Caroline Canning‘s father, a great admirer of artists, encouraged her. When Charlie Brady, “this exotic New Yorker, landed in Ireland he was like a brother to him, an eccentric uncle to us growing up”. Visiting Brady‘s studio with her father in the early 1970s, “I found a painting of a woman‘s head and shoulders from the back in the bin, loved it, was given it and he signed it for me, under duress, 20 years later”.

And art was with her father to the end. Though dying, “he insisted that I and my easel stay with him while other family members were attending to his complicated personal needs. I was working on a big painting of copper pans. We had wonderful conversations helped along by turps and his morphine”.

Growing up outside Naas, Canning had “no feeling for that flat landscape and my family had been ‘very arsey‘ about the West of Ireland”.

Childhood holidays were spent in France but when her late husband, Mike Kinneen, introduced her to Connemara, she loved “the huge sky, wild sea, golden grass in winter, yellow flags scattered across the bog in June, a leaden purple sky that defies words”.

She‘s also painted Poolbeg, Howth, the view out of her bedroom window and this beautifully atmospheric work, Leeson Street Bridge in Summer. Walking home from Sunday jazz at the United Arts Club, she stopped. “The light all dappled made me jump.” She sketched.

Canning draws “in the theatre, on the bus, beach, in bed, at wakes, marches, protests”.

That day she also took photographs but mainly just looked. “I‘m crap at the plein air, one-day painting thing. Began it late June, did a few layers, propped it in the kitchen, a lot of looking and doubting, went back to it, built it up slowly. Una Sealy told me that lamp black and lemon yellow gives a fantastic dark green.”

Her kitchen is her studio. “This started when Mike died in 2004. The children were between four and 10 at the time and I could paint away, put the spuds on, hang out a wash. My easel is happiest in the kitchen.”

New shows at de Sachy Gallery in Clifden and at the United Arts Club. www.carolinecanning; Facebook/Instagram: Caroline Canning

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Sunday Indo Living

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