Cathy Dineen: relics revisited

The ‘Solvitur Ambulando’ exhibition showing at the Grennan Mill Craft School in Kilkenny presents experiences, events and stories from the life of the artist

Artist and teacher Cathy Dineen, who is an avid walker and benefits from ‘the long think’ she has while out walking, says her pieces have been influenced by the techniques of icon painting

Artist and teacher Cathy Dineen, who is an avid walker and benefits from ‘the long think’ she has while out walking, says her pieces have been influenced by the techniques of icon painting

Sat, Aug 2, 2014, 01:00

Cathy Dineen’s studio is a bewitching place. It’s as if the fairy godmother of small stuff had flown in, waved her wand and sprinkled every available surface with tiny, fascinating, colourful things.

Ceramic dogs. Metal medals. Plastic cowboys riding plastic horses. Boxes and jars. Shells. Tools. “And here are some body parts – look,” Dineen waggles something limb-shaped at me. I’m afraid to look. But it’s just a doll’s leg, painted gold and suspended inside a wooden frame.

Gazing at us from a shelf is a Child of Prague statue, its fingers raised in benign blessing. “Oh, I have a whole rake of them,” Dineen says. “Once you get one, they start appearing. Somebody sees it and goes, ‘Oh – you like them? I have one which belonged to my mother.’ They don’t want to throw it in the dump. So they bring it. And before you know it you have lots, and you’re thinking, ‘Now I look like I’m mad’.”

After working in the fast-moving world of newspaper illustration until she was 30, Dineen moved to Kilkenny almost two decades ago in search of a more meditative pace – both for her life, and for her art.

For the past five years she has been teaching part-time with Kilkenny mental health services.

“It gives me a base for paying my bills, and enables me to be very picky about what work I take on,” she says. “I’ve had some nice commissions from An Post for stamps – and I’ve done some maps for a bloke down in St Mullins.”

Working with young adults on the autism spectrum is, she adds, energising and engaging. “I’ll paint, or do sewing – whatever they want. A lot of the blokes are really into comics, which is right up my alley. And it’s good for them too, because they often get bamboozled by masses of words. So working with images suits them much better.”

Dineen’s new exhibition opens at Grennan Mill Craft School in Thomastown next Saturday. It’s called Solvitur Ambulando, which is Latin for “it is solved by walking”. “Any time I’m stuck with any work at all,” she explains, “I take a walk. I live right beside a farm and I can walk through there. After an hour I’ll have worked out whatever it is I’m stuck on.”

aDineen’s passion for walking has taken her on longer treks, too. In 2009 she made her way from Kilkenny to London – cheating a little with public transport across the crowded middle of England, but finishing on the Thames path. Last year she walked part of the Italian Via Francigena, which runs from Canterbury to Rome. Earlier this year, she did a month on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

“A major factor in both the walking and this new work was the death of four close family members within a very short period of time,” she says. Like many people who have been besieged by grief, she finds walking to be deeply healing. “It’s amazing. If I’m walking by myself, it’s great for clearing the head and having a good long think.

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