by Chára NagleIn partnership with The Warren Gallery and Merrion Private, Chára Nagle’s Haystacks exhibition is a twelve-piece series which captures the essence of the Irish country landscape at harvest time, inspired by the Kildare farm of her mother’s youth. Tightly rolled haystacks rise from scorched grounds, pushing upwards against heavy horizon lines. Dynamic cloudscapes and golden shafts of light in some, inky nighttime skies, shot through with floods of moonlight elsewhere. A remarkable, evocative collection of farmland scenes, Haystacks will awaken summertime memories of Ireland. A return visit to Kildare, catching sight of the old family farmlands being harvested, triggered a memory for Chára. She recalled a time, just before graduation from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, when as a young artist, she was commissioned to paint a riverbank scene by her late Aunt on the Kildare farm. At the time, eager for change and adventure, the work was a welcome means to an end, the opportunity to use her talents to pay for flights to London to start her career. Twenty years later, the primal tug of the very same landscape would draw Chára back - memories of summertime on the farm, the excitement of baling season, the gathering of family and neighbours. The sights, sounds and smells of farming life, intrinsic childhood memories for so many Irish who grew up in the country. And so, the Haystacks series came to life. Haystacks captures the raw, scorched beauty of lands that have been stripped of their cover. Large, tightly wound hay bales are scattered across the landscape, their cylindrical form modern and industrial, the natural content barely contained, bursting from their binds. The ground is spiked and bruised. Each painting captures a different mood, with low horizon lines and animated cloudscapes, shafts of golden light and inky night time skies reflecting the mercurial nature of the Irish weather. Known for her use of bright acrylic colours in her figurative works, Haystacks required a very different medium. Chára began researching traditional painting methods and following a visit to the Louvre, the Old Masters works in tempera provided the solution. Mineral pigments from Magasin Sennelier in Paris were sourced, derived from natural materials. Chára mixes her paints daily, adding organic eggs, distilled water, Stand oil and Damar varnish to each pigment to create tempera grassa. The purity of this paint reflects the clarity of the subject and the finished effect is transparent and durable. Chára describes using these materials as akin to “painting the source, with the source”.
Haystacks are of course a subject which many artists have approached, from Monet’s 1890’s Haystack series, monumental, dominating the landscape, to Paul Henry’s use of haystacks as one of many elements in the narrative of his stunning Achill scenes. Chára spent much time considering and observing how these great artists and many others tackled the material, to find her own response to the subject. Chára Nagle’s Haystacks series are familiar Irish moments captured in time, images that nudge at memories of harvest time on an Irish farm – the gathering of families and neighbours to bring in the hay. The hypnotic chug and grind of tractors and combines, juxtaposed with the squeal and swoop of flocking birds as the bare ground is revealed. The loud bustle and sweet smells of farmhouse kitchens from dawn to dusk; the back and forth to fields, laden with bottles of thirst quenching lemonade, steaming flasks of sweet tea and baskets of fresh cooked food. The scratch of the hay, the deep sores of baling twine, the smell of the burnt earth, all against the dramatic backdrop of the ever changing Irish skies, looming clouds and spits of rain, giving way to scorching sun, before moonlit quiet descends. The exhibition is currently on display at The Warren Gallery, West Cork, Ireland. From there due to demand it will be travelling to the USA this September.