I Was There!

I Was There! 

A New Collection of Paintings by Maria O’Brien and Jock Nichol 

Standing in front of Jock Nichol and Maria O’Brien’s paintings, you can just imagine yourself there: wandering along mountain forest tracks or exploring vast expanses of flora on boglands, paddle boarding through canyons or skiing at speed downhill – you can practically feel the sun on skin and crisp air whooshing past. A feeling of tranquillity or adrenalin that only being in the great outdoors can bring.  

Over the past year, we’ve all experienced our walls and worlds closing in. As we continue through Levels and Lockdowns, any escape beyond our 5kms is a welcome one. Each artwork in this collection presents a scene further afield. 

Jock’s landscapes, although without people, are animated by the trees and clouds within them. He notes he doesn’t not consciously leave people out; trees take on a personality, and as Maria observed while we selected the show, she remembers Jock is there– just behind the canvas and paintbrush!  

Maria’s paintings capture moments of activity and adventure we previously experienced in the outdoors. Painting from memory and photographic notes, her own palate or vocabulary comes through. The scenery seems to tell her what colours to use, speaking to her. Flashes of brighter clothing break out from muted, natural tones, captured with a sense of fun. Using a mix of memory, her own photos taken in favourite places and other images captured in the same locations, Maria is  lead to imagine other people’s stories too, wondering what else has happened there…  

Both artists have observed, with some amusement, modern tourists’ habit of taking “selfies”in scenic places, often without actually paying much attention to the scenery, focused only on their own presence in the scenery. Perhaps many people fail to reverently observe the multitude of hues, tones and textures that the artists eye expertly captures. This collection offers viewers an opportunity to appreciate that great beauty beyond our current limits, to look forward to exploring again soon, and to remember ‘I Was There!’.  

Download the catalogue HERE 


“Working outside, immersed in the changing light, wind, cold, smells and sounds, has always been central to my process. In the experience of making the work I become a participant as much as a spectator as the day unfolds. 

Lately, the landscape of the bog has become my source of inspiration, from the vast horizons to the minute detail at my feet. But the constant fleeting changes are only part of a longer story. Rusting machinery sits beside 7,000-year-old bog pine and fossils of shells and reeds, from a much earlier time when this was the bed of a vast lough covering the middle of Ireland. Now laying exposed, it is waiting to return to beneath the water with the re-wetting of this post-industrial landscape. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel, this landscape has become a place of memory rather than experience. Memory filters, omits and exaggerates, certain features come to the fore, but they are not necessarily specific, tied to a particular space or time. These works are a composite, the culmination of time spent on the bog, played out in the studio where a very different intuition calls the tune.”

Scottish born artist Jock Nichol attended Edinburgh College of Art, gaining a BA Hons and Post Graduate Diploma in Drawing and Painting. Since moving to Ireland in 1991 he has exhibited widely and his work is in public and private collections in Ireland and abroad.

This collection is a direct response to the everyday landscape surrounding his adopted Midlands home, particularly the marginal land around the bogs and forests. Though not spectacular in the traditional sense, these places hold an understated beauty and mystery. 

Using pastels, oils, and particularly the versatile medium of acrylics, Jock works en plein air (outdoors),returning to specific spots repeatedly to gain an intimate understanding of the nuances of a place – when the utterly familiar can constantly surprise.

He currently lives near Birr Co. Offaly and tutors at Abbeyleix Further Education Centre, Co Laois.




My main interests are in figures in landscapes. They are inspired by Romanticism but with a modern twist. Romanticism allows the opportunity for the provisional states, flux and liminal states. Nods to Romantic painters are there too, with Wanderers above seas of fog, but with all the requisite gear and Gore-Tex. I like how the kayaks, kogools and protective eye-wear contrast with the natural environments they inhabit and interact with. Visibility and contrast in otherwise harmonious colour-scapes. I enjoy the spirit of adventure and excitement but also the solitary and sometimes melancholic atmosphere that can be captured. I question whether the figures are really experiencing nature or are at odds as represented by all their garish gear. 

Through my style of painting, I strive to capture the effects of light and atmosphere, whether dramatic or serene. I am interested in optical mixing of colour. I use subtle harmonious gradients of colour to depict skies and other aspects landscapes then revel in contrasting complementary colours with the addition of the manmade in the landscapes. I also like to see the extraordinary in the everyday situations through my use of colour and light.”

Maria wishes to acknowledge that the work featured in this exhibition would not be possible without generous support from Laois County Council and Tipperary County Council. (Tyrone Guthrie Centre Bursary and Support for Artists Materials Bursaries.)  

Maria is a professional visual artist working in Tipperary. From 2014-2019, she was a resident artist in Laois Arthouse, Stradbally. She paints in oils, acrylic and watercolour. Solo Exhibitions include Laois Arthouse; Tipperary County Council Civic Offices; Dunamaise Arts Centre; Signal Arts Centre and Excel Arts Centre. She has also participated in many group exhibitions such as Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival; Stradbally Sixat Laois Arthouse; Open Submissions, Visibilityand Escapein Dunamaise Arts Centre; Artworksin the Éigse Carlow Arts Festival at Visual Carlow; Boyle Arts Festival, King House, Boyle; Cairde Arts Festival, The Model Sligo and Iontas, Yeats memorial building, Sligo. 

Maria was first introduced to Laois Arthouse studios when she won a generous month-long residency through Dunamaise Arts Centre’s Open Submission Exhibition in 2013, selected by Noel Kelly of Visual Artists Ireland.

Maria has a First-Class Honours BA and an MA in Fine Art Painting from NCAD, Dublin. She also has a Higher Diploma in Art Education from Limerick School of Art and Design, LIT. Maria teaches art in the Midlands Prison Education Centre, Portlaoise and has curated exhibitions of her students work for exhibitions at Dunamaise Gallery in recent years. 

Funded by

The Arts Council


Dunamaise Arts Centre

Church Street Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland.

Contact The Dunamaise Arts Centre

Box Office Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 10am to 5.30pm
Saturday: 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm.
One hour prior to curtain on the evening of a performance.
Box office 00353 57 866 3355.

General Enquiries: info@dunamaise.ie

Our Sponsors

The Arts Council Laois County Council

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