What Lies Beneath: Downpour by Leah Beggs

Independent | by Niall MacMonagle

Every week the world over, three million people move to cities. The lure of bright lights, anonymity and jobs versus wild Atlantic ways and all those other empty, unspoilt spots is strong. Yet, more and more, city dwellers need to get away from the overcrowding, the noise and the pollution and head to those very places where you can feel and hear yourself breathe.

Was it easy for Dublin-born artist Leah Beggs to leave the capital and head west? "I first visited Connemara in my late teens and it really captured my heart," says Beggs, who "rarely misses city life". 

Her paintings now capture the landscapes she knows best. She and her dogs walk those walks; Inishnee, Ballyconneely, Carraroe and other place names make their way into her paintings, and upbeat titles - Visibility Was Low But Moods High, The Smell of Rain, Wasting Time Wisely, Sea Sunny in the Rain, Wild Atlantic Skies - remind us that although clouds gather, and although it might seem that the rain it "raineth every day", Beggs makes the most of it, Downpour being a magnificent example of her optimistic outlook.

"I respond to wild weather the most and in Connemara that can be any time of the year," she says.

An oil on canvas, Downpour, has the immediacy and fluency of watercolour. It might seem that charcoal greys dominate, but that petrol-turquoise blue blazes through. That glorious brightening skyscape is your reward for getting drenched.

"I tend to work on about 10 pieces at one time," says Beggs. "I will make marks on one and then move to the next while that one is drying. This allows me to build up numerous subtle layers. This layering creates a more fluid look and gives a watercolour effect." 

The paintings in her new show are all of a piece, yet each is unique and different. Her work hangs in several public collections including that of the Department of the Taoiseach. Beggs's work should provide Enda Kenny, holed up on Merrion Street Upper, with a nourishing distraction and a lively and beautiful reminder that, all along the Wild Atlantic Way, the west's awake.

Finding Time, new work by Leah Beggs, is at Solomon Fine Art, Balfe Street, Dublin 2, until October 15.

October 3, 2016