Recent exhibition at Laois Arthouse

Curtain comes down on ‘Townscape’ exhibition
After a nine-month tour,the Laois Arthouse hosted the  finale of the ‘Townscape’ exhibition, by Mary Burke, from January 15 to February 22. The event was opened on Saturday, January 26 at 3pm, by Justice and Equality Minister Charles Flanagan. A short film about the exhibition was screened, documenting local school children engaging with the exhibition under the direction of Curator,Jenny Papassotiriou and a keynote address by Professor Mary Corcoran.

‘Townscape’ opened in the Dunamaise Arts Centre in March 2018, with a seminar ‘A Dialogue with Architecture: Reinterpreting the Irish Town.’ It was exhibited over the summer at the Irish Architectural Archive, Merrion Square, Dublin 2, where a lunchtime series of talks ‘Town Talks’ took place. It then toured to Manyooth University and closed with a seminar at the library on the theme of the arts and community engagement.

Mary Burke is a critically acclaimed Irish artist whose life’s work up to this point dealt with painting suburban surroundings. On the invitation of Laois arts officer and curator Muireann Ní Chonaill, Mary visited Laois Arthouse to see if Stradbally, Co. Laois, would be suitable and appealing subject matter. She found it to be so and over a twelve-month period she visited twelve homes selected and ‘Townscape’ was born.

“The built environment has always been central to my work. Most of my work has been Dublin- situated. ‘Townscape’ has provided me with the opportunity to explore homes in the rural midland town of Stradbally,” said Mary.

Being a rural, planted town there were a great variety of homes from which to choose. Mary included paintings of Stradbally Hall, ancestral home of Tom, Gesa and the Cosby family, which is central to the story of the town. These days it is probably best known for the annual Electric Picnic festival.

Featured is one of the estate cottages in Court Square, built by the Cosby family for their workers in the early 1880s and now home to Mary Hegarty and Brian Flanagan. Also on Court Square is the home of Christine and James Hewitt.

On Main Street, the homes of undertakers John and Anne Lynch to the rear of their business and of Christine Mulhall and David Kennedy are included. The Parochial House, residence of Rev Jim O’Connell, the then parish priest, is featured. Also in ‘Townscape’ is John and Irene Delaney’s house in Brockley Park, a development designed by renowned architect Frank Gibney for Laois County Council in the 1950s and indicative of Gibney’s careful consideration of site, aspect and orientation.

Houses within the recently built estates of Cillbeg Manor belonging to Rita and Pat Scully and the late Siobhan and Sean Kane’s home in The Glebe are included. Further examples of modern abodes are those of John and Rachel Conway and Geraldine and Seán Delaney and the homes of Dick and Katie Dillon in Woodview, to the rear of Laois Arthouse which are also featured.

The involvement of sociologist Professor Mary Corcoran enriched the project. She documented what living in Stradbally means to the home owners. ‘Townscape’ brings sociology, the community and the arts into collaborative practice. Consisting of 18 paintings in oil pastel on canvas, ‘Townscape’ opened on May 8 in the Irish Architectural Archive.

All are welcome to the exhibition. A companion book ‘Townscape’, documenting the project, with essays by Mary Corcoran, Jenny Haughton and images of the paintings, is available for €10. Details from:

Reconnect Pottery Workshop

“Reconnect”  Pottery Workshop- On Friday 12th October and as part of Laois Connects programme,  Laois Arthouse hosted a  free workshop with ceramic artist Cathy Whelan. Working with clay is a natural way to connect with the present moment and alleviate stress. This workshop explored the therapeutic nature of clay through simple techniques and mindful movements. Participants created a unique piece of work in a creative and relaxed environment.  Cathy Whelan is a Ceramic Artist and Educator. A graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Cathy’s practice explores behaviour and emotion. Her inspiration stems from areas areas of mental health and the natural world. Cathy’s work has been exhibited as part of a group show in Gallery Zozimus, Dublin and as part of a collaborative exhibition in NCAD.



” The Stradbally Six” at Laois Arthouse

A special exhibition to celebrate culture night titled “The Stradbally Six” opened recently at the Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally .  The exhibition title is based on how these six artists have come together to live and work in this creative space which historically was a courthouse and jail.   The exhibition was officially launched by botanical artist Mary Dillon who recently facilitated a weeklong botanical art course at Laois Arthouse, as part of the Summer Arts Programme.

The exhibition includes selected work by resident artists who have sojourned recently or are currently in residence at the Arthouse Studios.  The artists include; Maria O’Brien from Tipperary, Caroline Keane from Portlaoise, David Tully from Dublin, Jen Donnery from Laois, Eriko Yano from Japan and Cathy Whelan from Kildare. The exhibition will include a  rich  and varied mix of work include paintings, ceramics and film, by the artists who have utilised the creative space of the Arthouse to complete some of the work in the show.

Maria O’Brien – MFA 2010 and BA Fine Art, 2003 NCAD, Graduate Diploma in Art Education, 2005, LSAD. Themes in the work: ‘The starting point of my work is the figure in landscape. I paint from photographs mostly of people at leisure. I recognise a collective romanticism or yearning for the experience of the sublime or adventure. Maria is the recipient of the Laois Arts Office Tyrone Guthrie Bursary 2018.


Caroline Keane is originally from Portlaoise and studied Fine Art in the Limerick School of Art & Design, specializing in Sculpture and Combined Media.  Currently her art practice is based in Laois where she also runs her own series of Art classes, community events and festival commissions. Her work investigates the role that cultural contexts play in an individuals’ experience of loss. Her practice explores behavioral displays of mourning, which are often culturally defined and the role in which heritage plays in an individual process of grief and mourning. These unique and emotional expressions are compared and displayed through a mix of media.


David Tully, Born in Ireland. David’s work swings from Digital to Site-Specific and everything in between. Over an 11yr period (abroad) David developed a site-specific practice best understood as “anonymous discovery”.  His work can be comedic, intuitive, provoking and aesthetic combined. David has exhibited widely. His site-specific installations have been found at Pier 94, Hudson River New York / Jefferson Market Garden, Greenwich Village New York / MoMa New York / Armory Art Fair, Special Projects  / Dublin Contemporary / Rose Windows, Sir John Rogersons Quay / Project Mapping, St Andrews Church, Westland Row Dublin

Jen Donnery – Jen Donnery was awarded a residency at The Laois Arthouse for her work in the 2017 Open Submission Exhibition, Dunamaise Arts Centre. A graduate of Abbeyleix FETC, she is currently studying at NCAD.  A shortlisted artist for the UK National Open Art Prize 2017, Jen has exhibited work in group shows at Birr Technology Centre, The Dunamaise Arts Centre and the Solomon Gallery, Dublin. Most recently her work featured in the Sentient Structures group show as part of Birr Vintage Week. Her exhibition, Hidden Spaces will be on display in Roundwood House, near her home in County Laois, as part of Culture Night 2018. This body of work deals with our connection to past places and the fragility of security, questioning how the human figure moves through spaces, searching for a reaffirming connection to what went before.”

Eriko Yano – Born in Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan. Eriko has a BA in Department of Industrial, Interior and Craft Design, Musashino Art University, Tokyo, JAPAN (Ceramics course) and worked as a research associate in Musashino Art University, Tokyo, Japan. She now lives and works in Dublin and in on a three month residency at the Laois Arthouse.  Solo Exhibitions include: “eigo-no-daimei” Gallery Nenohoshi, Daikanyama, Tokyo, JAPAN and “A next of the next” Gallery Ruvent, Tokyo, Japan and she has exhibited in numerous group exhibitions in Japan.

Cathy Whelan is a Ceramic Artist and Educator. A graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Cathy’s practice explores behaviour and emotion. Cathy’s work has been exhibited as part of a group show in Gallery Zozimus, Dublin and as part of a collaborative exhibition in NCAD. Her current body of work investigates the effects of technology on our daily lives. It questions the pressures exerted by a modern digital culture and how this impacts our connection with the natural world.



Visitors are welcome to  come to view the exhibition at the Laois Arthouse Gallery in Stradbally up until the closing date on Wednesday 17th October. T

Opening times: Tues and Thurs 1pm-5pm & 5.30pm-8pm, Sat: 10am-1pm (except on Bank Holiday) (entry through library) Wed and Fri 1pm-4pm (entry through Laois Arthouse)

For more details contact T: 057 8664033 E: On Culture Night Friday 21st September for extended hrs from 5pm-8pm to showcase the work.


Launch of “At the Heart” Botanical by Mary Dillon

The Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally, Co Laois recently hosted an exhibition by Tipperary based artist Mary Dillon who specialises in botanical artwork.  Officially opened on Friday 6th July at 4pm by Laois fashion designer Heidi Higgins.

Pictured at the Arthouse Gallery for the “At the Heart-Bontanical” exhibition launch were John King, Cathaoirleach Laois County Council, Mhuireann Ni Chonail, Laois Arts Officer, Heidi Higgins, Fashion Designer and Mary Dillon, Artist and course tutor. Picture Denis Byrne

The exhibition included work created by participants on a botanical painting course led by artist Mary Dillon at the Arthouse that ran from 2nd to the 6th July.


In the exhibition, At the Heart – Botanical, Mary Dillon takes up the challenge, breathing life, movement, heart and soul into her intricate plant portraits. Dillon is a contemporary artist who pushes the boundaries of botanical art in new and exciting ways.


Mary is an award winning botanical artist who exhibits her work internationally, most recently in Madrid where her work features on the cover of Tulipa Tulipae, a publication by Real Botanico Jardin, Madrid. Mary recently received the Anne Marie Carney Award and the Jean Emmons People’s Choice award at the ASBA (American Society of Botanical Artists) exhibition in San Francisco. She has been awarded Gold Medals and Best in Show in Botanical and Floral Art at Bloom, Dublin.  Mary has recently joined the teaching team at the Chelsea School of Botanical Art in London. She finds teaching botanical art the perfect opportunity to bring together her three passions of painting, plants and working with people.


Botanical art challenges us to capture in a painting the essence of a plant, it’s beauty, frailty, strength and intimacy and to do so in a truthful way.


Launch of Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Thomas McNally

Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Thomas McNally


Invincible Spirit by Simon Carman

Saturday 9th June promises to be a fun and illuminating day in Stradbally, Co Laois.  It kicks off at 2pm in the Laois Arthouse with an exhibition entitled ‘Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake’, by Thomas Mc Nally.

 Laois artist Thomas McNally has been working on interpreting Finnegans Wake for the last seven years and has published two books of his illustrations with The Lilliput Press (in 2014 and 2018). Both of these books are illustrated editions of the two fables that appear in Finnegans Wake. The first is The Ondt and the Gracehoper, Joyce’s re-telling of Aesop’s ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’; and the second is The Mookse and the Gripes, Joyce’s version of Aesop’s ‘The Fox and the Grapes’.The exhibition at the Arthouse in Stradbally will consist of McNally’s illustrations of these fables. The drawings and paintings on display will offer visitors a unique perspective on the often bizarre – but always hilarious – world of Joyce’s later writing. McNally’s illustrations strive to capture the humour that is at the heart of Finnegans Wake, and his child-like and colourful illustrations make Joyce’s literary achievement accessible to a much wider audience.   

 Finnegans Wake is the final novel by James Joyce and is considered to be one of the greatest achievements by any writer in the twentieth century. But since its first publication in 1939, readers have been perplexed by Joyce’s strange and experimental use of language. While Joyce continues to be celebrated as Ireland’s most remarkable writer owing to the success of his other books such as Dubliners and Ulysses, his final novel remains a neglected and poorly-understood masterpiece.  The books and illustrations are for sale. The exhibition runs until the 29th June at the Laois Arthouse.

 Thomas McNally is an artist and philosopher from Portlaoise. His philosophical publications include the book, Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Language (Cambridge University Press, 2017). He has published two books of illustrations, both with the Lilliput Press: The Ondt and the Gracehoper (2014) and The Mookse and the Gripes (2018).

 The opening will be performed by Emmet Byrne. Emmet is a proud Laois man from Ballyroan. He attended both the Ballyroan Boy’s National School and Heywood Community College. Emmet started acting at 21 in the Drama Society in NUI, Galway and completed a MA in Drama and Theatre in 2012. He moved to Dublin to pursue a career and since has acted on stages around Ireland including: The Lime Tree in Limerick, Town Hall Theatre in Galway, The Abbey, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and The Gaiety in Dublin, and The Royal Opera House in Belfast. Most recently he starred as Sean Bourke in Cell Mates at The Hampstead Theatre, London. He also recently starred in RTÉ’s Striking Out as Ray Lamont. 

At 4pm on Saturday 9th June, Invincible Spirit, by Simon Carman will be on view for the public to see in Mc Keon Stone, Stradbally, Co Laois before it is installed in the national Stud, Co Kildare. Simon made the work over the last number of months in Mc Keon Stone, whilst residing at the Laois Arthouse. The enormity of Simon’s project becomes clearer when we consider the medium in which he works and the methods he needs to employ. The stone he has been sculpting (taken from McKeon’s quarry in Kilkenny) was originally 32 tonnes and he says he has ‘trimmed it down to 19 tonnes in the quarry. On completion it will be approximately 16 tonnes. The sculpture will stand at 2m tall by 2.7m long and approximately 1.3m deep.’ He explains that he ‘generally carves with pneumatics (compressed air hammers) and a lot of the work is finished by hand, which is very time consuming. A lot of my recent work has been highly polished which means a lot of man-hours in hand-finishing. For commissioned work such as Invincible Spirit, I employ very traditional techniques of creating a perfectly to scale maquette from life and then scaling that up to the desired size.’

 Simon Carman lives and works in County Fermanagh. As well as producing his own work, Carman is well recognised for his casting and carving skills and is often called upon to fabricate work for some of the country’s most recognised artists. Simon grew up in Dublin and has worked as an artist professionally all his life, following in the footsteps of his mother the recognised sculptor Cathy Carman, who hails from Co Laois. He attended Glasgow School of Art studying for a BA Hons in Sculpture following a foundation in Art at NCAD. He has worked in professional foundries such as Callow Bronze Foundry in County Mayo as well as setting up foundries and working for many years with the Leitrim Sculpture Centre. 

Following the tour of Invincible Spirit, Simon will give a talk and slide presentation, at 5pm the Laois Arthouse. Refreshments will be served following the talk.

Further details form Muireann Ni Chonaill, Arts Officer E:

Illustrating Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Thomas McNally  runs from 9th June until Friday 29th June 2018 in the

Opening times: Tuesday and Thursday 1pm &-5pm & 5.30pm-8pm

Saturday 10am-1pm (through the Library)

Wednesday and Friday 1pm-4pm (through the Laois Arthouse)

For more details: T 057 8664109/4033 E

Launch of Welcome to May


The Stradbally Active Age Group launched their art exhibition titled “Welcome to May” at the Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally on Saturday 28th April at 1.30pm until 31st May.  The exhibition was officially launched by artist and art tutor Billy Dollard.  Following on from their inaugural and very successful first exhibition “Doorways of Stradbally” at Laois Arthouse in May 2017 this group have been working throughout the year to developing their artistic skills.  They were fortunate to receive funding from LOETB  earlier this year, allowing them the opportunity to receive a series of art workshops with art  tutor Billy Dollard.  Billy will also include a number of his works in the exhibition as well. “Welcome to May”  included a variety of original paintings including still life, pet portraits, local landmarks and landscapes. Exhibiting artists include:  Phyllis Bennett, Ettie Kennedy, Mary Whelan, Vera Donohue, Chris Moran and Michael Mulhare

The Stradbally group has been established for four years.  It is an open and inclusive organisation who aim to support and empower retired and semi-retired individuals in their community through a wide range of activities and new members are welcome to join at any time.





To celebrate the launch of Bliain na Gaeilge and Seachtain na Gaeilge, the Laois Arthouse, Stradbally, Co Laois, hosted  Portráidí Óir agus Portraidí eile by Pádraig Ó Flannabhra from the Wednesday 21st March at 1.30pm.  The exhibition was launched by poet and writer in Residence for Kerry County Council  Annemarie Ní Churráin.

Pádraig Ó Flannabhra has been a Photographer for most of his life and a full time professional since 1984, when he established his Photoart Studio, specializing in Portraiture, Landscape and Press work.  He has exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, notably in the UK and at the ‘Festival Interceltique de Lorient, France, winning many awards for his creative work.

The title  PORTRÁIDÍ ÓIR’,  not only reflects his love and support for our first language but, the exhibits also includes 10 Gold Portrait Awards, which he was presented with from 2004 onwards by Kodak. The Stradbally showing of his work was  the first time the Gold Award Portraits will be exhibited together in an exhibition. .

Launch of Heart Exhibition of Photographs

Tuesday 12th December saw the launch of “Heart”, an exhibition of photographs by dance artist Erica Borges and photographer Terry Conroy at the Gallery.  A great crowd attended to celebrate the launch.  The project was funded through the Laois Creative Ireland programme and brings to an end, a year of imaginative and creative projects overseen by the Arts and Heritage Sections of Laois County Council.  The exhibition was launched by of Alexandre Iseli  of Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company from Tipperary and it will run until Friday 26th December.


New Exhibition at Laois Arthouse

Upcoming Exhibition of Photography titled ‘Heart’

As part of the 2017 Creative Ireland Programme the Laois Arthouse Gallery, Stradbally  hosted an exhibition of photographs titled ‘Heart’.  Comprising of a vibrant and unique collection of photographs created by dance artist Erica Pessanha Borges and photographer Terry Conroy.  The beauty and richness of some of County Laois Heritage sites form the backdrop to the dance forms captured in this collection of photographs.  The exhibition opened on  Tuesday 12th December at 7.30pm by Jazmin Chiodi of Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company ran until 26th January 2018.


Leaves Festival Programme Launched



Emo Court events 10-12 November

Dunamaise events 7-9 November

The annual Leaves Festival of Writing and Music is just around the corner. Leaves celebrates the diversity and richness in today’s literary, music, theatre and film scene. Leaves aims to excite and engage with audiences young and old.

This year the weekend-long programme will be held in Emo Court; the magnificent Gandon designed neo-classical house and gardens on the outskirts of Portlaoise. At the recent launch of the Leaves Festival in Emo Court, Festival Curator, Muireann Ní Chonaill said, “the Leaves Festival is a great opportunity to celebrate writers, musicians and the world of film and theatre. We are very excited to be hosting the Leaves weekend in the beautiful surroundings of Emo Court and there is no better place to listen to and meet writers and musicians.”

Opening the weekend in the Drawing Room, Emo Court, on Friday night 10th November, at 8.00pm are poets Jean Ó Brien, Martin Figura, and Helen Ivory. They will be joined by musician, Úna Keane and the event will be chaired by Arthur Broomfield.

The Tea Rooms in Emo Court is the venue for Saturday mornings writing workshop, to be led by Helen Ivory. It runs from 10am-12.30pm on Saturday 11th November.

Returning to the Drawing Room for the rest of Saturday’s events(11th November), are poets Denise Curtin, Paddy Moran, Karen J Mc Donnell, joined by Portlaoise born musician, Gary Dunne. This event will be chaired by Séamus Hosey and commences at 3.00pm.

To celebrate National Harp Day, Scottish Harpist, Catriona McKay together with Swedish nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson, will perform a special concert. They will be accompanied by the Music Generation Laois Harpists and it commences at 5.00pm on 11th November.

Saturday evening (11th November) will feature Lisa Harding and Kevin Barry reading and discussing their novels with Sean Rocks, presenter of Arena, on Radio 1 and it commences at 8.00pm.

On Sunday at noon, 12th  November, the Drawing Room will be the setting for the premiere of Thresholds.

This new music commission celebrating the theme of pollination, by Ian Wilson will be performed by saxophonist, Cathal Roche. It was funded through the Creative Ireland Laois programme. The winning poems on the theme of pollination will be read by the prizewinners at this event. The new Laois Spoken Word artist, who will commence their ten month residency during the Leaves Festival will be introduced to the public at this gathering also. During their residency the Spoken Word artist will work with young people throughout the county, through secondary schools, Youth Theatre and Youthreach.

The Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise has scheduled events for Leaves, including cinema; My Cousin Rebecca and the live broadcast from the Harold Pinter Theatre, London of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  Dubliners’ Women, by Katie O’Kelly, featuring female characters from James Joyce’s Dubliners, will be performed.

Readings in the schools and libraries will be by Helen Ivory, Martin Figura and Alan Nolan.

Booking Box Office: 0578663355 or online at

Follow us on Facebook at Leaves. For more information please contact the Arts Office, Laois County Council Portlaoise, Co Laois. Email Web