Helen Comerford

Artist’s Statement

COVID-19 April Diary is an exhibition of new paintings developed in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Like a lot of creatives, as the crisis unfolded I found myself unable to continue with the work I was doing for what was to be a solo show as part of Kilkenny Arts Festival. By the end of March I was cocooning and listening to the news and I realised I could not ignore the worldwide pandemic unfolding outside my studio walls.

I decided to work with 40x40cm panels, using a grid comprised of 961 squares. A grid acts both as protection and confinement, which is how I felt about cocooning. I was a little startled when I first saw the colours of the virus coming out of China: they seemed very attractive for such a deadly entity, but they certainly informed my palette. 

I set to work, using the statistics from the previous day, and although I seldom finished a panel in a single day I managed to get down the bones. Towards the middle of the month the numbers started to go askew with test results arriving back from Germany late, and the number of new cases threatened to overwhelm both my grid and our health system. But gradually the threat receded and order was restored. 

It has been and remains an extraordinary period: the awfulness of the pain, suffering and death being in some respects outweighed by outpourings of kindness and love. As a society we have learned much and I hope we can retain some of this knowledge to better ourselves and our society.’

Helen Comerford, July 2020

Helen Comerford was born in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny and received her art education in Dublin, Belfast and Utrecht. She has been a professional artist since the early seventies. She was a member of the board of the AAI, Wexford Arts Centre and Garter Lane Arts Centre, and has lectured at DLSAD and UCD. She is an innovator in special needs education and was one of the initiators of KCAT Arts Centre.

She has been with Taylor Galleries since 1979 and held her first solo exhibition there in 1980. Recent and forthcoming shows include Leonidio, Greece (2016), Wiesbaden, Germany (2018) and the old Butler Gallery, Kilkenny (2021). In 2019 she was the Bealtaine artist in residence at the West Cork Arts Centre. Her latest initiative is the Caileacha Cyprus symposium, comprising eight women artists over 70 and due to take place in Ballinglen, Co. Mayo, in September 2020.

Photo credit: Photo: David Lambert