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Autumnal Changes

Golden shimmering dragonfly wings flicker in the late afternoon sunlight as he rests momentarily on a glowing ruby-coloured blueberry leaf. Nearby, dancing a figure eight are twinned white butterflies rotating in mid-air. A magenta petaled zinnia calls me closer with its contrasting sunflower-yellow pollened centre. A bumble bee busies herself just above the zinnia, where a lilac painted verbena keeps her captivated as she zips from one tiny protruding T-shaped purple flower segment to the next. All the while, my blue banana-shaped hammock sways gently to and fro, matching the glorious cyan blue September sky.

An orange-red peacock butterfly swoops down beside me to say hello. The spikey coned heads of echinacea’s stand tall and balding, while its darkening crumpling leaves droop slowly downwards, making them look like a swarm of Halloween-styled jellyfish, backlit by the low Autumnal sun.

Nature’s perfection and beauty is almost painful as I’m reminded of the transience of this cherished moment. Can’t these numbered early Autumn days, still glowing with late Summer sun, stay a little longer? I’m missing you already even though you stand before me. And yet your transient quality is the reason I now take notice. Ironic isn’t it?

Embrace change they say: I want to.
Be in the moment they say: I try.
Why does it hurt so much? Your resisting.
Let go, let go, let go…I die, just a little.

A Tree is But a Tree

During a hot mountain hike, as we pass under the cool shade of a cheery horse chestnut:

Respectful of your greatness, like you might a Queen of the past. Thank you dear and majestic great one for all that you give. We are eternally grateful. Bowing under the pulsating epiphany of life. How could we ever pass you by in a fumbling blinded stance? We are but of great ego and with little true understanding of the world within or without.

Oh, strong and not so silent entity, how well you communicate with fellow tribe. Through unimaginable sophistication, you send your message of warning through the tiny particles in the air as well as feed a whole community through your roots. In contrast, we toot our gaudy horn and supposedly know better, while using and abusing your kind to serve our every whim.

Forgive us for our ignorance. A tree is but a tree, only when our eyes and heart are closed to you wonderous ways. In reverence and awe, I bow before thee.

A tree is but a tree…

 

August 2020

Jaun, Switzerland

Olivia O’Keeffe

 

Hidden

Gushing, flowing, twisting,

Your power can split rock,

Your beauty hypnotic,

Your sound soothing.

 

Refreshing, cooling, cleansing,

Thirst quencher, purifier, giver of life,

Running like the veins of the land,

Your stormy strength undeniable, sometimes treacherous.

 

As you dance and spill over and around all rocks before your,

Ever-flowing until you’re not.

Humbled by your power and godly importance,

If I listen hard enough do I hear your sounds

Make words or even just meaning?

 

Are your messages encrypted in a crashing wave?

In the deep tones of a gushing waterfall?

Or a gurgling stream or a silent lake?

Or in the pitter-patter of rain?

 

I believe you have the answers to my quest,

But unless I take the time to listen,

The answers will continue to remain

Hidden within your melodic song.

 

August 2020

Jaun, Switzerland

 

Olivia O’Keeffe

 

 

Song For The Silent Woman

 

To all the silent women in the world;

Rise up and speak your truth,

Take back the power that was your own,

Rise up and speak your truth.

 

Believe not the lies that have kept you small,

Nor the fists that have moulded you so,

Break free the ties that silenced your cries,

Rise up and speak your truth.

 

Find strength within and raise your chin,

Make defiance your only sin,

Awake from your silence and brave the tide,

Your time is now!

Rise up and speak your truth.

 

April 2020

by Olivia O’Keeffe

 

Diary Entry of an Old Man

Tic-toc, tic-toc. Strange thing that…when you know it’s time. A fretful night I had, brought on by the howling of the October winds, which in hindsight seemed meek compared to the storm that blazed inside of me. Knowing too little, too late. The pain of regret. The pain of words unsaid, of love rejected, like a contorted monster longing to be understood.

No turning back now. I will take my choices with me to the grave. It won’t be long now. My eyes though misted, suddenly see clearer now, the reality of my misshapen existence, as I huddle hear by the light of the dying embers, waiting, still waiting.

Tic-toc, tic-toc. Strange thing that…when you know its time. Today I found myself noticing for the first time how dark my old stone shack has become. The murdering ivy had all but blocked out me view of the world. Strange thing that…

But nobody will miss me when I’m gone. Fear has kept me tied up for so long, that I can’t breathe without it. Me mind has been playing tricks on me lately. Sometimes I think I hear her sweet voice, often when I’m dozing in me old crooked chair.

A crooked old chair for a crooked old fella, that I am. Only fit for firewood when I’m gone. The torment of life not lived, of chances not taken. Let the dawn not come. Tic-toc, tic…

 

May 11th 2020

Olivia O’Keeffe

Changing Times


“Nieuwe Wulven Bos,”, Houten, The Netherlands – Up at sunrise to paint this beautiful world!

MAKE THE CHANGE IN YOU…

If there’s something we can learn from this surreal new situation, it’s that we collectively need to do things differently. It’s a forced halt to life as we know it. We cannot continue with our destructive old patterns. The world, nature, our bodies, hearts and souls are crying out for change. We have forced this situation on ourselves. How long would we otherwise have kept going, deaf to the screams of the woodlands, jungles, animals and people around us?

Halt. Stop. Breathe. Breathe some more. Listen to the loud stillness in our hearts. Hear the silent screams of mother nature. Stop resisting and embrace the love and pain surrounding us. Welcome all of it. Little steps. Vow to do it differently. Focus on the flickering little flame inside of you. Cherish it and watch it grow. Then share your light with others. The smallest gestures of kindness, even a little smile or a nod of acknowledgement is worth its weight in gold. Spread love. Spread light. First step; make the change in you and in doing so save the world.

My Mother

Pictured two Summers ago  together with my mother hiking in the mountains near Castletownbere, Co Cork, Ireland.

While reflecting on the theme of strong, inspirational women in my life, I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. Just over two weeks ago my mother Mary underwent critical heart surgery in Dublin. With some 1000km between us, I texted her up until she was whisked away for the operation. When I asked her how she was feeling prior to the operation she said she was feeling great; “like I’m going to a musical with my hospital gown on!” I was blown away at how ecstatic she sounded. At such a nerve-racking moment she showed complete faith and acceptance of what was to come and comfort in all the  good wishes, prayers and love that were being sent her way. This to me was a wonderful example of a strong  and inspirational woman of which I’m very proud to be her daughter.

Do you have or did you have a strong woman figure in your life? Would you enjoy the opportunity to reflect on this person during a creative painting workshop? Then the International Women’s Day painting workshop that I will be giving is right for you.
Sunday March 8th (on International Women’s Day), the painting workshop is from 2-4pm,  costing 40 euro of which 50% goes to the charity; Cordaid Memisa.
For more info, see previous blog post.

 

International Women’s Day Painting Workshop

During the painting workshop on the 8th of March to celebrate International Women’s Day, this year we are going to focus on inspirational women the world over. Prior to the workshop your homework is to choose one special woman. It should be a woman you admire for their contribution to you or to the world. It may be somebody famous, e.g. Maya Angelou, Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, Georgia O’Keeffe, Audrey Hepburn, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, Ann Frank, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Marie Curie, Oprah Winfrey,  Indira Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Goodall, Charlotte Bronté en Coco Chanel, to name but a few!

Or it may be somebody you know/knew, e.g. your own mother or someone dear to you. You choose one woman and gather images, text, information or recitations of that person. Bring these to the workshop to use as a base for a collage-based painting in acrylic which we will create during the workshop. It will also be a fun time to share with others why this person inspires you.

The workshop takes place in my studio in ‘Kunsthuis Houten’, de Slinger 2, Houten, The Netherlands on Sunday March 8th from 2-4pm. Participation costs €40 euro of which 50% of the proceeds will be going to Cordaid Memisa, an organization that supports and educates people in need in the world, in particular pregnant women in Kenia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Irak and also in the Netherlands: https://www.cordaid.org/nl/projecten/.  The workshop will be given in both English and Dutch.

To sign up send an e-mail before March 1st to: okeeffeart@outlook.com

Part 2: Painting Revealed

“New York”, 95x150cm, acrylic on canvas, 2017

To understand how “New York” came about I will take you on a journey back in time. In September 2016 I participated in Spirit Business Event in Hilversum ( a 2 day event organized by two Dutch business coaches, with special guest, American spiritual leader and life coach, Gabrielle Bernstein). During the event we worked with visualisations, meditations and more. As part of this we needed to focus on a dream or desire. For me that was to exhibit my paintings in New York so I focused on that and let it go.

The following Summer of 2017 we decided to take a big family trip To the U.S., mainly to re-visit our friends and old neighbours in Minnesota where we had lived from 2011-2014. We combined this with a trip to New York state and city. Prior to our visit I had been checking out New York galleries on internet in search of my ideal gallery. Agora Gallery was top of my list which I visited. It was exactly how I had visualised it; the large glass front, the pristine inside, the exquisiteness. I knew right there that this was the one.

It was my first time in New York and my impression was one which was overwhelming for the senses. A cacophony on non-stop sounds. Yet its New York, a city that symbolized hope, new life, new opportunities, for so many emigrants including Irish over the centuries. It was also a city of contrasts. The busyness of downtown with a wave of throdding feet, the most on a mission to get somewhere. And then you had the calm, carefree jungle of Central  Park, where time sat still as people relaxed on the grass or benches, in a care-free low tempo mode. And of course we did the usual touristy trips to The Statue of Liberty and surrounding waters, The MOMA, Natural History Museum, Empire State etc. It was a most intriguing experience.

On returning back to the Netherlands, I went to work expressing New York in paint. The only inkling I had was that there sure needed a lot of red in the painting, representing for me both a hardness, a fight for survival mentality, blood and life. It also needed to be bright and light, its sense of hope and dynamism which I think the combination of red/yellow/orange portray.  Also the excitement and buzz of the city needed form. You can hear Sinatra singing in the background. Hard and soft, full of life, bold and dynamic. And this is the painting that emerged. Its currently exhibited at The Yellow Door Gallery in Baltimore, Cork, Ireland.

Also on returning home I initially procrastinated in applying to Agora Gallery but once I did, after a skype interview with the head of the gallery, I was offered a one year contract of representation and an exhibition in May 2018 which meant a return trip to New York for the grand opening and the fulfillment of a dream.

 

 

 

 

Part 1: Painting Revealed : Fire & Water

Fire & Water, 2007, 50x70cm, acrylic on canvas

It was 2007 and the theme I proposed for my adult painting class in Bunnik, The Netherlands, was that of the four elements: fire, water, earth and air. Inspired myself by the theme, I began contemplating the elements of fire and water interspersing as an idea for a painting. I liked the idea of red and blue as base colours. I knew I wanted a strong contrast and that although fire generally has a more transparent quality and often in the direction of yellow, that wasn’t going to work for me visually. Transparent yellows meeting blue would have resulted in greens and yellows which I didn’t want. It was important for me that the meeting of the red and blue, the fire and water was of equal strength, pure and sharp. If you look at the painting where red and blue now overlap you can play with seeing red in front of the blue and vice versa.

Other than this vague idea I had no idea what form the painting would take. The first version which is not seen here was made on paper of A4 size approx. I initially grabbed a large household paint brush and slid the brush with dark paint back and forth horizontally. I then turned the painting upside down and immediately saw mountains. No denying the silhouette of a mountain. A painting was born.

I then proceeded to play with the paint and imagined the sensation of being a bird skimming really low and fast over the water. A sense of speed was important, hence the addition of lines in the water. The initial version looks very similar to this one except for the size and the fact that the waters edge was more straight across and not curved.  When completed. I thought it had potential but wasn’t quite there. Hence, I remade the idea on canvas and added the curved waterfall edge to increase the sense of dynamism which is a common factor in my paintings.

“Fire & Water” has been exhibited in the Netherlands, Ireland and the USA many times. For years knowing it was gem, I refused to sell it. A good friend of mine and avid art collector said if I ever changed my mind about selling it, she would be interested.  Just a couple of years ago I finally succumbed to parting with “Fire & Water”. The painting  found a most glorious home at my friends house in Switzerland, with spectacular views of lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains. And I can visit it!

I consider ”Fire & Water” to be a pivotal painting in my life’s works so far. The reason is not only because of its striking beauty, strong composition and dynamism,  but also because it represents a time in my development when I was between styles; between figurative and abstract. Its figurative, yet fantasy. Representative of a landscape yet is expressive in its colour use. It was a point when I was saying goodbye to painting more realistic Irish landscapes and before my current abstract phase.

Now and again a painting  seems to form itself in front of your eyes and “Fire & Water” was one of those easy births. A painting of which I am proud of even after all those years.