A House Of Pomegranates

I’m excited to share with you the video of my “A House Of Pomegranates” opening night in Johnston Central Library, Cavan on September 21st 2019. Thanks to my sister Lorriane Harton for making the video and to “Yesterday Man” for their fantastic track “Early Bird”.

Press Release For ‘A House of Pomegranates’

An exhibition of paintings inspired by The Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde

Michelle Harton is an artist from Cavan working mainly in acrylic and water soluble pastel. ‘A House of Pomegranates’ is her first solo show and contains her largest works to date. The beautifully written “The Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde” was given to Michelle by her Grandma Harton when she was a child.

“When I read these stories as a child I just read them as fairy stories, even though they didn’t seem like the normal type of children’s tales because most of them don’t end up how you would like them to. It was only when I started to read the book again a few years ago I realised the depth of these stories. Oscar Wilde’s plays are well known but there are not so many people who could tell you about his fairy stories or express how profound the lessons in them are. I wanted to keep the paintings more childlike even though they deal with very strong hard hitting themes, but bring in more modern elements like spray paint which is a new material for me to use. I’ve also mixed up how I’ve painted faces in the works as some paintings have more childlike whimsical faces and others are more realistic portraits as a way to reference these adult themes wrapped up in fairy stories. I hope some people are inspired to pick up this book and read or re-read it after seeing my paintings”.

“I was asked by a writer friend as a result of the input I had from reading his stories and then creating artistic output through my paintings, whether I had come to know Oscar Wilde, in all of his complexity. A very hard question! I think it can be hard to know an artist from their work, because sometimes they produce work of who they wish they could be or work that may not really be them at all, but then I guess there is the element of parts of themselves coming out unconsciously also. I think in the fairy stories anyway Wilde doesn’t want to preach about how someone should live but he wants to show things for what they really are and then let the reader use their own conscience to decide how they should behave. For me the main themes I think Wilde works with within the fairy stories are the injustice between rich and poor and how the poor suffer so the rich can have beautiful things, which is interesting as he really surrounded himself with a lot of beautiful things so it’s hard to know if he felt guilt about this or if he always knew he himself would end up poor so he lived it up while he could. There’s almost a prophetic energy about some of the stories hinting at his inevitable downfall especially in ‘The Happy Prince’ and for me ‘The Devoted Friend’ seems like the relationship that was to become between him and his lover Alfred “Bosie” Douglas but this would have been written before they met. The other themes that are very strong in the book are about arrogance, blindly following those with power or beauty, selfishness, that you should be kind to everyone regardless of appearance and very strongly that you don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle to treat them with respect, all with strong religious interlacings. So it’s almost like he’s trying to stop the next generations from being as judgemental as the world he’s living in or he wishes he could live in a more open society, so for me everything links strongly to him being a gay man in a society where it was illegal. Perhaps he was using the stories to work through his own feelings about life or perhaps as I feel when I read them that he’s standing back just showing life for what it is and the great strangeness in it. And most importantly I think for him he’s weaving beauty in the stories in the happiness and in the sorrow. He wrote a letter to Bosie when he was in Reading jail that said; “You came to me to learn the Pleasure Of Life and The Pleasure Of Art. Perhaps, I am chosen to teach you something much more wonderful, the meaning of Sorrow and it’s beauty.” And I think maybe this is what he was trying to do in the stories because they are so sad but the imagery they create even in the sadness is so beautiful, which was what inspired me.”

The exhibition was kindly sponsored by Johnston Central Library, Creative Ireland and Cavan Arts Office.


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