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Capturing Galway in a new light

A group of artists of all ages who’ve been friends since first meeting at art college in the city nine years ago, are showing their work at the city’s Westside Library as part of this year’s Westside Arts Festival. Galway Reinterpreted is one of two exhibitions from the busy Nova Collective, who will open a second show in Oughterard Courthouse this Friday evening. Hugh Murphy and Deirdre Crowley of the group tell BERNIE Ní FHLATHARTA how democracy and friendship is at the heart of everything they do.

Imagine a pink Galway Cathedral, or the former oil tanks at the docks seen through different coloured lens, or even Quay Street dappled in neon shades.

Well, you don’t have to imagine it, as these are just some of the images featuring in two new exhibitions from the Nova Art Collective – one has just opened in the Westside Library, the other will open this Friday in The Courthouse in Oughterard.

Nova are a group of artists who graduated from ATU/GMIT in 2019. They got on so well after four years in college together that they’ve remained in touch since, putting on an exhibition annually, except for the pandemic year of 2020.

There’s 45 years between the youngest and the oldest member and all get on famously.

Their group exhibitions have mostly been held in the city but they’ve shown in the county as well, with one particularly successful one in Kinvara.

The only male in the group is Hugh Murphy, a former businessman in the city –  he and his wife Carmel ran Comma Print in Middle Street for years before the rising cost of rates and overheads led them close the shop ten years ago.

Since then Hugh, as a mature student, has taken a number of courses –  all art-related – and is considering starting another one this September!

Deirdre Crowley, a former bank official, now a textile artist, explains that Hugh is the gel that keeps Nova together as he’s a great organiser and the ‘daddy’ of the group.

Deirdre might well be the ‘mammy’ then, as Hugh explains she has a great input into organising the annual exhibitions. Meeting them in a cosy corner of Rouge café in Dominick Street on a wet morning last week certainly brightened up the day.

Seeing bubbly Deirdre, with a flair for colourful attire, alongside the impeccably dressed, quieter Hugh, it’s clear the pair work well together. Both are passionate about their art and are keen to ensure they and all the group members get opportunities to show and sell their work.

And work it is, enjoyable as it is at times. It took Deirdre at least 60 hours to complete her Cathedral piece, which she hand-embroidered using pink and cream threads.

The beautifully completed work shows off the iconic Galway building at its brightest best. It’s reinterpreted as being built with Galway granite, which has a pink sheen, instead of what was used — grey limestone.

Galway Reinterpreted is the name of this year’s group show in the city but that isn’t necessarily the theme, and it wasn’t a directive to the members, as Hugh and Deirdre explain.

“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates. . .were it not for the shadows, there would be no beauty,” says Hugh quoting from the poem, In Praise of Shadows by Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizaki.

Hugh thought Galway Reinterpreted could work on “both a literal and metaphorical level”, quickly adding that he’s not a dictator and that it was up to individual artists to choose their pieces for the show.

Deirdre concurs: “We are a very democratic group and it’s all about encouraging and motivating one another. People interpret art in different ways. The name of an exhibition is often just a guideline, not necessarily telling people what the art is about.”

Pictured: Hugh Murphy and Deirdre Crowley of the NOVA Contemporary Art Collective. Photo: Brian Harding.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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