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Discovering the wilds of the peninsula

Carmel Madigan, originally from The Bridges of Ross, working in her studio at Ballyalla, Ennis. Photograph by John KellyWEST Clare artist Carmel T Madigan is launching an exhibition at the Terrace Room in Dromoland Castle on Sunday, November 25.

She will also be launching the Loophead Summer Hedge School, which is taking place for the first time next July and August.


Last year she published her first book The Wild Flowers of Loophead. She says the scenery she grew up with is a major influence. “The work is pretty much expressionist actually, totally inspired by nature, fairly heavily inspired by Loop Head, but not quite always. That’s where I grew up and I wrote a book on the wild flowers of the area. There’s a lot of movement and energy in the work and it relates back to the windy, lively, wave-filled environment at Loop Head. There’s a wild energy in the work and that’s why it’s so expressionist.”

She has held exhibitions in Dromoland several times in the past. “It’s more or less an annual exhibition. It didn’t go ahead for the last two years but I used to be there every year before that. I’m in Killarney the weekend before that, where I go every year at this time of year for an exhibition.”

While she worked in a corporate environment for years, she has received a lot of acclaim as an artist. “I went to UL and studied business there. I worked in management and accounting with multi-nationals for about 13 years and then I set up a graphic design business, which was pretty much at the cutting edge at the time. When my last child was born I wanted a bit more flexibility, so I took on painting and mixed media work, which I developed over the last 12 years or so. I’ve exhibited in Florence, Barcelona and New York as well as all over Ireland as well.”

Her work has been sold and displayed in a number of hotels and the Department of Defence.
While she is still asked to go abroad, the economic climate in many countries puts her off. “I do get a lot of invitations to go abroad but at this point in time it’s too risky, the environment is too negative and you mightn’t generate enough sales.”

Her parents live by the Bridges of Ross and the area she grew up in is very important to her.
The Loop Head Summer Hedge School is set to begin on July 10 next year and she says it will offer something different in the area.

“Loop Head is an up and coming tourism destination. It was always about Kilkee and maybe if visitors wanted to get away from there they’d go to the Bridges of Ross and a few went around the lighthouse, but it used to be closed. The area deserves a bit more in terms of an offering and an eco-tourism product really.”

She outlined some of the events that will be taking place. “There’ll be about nine different planned events and they’ll each happen over a period of five weeks. There’ll be rocky shore exploration, which will take one down to the lower shore at lower spring tide and investigate all the species and inhabitants of the lower shore. It’s very interesting and having had a lot of people last summer on that rocky shore, I found that people who grew up in the area and moved away, really rekindled their childhood memories. It was a lovely experience really.

“There will be a slideshow version of that, hopefully, for people who really would find it a bit difficult to get down to the lower shore because it’s dangerous and quite slippery territory.”

That won’t be the only opportunity to explore the local landscape. “Then we have the guided botanical walks and again slideshow versions of that. That brings you around on an 8km stretch of very narrow, very quiet roads, which is abundant with wildflowers at that time. You have about 100 species of wildflower to discover on that 8km walk. They’re not all flowers of Loop Head either; there are different variations of flowers.

“Then I’m doing what I call tea, philosophy and art, which is an artistic workshop with a difference; it’s a three-day event. That would work with people in helping them to develop their own artistic expression basically.”

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