Ailbhe Barrett, Infusions
Ailbhe Barrett is a self-taught artist who was home schooled in her native county Limerick until she was eighteen. Primarily a painter of landscape, Ailbhe has mastered the art of printmaking over the last decade or so, culminating in Infusions, her first solo show at Graphic Studio Gallery.
Nine large prints – a mix of etchings, monoprints with etchings, and etchings with carborundum – feature alongside two original oil paintings. Country landscape predominates, with one exception of an evocative view outward from Limerick train station, the tracks slowly dissolving in the creeping mist, form disappearing into the ether in the manner of Monet’s similar manifestations of light and steam enveloping stone and iron.
But it is in those rural landscapes that Ailbhe’s star shines. It is here that her innate artistic sensibility finds voice. This is the world of her childhood and she knows it from its winter light to its summer sun, and from its hills to its meadows. Her images are not however the landscapes of a locale or a particular place, but rather the suggestion of a mood, the evocation of a place that captures her imagination. It is not surprising that Turner was an early inspiration in the way he transformed the world into something far more atmospheric than it is by his bravura manipulation of paint. So too with Ailbhe. Two trees side by side, hedgerows and fields, a bend in the river, distant mountains shimmer in a haze of memory made manifest by her mastery, with aquatints, sugarlift and spitbite amplifying her dexterous line.
The aforementioned print techniques are for her the equivalent of glazes and scumbles in oil that enable her to create highly charged atmospheric images. In both paintings and print, the particular place has been transformed into a moment experienced, something ethereal, infused with memory and poignancy or, as said by Wordsworth, “emotions recollected in tranquillity”.
James Hanley RHA