A GERMAN artist and photographer has traded life in the fast lane for the more relaxed rhythms of East Clare and is now holding his first Irish exhibition in Scariff.
Claus-Eckhard Kraemer, a native of South West Germany, arrived in the county just days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus pandemic.
Confined, under Covid-19 regulations to a radius of between 2km and 5km, the former Formula 1 media delegate, turned his artistic interest and his camera lens to the spectacular landscape around the shores of Lough Derg.
He compiled a calendar inspired by the area and is in the process of producing a second one for 2022. The easing of pandemic restrictions now means that Claus can show his work to a wider audience with an exhibition entitled, ‘Time Lapse’, running at the gallery at Scariff Library until mid-October.
“I always carry a camera,” Claus told The Champion. “Even with a smartphone, it’s possible to take fantastic pictures. I make sure to take loads and it’s always with the aim of working on them and possibly exhibiting them at some stage.
“They’re more than just snapshots because they’re always taken with a purpose.”
A trained photographer and journalist, Claus is enjoying a very active retirement in Scariff.
HIs professional career in media and PR saw him travel the world and manage up to 650 journalists at a time as part of his duties.
“It was a hectic time,” he said, “I was either on the road or in the air, constantly travelling. Managing one journalist is one thing, but dealing with hundreds is another story!”
Claus first came to Ireland in the 1990s, spending almost a decade in Clonlara.
“My wife retired last year and while I hadn’t been anticipating moving back to Ireland, that’s what we did,” he outlined.
“We came to Galway first and arranged to see two houses. We got one in Scariff and signed the contracts in February of last year.
“I arrived on Friday, March 13, while Claudia was stuck in Germany for another month. I was restricted to a 2km radius of the house and eventually Claudia got an Aer Lingus flight from Munich, the last one for over a year.”
Arriving as the pandemic took its grip, the couple adjusted gradually to life in locked down Ireland. Happily, they managed to get the family pet, a black cat called Sootie, out of quarantine and home to Scariff too.
“To be honest, we have been quite happy and the response to the pandemic has been much better in Ireland than in Germany,” Claus said.
“The vaccination programme in particular has been far better and the anti-vax movement is less powerful here. In Germany, that movement is huge.”
With time on his hands during lockdown, Claus got to grips with the cancellation of his international shows.
“There’s the financial hit, but money certainly isn’t my main motive in making art,” he said.
“It was the psychological and emotional impact of not being able to exhibit that affected me far more deeply. As an artist, you need that connection and feedback from an audience.”
The only upside to the lockdowns was the space and time to produce new work.
“I created a calendar of images shot within my 2km and 5km limits and, after a recent radio interview, orders are already coming in for the calendar I’m doing for 2022,” Claus said.
“This time around, I can travel across Clare, but I really want to find things that I can present with a unique perspective and point of view.”
‘Time Lapse’, the current exhibition, came about after a conversation with Scariff Bay Radio’s Eoin O’Hagan.
“He put me in contact with [Clare County Arts Officer] Siobhån Mulcahy and I’ve had great support and co-operation from her and from her team,” he said.
While Claus is a frequent exhibitor at prestigious shows across Europe, making an impact on the Irish art scene is particularly important to him.
“I’m a member of Visual Artists Ireland (VAI) and that’s a membership I really cherish,” he said. “I’m planning another exhibition in Ireland before too long. Next year, I’ll be back at Art Endingen in Germany where they choose the work of just 56 international artists. I’ve been invited six years in a row. I’ll also be taking up an invitation to exhibit in Tirana in Albania where I have enjoyed exhibiting before.”
Responses to the Scariff exhibition have been of huge interest to Claus.
“What people are saying is very interesting,” he said. “The pictures seem to be in touch with the public mood. The colours are warm and friendly and people are responding to that.
“Some of the pieces are very large, over a metre in width in some cases. I have three portraits of women and people are saying different things about those. Some find the pictures too rough, others find them beautiful.
“One is entitled ‘God is a Woman’ and there’s a big reaction to that. It might sound weird to describe the work as emotional, but that’s what I’m aiming for.
“I’m not trying to be picture-perfect down to the last detail. One woman said that the work had taken her into a dream world. I want to catch someone’s attention and then I’m really happy.”
‘Time Lapse’ by Claus-Eckhard Kraemer will run at the exhibition space at Scariff Public Library until October 16.