Into the Mystic

Sleeping Spring – Tara.

By Elizabeth Raggi, Contributor
October / November 2001

That one?!” Noreen Walshe responded to a fan at the Irish Arts Center in New York who told her that one of the paintings the Meath artist chose to display was a personal favorite.

“You like that one?” Her eyes opened wide in question, then she cast them down to her feet, a blush blooming her cheeks. It was the color of a youthful spirit seasoned with the humility of a mature artist.

“Yes, that one.” the admirer had seen it in Moving Carpet, the book published in conjunction with the exhibit by the same name, Noreen Walshe’s first exhibit in the U.S., which ran at the IAC from August 2-September 8.

The “Fairy tree,” (pictured below) is the smallest piece in the collection. Placed beside the larger and more theatrical “Sleeping Spring,” it is a subtle watercolor from a three-color palette that does not demand attention. Instead it whispers to the viewer, and haunts the eye long after it’s been seen.

Touched by the fan’s choice of painting, Noreen opened up on the creation of the piece, explaining it had come from what had been a very dark winter for her, a winter in which she lost the desire to paint and doubted her ability to ever do so again. Then, like the first shoots of spring, things began to move deep within her. Tendrils and roots grew up and out and took the simple form of this waking tree. “The Fairy Tree” became the private rebirth of the artist.

Rebirth is familiar territory to Noreen Walshe. A teacher of Irish, French, Music and Art for 14 years, at age 46 she decided to go back to college to study Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. Her artwork is just as full of reinvention.

Meath County Council Arts Officer Geradette Bailey writes of her, “It is extremely hard to pin down her art or label her style. At times the work appears representational, at other times abstract, she dwells equally upon the figurative and the landscape. .. This individual approach, and refusal to be pigeonholed is reflective of the way Noreen has chosen to live her life.”

Noreen works in watercolors, oils and pastels, moved by the varied landscapes and people of Ireland (particularly the Aran Islands). Canada. France. Italy and India. Her loved ones too. are a source of inspiration. The walls of the IAC were graced by “Megan in the Sun,” a breathtakingly poignant tribute to a friend in watercolor. With an incredible wide range in medium and style (`the strongest being her watercolors), some of Noreen’s renderings could seem to have been done by a completely different hand. were it not for the same quality that infuses each work. Whether depicting the hills of Tara. poppies in Tuscany, or a woman in a yellow san, there is a mysticism that surrounds all.

Noreen Walshe’s energy on the night of the opening was outdone only by her perpetual child-like excitement in seeing the mystical in everything, in rescuing it from the mundane and conjuring it on to a canvas. ♦

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