus on the effects of agriculture, to large pieces on paper based on the appearance, meaning and uses of maps, in which he has found a way as a painter to express his fears and hopes, environmental, philosophical and political, about the world.

In these works Tom creates a surface that can be read as a satellite photograph of the Earth and these are paintings that take the expected functions and nature of maps as just a starting point. Colour and form are in conversation with the diagrammatic additions and words, which allude to stark human realities. They juxtapose the beauty of our Earth with what we are doing to it, what we have done to it, and what we might yet do. (159)

Sculptor Mick Wilkins has been working in Kilkenny Limestone since 1985 and has found it to be a material of immense versatility with which he has felt very much at home. For the past 30 years he has been exploring its qualities through carving, cutting, laminating, sandblasting, polishing, surface treatment and drawing on this ancient and durable material. In larger works he often combines other materials such as bronze, corten steel and stainless steel with the limestone to beautiful effect.

Having lived and worked for many years in Galway, Mick moved back to Co. Cork in 2010, where he now has a studio in Carrigaline from which he produces both large public commissions and smaller gallery pieces such as will be shown in this Blue House exhibition.

Wicklow based sculptor Fiona Coffey is a member of of Umha Aois, a group of sculptors and archaeologists who meet every year to experiment with ancient bronze casting methods, a process that empowers Fiona with a unique approach and increased freedom in her work.

Fiona’s sculptures are a direct response to the beautiful and ancient landscape in which she is based, where she often works directly in the field, using the earth in her hands as a sketchbook. She creates forms in local clay mixed with horse or cow dung and, using techniques that go back to the Bronze age, making a tiny pit furnace in the ground using the same clay and dung mix. Bellows and charcoal are used to melt the bronze, before it is poured into the mould, allowed to cool and then released. 

The pieces to be exhibited at Blue House Gallery resonate with the landscape, moveable yet sturdy, ancient and alive. The sculptures celebrate the imperfections of these old processes and give voice to the material itself. 

The exhibition opening is on Friday 12 May, 6 – 8pm and all are welcome. For more information please visit