Wexford-based artist and psychologist Helen O’ Connell enjoying success with her first solo exhibition of abstract paintings


The Wexford-based artist and psychologist Helen O’ Connell is enjoying huge success with her first solo exhibition of paintings “Places just beyond myself” at the Pigyard Gallery in Selskar, which is continuing until June 17.

ublic reaction to her new collection of abstract works created during Covid, has been very positive with half of the 32 paintings on display having sold out within a few days of the official opening.

Helen, a native of Ballinasloe, County Galway first came to Wexford after qualifying as a clinical psychologist in 2006 following a number of years engaged in development work in Africa and Ireland after she finished college.

At that time, she was experimenting with stained glass and Wexford proved to be a rich environment for her creative pursuits. Her glasswork featured in a couple of exhibitions during Wexford Festival Opera.

Helen left Wexford for a number of years but moved back in June 2020 right in the middle of lockdown and she currently balances her psychology work with her ongoing interest in Africa and her art work.

She said that once again Wexford  has become the perfect setting for this next stage in her artistic journey. “Places just beyond myself” is the culmination of two years work and is her “Covid collection”.

During the coronavirus pandemic, she kept “turning up” in her small garden studio to see what might emerge onto the canvas. “Paula Meehan, the Irish poet said that she sits at her desk every day, so that her muse knows where to find her. It was a bit like that and Covid gave me the gift of time”, commented Helen.

It’s her first foray into painting, specifically acrylics, after many years working with stained glass.  Her style is mainly abstract but sometimes she hints at a landscape or a scene and more often, the paintings depict the landscapes of the mind, the imagination and the dream world.

 Much of Helen’s interest lies in mining the unconscious, making the invisible visible, even if she herself does not know what it says or means. The ambiguity and abstractness allow others to see the paintings through their imagination. The titles give a hint in terms of what Helen sees.

The process of painting involves play, without a plan, for quite a while, adding layers of paint, adding paper, building up contrast and texture, sometimes sanding back, over and over. Building up the history takes time, a process of adding and then taking away what you don’t need.

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