On 10th November Ger Sweeney travelled to Galway to attend the opening of Manus Walsh’s latest exhibition. Housed in the world renowned Kenny Bookshop and Gallery on the Tuam Road this exhibition is called “Variations”. According to Manus Walsh the title refers to the various media he has used in his career in the artistic world. The artistic journey started as a youngster when he enjoyed playing music but was enhanced when he became an apprentice in the well known Abbey Studios making stained glass. “Variations” covers works by Manus in Stained Glass, Painting and Enamelling and remains in place in Kenny’s Gallery until 8th December.
The “Variations” exhibition was officially opened by Shannon Group Chairperson Rose Hynes who commented on the fact that Ballyvaughan and the Burren is so much of Manus’ work but that in contrast Manus Walsh is, after 42 years living there, very much a part of Ballyvaughan and the Burren too. Ms. Hynes commented that Ballyvaughan has, in recent years become a cultural hub and she was in no doubt that Manus was a huge part of making that so. When Ger spoke to Manus he said he was very flattered by the sentiment but didn’t see himself as such. He commented that he was just a working artist who is fortunate to live in the area and is thankful for the inspiration it has provided over the years.
Speaking about exhibitions Manus said that while he is very disciplined in his approach to his creative work he had to admit that when there is an exhibition on the horizon it certainly “concentrates the mind” and ensures the discipline is ever present. When quizzed about how pieces are chosen Manus explained that there are usually a number of pieces on the go at once but with an exhibition looming there is additional pressure for sure. Asked if this was stressful Manus commented that the most stressful part of being a fulltime artist is the hope that the creativity doesn’t run out.
Manus Walsh splits his time between his home in Ireland and his Spanish casa. Asked about his love affair with Spain and how it came about Manus credits George Campbell with that. While working in Abbey Studios George Campbell came to work as a stained glass designer. Rather quickly a great friendship developed between Manus and George and through this Manus was encouraged to paint. The two men shared a love of flamenco music and before he know what was happening Manus was on the train heading to Malaga where he spent two months with George Campbell, his wife and other artists like Gerry Dillon and Arthur Armstrong.
Over the years Manus travelled to Malaga a number of times but when the babies arrived in the Walsh household the Spanish trips could not be as frequent. Spain remained a great influence and inspiration to Manus and when the baby Walshs became adults the sunny climes once again beckoned.
Over the years inspiration for Manus’ work has come from his home and his travels. The Burren is his home and it is certainly a challenging landscape says Manus but it also offers multiple forms of inspiration. His travels to Spain and Chile also offer ideas and creative strokes. Through some friends Manus was invited to visit Chile some years ago. He stayed there for a month and subsequently he has had exhibitions there. One of the pieces in the “Variations” exhibition called “Ascensor de Valparaiso” is because of his love of the area. Andalusia also features in the exhibition more than once.
Speaking about his time in Spain over the years Manus comments that when he is there he merely transfers his living and working space from Ireland to Spain but at least the weather is better which allows him to cycle, soak up the Spanish atmosphere and enjoy life in a relaxed and inspirational setting.
Church goers in Galway and Ballyvaughan can enjoy some of Manus’ stained glass creations. Manus remembers that during his time at Abbey Studios he was asked by Bishop Brown of Galway to come up with a window depicting the last supper. He did and it can be enjoyed today in the Cathedral in Galway along with four more of his creations. Ballyvaughan Church, where Manus puts his musical talents to use as he plays the organ for the local choir there are two more of his stained glass creations. The first of those was designed as a tribute to the late Michael Greene. Michael’s family owned Hylands Hotel in Ballyvaughan and later he and his wife Mary together founded the world renowned Burren College of Art. The second piece comprising three windows “Laudato Si” is based on the encyclical letter of Pope Francis.
In the interview below with Ger Sweeney, Manus talks about all of the above in the very relaxed and comfortable setting of his home and studio in the Burren. His “Variations” exhibition will be in place until 8th December and if you cannot make it to Galway it can be seen at www.kennys.ie
Manus Walsh’s own website is www.manuswalsh.com. The next exhibition planned by Manus is commencing in September 2019 and will be held at Kilcock Gallery which was officially opened in 1978 by his friend and mentor George Campbell.
Hear Manus chatting with Ger here.