Kathy draws on riches of country life for Timeless

Artist Kathy Ross.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that animals have individual personalities will need to revise that opinion when they check out Timeless, the new exhibition by Galway artist Kathy Ross. Kathy has always been fascinated by rural life and her latest paintings focus on animals and the ruined buildings that she encounters regularly in North Galway, where she and her family now live, in Cooreagh, Togher.

Seventeen of her 17 watercolours and ink pieces will go on show in Galway City’s Town Hall Theatre this Saturday, when gallery-owner Tom Kenny will perform the official opening. The exhibition, which has been curated by Margaret Nolan, will run until mid-September.

Although not from a farming background, Kathy grew up in the countryside: “in Doughiska, at a time when nobody knew where it was,” she says, referring to the area that’s now a huge suburb of Galway City.

After living in Lackagh for several years, Kathy and her family yearned for somewhere more remote. They fulfilled that dream last year and she’s delighted that her daughter and son are growing up as close to nature as possible. It seems Milly (8) and Luke (4) have inherited their mother’s gift for seeing the unusual in the everyday.

“We now have a game when we’re out driving and they go ‘Oh mum, look, there’s another one!’ It’s like Spot the Old Building,” she says with a laugh.

Kathy, who studied Fine Art Print and Art History in the National College of Art and Design, graduating in 2001, is best known to date for her portraits and landscapes. She works mostly in watercolours, inks and pencils to create her own distinctive style.

This latest exhibition marks a departure for her, because while she is still using ink and watercolours, the images are all of buildings and farm animals.

That’s partly the result of a project she participated in two years ago called mArtist, when a group of local artists created work based around the Athenry mart. Their art was then exhibited at the mart, in one of the sales rings.  While Kathy specialised in portraits of farmers for mArtist, the experience of taking part subsequently led her down another road.

She loves the traditional vernacular architecture and the slower, rural way of life, much of which is being lost before our eyes in a fast-moving world, she says.

“I want to highlight them before we lose them,” she explains of the deserted dwelling houses and outhouses that are slowly being reclaimed by nature.

As a newcomer to Coolreagh, she’s delighted with the reaction from local people who shared the history of these buildings with her, adding an extra layer of meaning to her work.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.