Cherry Blossom at Merville Garden Village

Cherry Blossom (Pollock style) – acrylic drip painting

One of the societies I belong to, The Arts Society of Ulster, recently held it’s annual open exhibition at Merville House. This has become a regular venue for the ASU, however, normally, this exhibition takes place at the end of the summer. It was such a lovely surprise when I rolled up for the opening night (ahem… to receive my Bigger and Strachan Award for portraiture – thought I might just get that in!) to find Merville Garden Village in full cherry blossom bloom. Now it’s not that I didn’t know this place existed – my aunt Helen, my mother’s sister, who used to live with us until I was born, moved into a flat in Merville Garden Village and lived there for 37 years until her death in 1987. We visited her home regularly but cherry blossom time was a must for an extra special visit. We would set off on a Sunday, straight after church, for roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings (lunch was what posh people did!) and we’d stay for tea of home-made victoria sponge, shortbread (best I’ve ever tasted), date bars, fudge, pots of tea and lemonade for us kids. In between these two feasts we would take a dander (stroll) through the estate and down to the glen which lay behind her block of flats. There we were met with the most wonderful aroma and sight of wild garlic – masses of little, white, star-shaped flowers interspersed with bluebells.

I left home in 1969 and during the 70’s and 80’s the said glen became gradually less and less visited by my aunt on account of the sad recent history of our part of Ireland and the fear (rational or not) of what might be found there. So, of course, once my memory had been prompted, I had to take a nostalgic stroll through Merville Garden Village and down to the glen fearing the worst – that the glen might not even exist any more, but to my delight, the wild garlic and the bluebells were as profuse as ever and the cherry blossom lit up the sky. Now it’s a long, long time since I attended any church but if aunt Helen is looking down (she would definitely be in heaven!) I think her heart would soar as mine did yesterday at the sight of Merville Garden Village at Cherry Blossom Time.

 Outside auntie’s flat in the mid-60s with young cherry trees

and now…..

Mum and auntie (right) outside her block of flats

and now…….

Another interesting fact is that Sir Stanley Spencer, English painter, painted Merville Garden Village in 1951.

Merville Garden Village  lies north of Belfast in Newtownabbey off the Belfast Lough Shore Road. If you want to see the cherry blossom you’ll need to hurry – the wind is picking up and it won’t last!


Pastel Society of Ireland Workshop in Carlow

This weekend was my second visit to Carlow. For some amazing reason I was invited back by the Pastel Society of Ireland to tutor another workshop at the Askea Parish Community Centre. I have to be honest, the first time round I wasn’t exactly sure where Carlow was – somewhere just south of the border – I thought – never realising it was a four hour drive from Belfast into the heart of Ireland! Members of the workshop had also travelled far and wide from other corners of Ireland – Roberta from Co Antrim, Kay from Co Down, Sheila from Cork, Annabel, Mary and Lisa from Meath. Oh dear I’ve just had to google Meath to see exactly where that is (note to self – brush up on Irish geography)!! Attracta, Molly and Noreen were locals and made us all feel very welcome with great tips on where to dine in the evening.

 The theme of the weekend was incorporating figures into paintings and we started the weekend with a short discussion on the various reasons for doing so e.g. straightforward portraiture, narrative painting, adding to the mood/atmosphere, creating scale, abstracting the figure etc

Below is a slideshow of the artists and their work – please remember most of the work is still in progress.

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 I managed to get a quick look at the award-winning Visual Centre for Contemporary Arts in Carlow. Unfortunately we arrived too late to see the gallery but I can thoroughly recommend Lennons@Visual restaurant where we had a delicious meal.


Opening Night

Just a few photos taken on the opening night of our exhibition. Thanks to all the artists and guests who came and made it a night to remember. There was such a great buzz and I have had lots of positive feedback, the only complaint being that the exhibition could have lasted longer! In addition to all that we managed to raise over £1500 for our designated charity Cancer Research UK ( the final amount hasn’t yet been confirmed)

Rossy McConaghey (right) with her watercolour “Still Life with Tulips” and Maureen Ellis (left)

Oonagh Catchpole with her painting “Elation 3″ ( acrylic)

Sonia Harrison and her charcoal drawing “Roots”

Dr Brian Ireland and “Portrait of Gillian” Oil on canvas

Maureen Ellis and “Times Square, New York” Soft pastels

Our raffle table incuding the paintings behind (except for Girl with Pearl Earring by Joan Markwell) The raffle alone raised over £500.

Once again our thanks to all those who sponsored and supported us and Cancer Research UK