On Inismore Island, off the west coast of Ireland there is a place called 'Poll na bPeist' or the Wormhole. It is an amazing natural rock formation in the wide rocky terrace below the cliffs on the southern side of the island. Seen from above it is a perfectly rectangular pool about 36 yards long by 13 across. The pool is connected by an underwater tunnel to the open sea, and swells up and down with the waves.
The pool was formed when the roof of the submerged cave below finally collapsed, the rock terrace broke along the natural rectilinear fault lines which are characteristic of the islands topography.
Seeing it for the first time, it is hard to believe that the pool is not man made. It's strange form and the swelling water give Poll na bPeist such an eerie impression and probably led to it's association in legend with a reptilian sea monster (an Peist) which lay in its depths. At high tide the waves crash over the terrace and wash into the pool.
After experiencing Poll na bPeist it became so engrained in my subconcious mind that I found myself unwittingly making several paintings about it. At first I thought it was down to my architectural training that I just couldn't stop drawing boxes, until I realised it was the Wormhole I had been painting over and over. Perhaps it had become an association with fear of the unknown, death, otherworlds? Its' mysterious depths appeared again in 'Paddy's Dark Secret' - a portal to the afterlife.
During a trip to the Island in the summer of 2010 my son and I had a spontaneous swim there.
It had to be done, to get over my fear of the Peist.
At the beginning of 2012 my father's last two living siblings (out of a family of seven) were both very ill. My father found himself facing into the abyss of being the last of his family, a family with many unresolved conflicts, many unspoken words, and a troubled history.
I found myself pondering many of the questions he must have at the time, and also examining my own relationship with my father.
The two brothers were John (Legs) and Paddy(Pro). John was confined to bed in a nursing home, fading under the debilitating Parkinson’s disease, his older brother Paddy(Pro) was battling cancer.
I decided to make portraits of the two brothers, as a tribute to my uncles, their family, but also to examine my own feelings about my father and myself. Around the time I found these two photo portraits in National Geographic (above) of members of the 'Lohar' people in India (an travelling ethnic group). The two shown above struck me and reminded me in some ways of my uncles. Their faces have such stories, such strength, compassion and wisdom. As my portraits would be abstract anyway I decided to use these men as models for the paintings. The man on the left is a shephard, and on the right is a magician.
While I was working on the portraits my uncle Paddy passed away. His portrait - initially based on the shephard - became a much more abstract painting, more concerned with the transistion from this existence to ... ??
I called it 'Paddy's Dark Secret' as it was about the regret of things left unsaid and taken with into the next life. The painting shows a small red object, similar to a mezuzah (a small case on the doorframe of a Jewish home containing prayers or blessings) receeding into the watery depths.
In the painting about John there is something over his head, his eyes and mouth are obscured. It was about his state of slowly become less lucid and the frustration of not communicating clearly.
Left is a study sketch for Legs, the finished paintings are shown