A rustic sense of place

An exhibition of acrylics, oils, painted furniture and pen-and-inks by Jean O’Donovan-Keller is on display in Thomastown’s Watergarden Gallery until October 28.

An exhibition of acrylics, oils, painted furniture and pen-and-inks by Jean O’Donovan-Keller is on display in Thomastown’s Watergarden Gallery until October 28.

Jean grew up on the grounds of the Benedictine Abbey in Glenstal, Co Limerick and as a child she traversed the hills, fields and dales soaking up the aura of the rich Irish countryside. Her art reflects the influence of rustic stone cottages, ivy-laden and vine-covered ancient walls, contrasted with the formality of 17th-century walled terraced gardens, Norman castle and exotic trees planted by long-ago estate owners.

As a young adult she was mentored by Benedict Tutty, an enamellist, sculptor and copper artist, and in 1975 Jean spread her wings and took off for America.

But Ireland always beckoned and she was often drawn back to visit her first love of her birthplace. On those visits she took the opportunity to do murals in an 18th-century rectory being restored in Wexford, and completed many pieces of framed art and a large canvas Victorian-style wall hanging for a 200-year-old Georgian house in Wexford.

Now living in Ireland, she has also written a 250-page book O’Donovan’s Daughter, a memoir of growing up in Glenstal during the 1950s. The as-yet unpublished book contains poetry, history and genealogy and is illustrated by Jean’s pen-and-ink drawings.