Home town fuels a burning obsession
LOCAL ARTIST Pat Burns ( nee Whelan) has often been told that she has a sincere and serious obsession with her home town of Bray.
Pat was born in Bray in 1957 having an idyllic childhood in the seaside town.
At the age of 10 her parents decided to move their family across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada to begin a new life there.
At 10-years-old Pat had made a life of her own in Bray, as children do, and wasn’t too keen on the move.
Since Bray had held such a close place in her heart she never forgot the town she knew and loved so well.
‘I suppose you could say that I had an idyllic childhood. I always remember the freedom that we had as kids and when I moved to Canada I missed this very much,’ remembers Pat.
Pat has strong memories of leaving her house in Grosvenor Villas early in the morning with her younger brother Kevin and sister Georgina.
‘We would leave the house and head down to the sea where we would spend hours playing and finding little adventures,’ says Pat.
Naylor’s Cove was one of Pat’s favourite haunts as a child and still remains a place where she often finds refuge from the bustle of the town.
Another favourite is Bray Head and as a keen hill walker Pat can often be found roaming the head or the Wicklow Mountains.
In Canada life was very different then it was in Ireland in the 1960s but Pat’s parents ensured that Ireland and Bray remained a constant fixture.
In Canada the Whelan family moved to an area that was predominately Irish and many of their friends had also come from the Emerald Isle.
Pat went to an Irish high school and learned Irish dancing and went to many ceili throughout her teenage years.
At 19, Pat made her first trip back to Bray.
‘I remember sitting on the rocks near Naylor’s Cove and looking out to the sea. It was then that I decided I would come back and live here someday,’ says Pat.
Back in Canada Pat met a wonderful Irish man by the name of Sandy Whelan from Whitehall in Dublin one night in an Irish bar; ‘I saw him and said right I’m going to have him!’
Sandy and Pat married and had two daughters Cecilia and Georgina.
Finally, ten years ago when Cecilia was 21-years-old and Georgina was 14-years-old, Sandy and Pat were in a position to move back to Bray.
‘My father had just passed away and my mother was on her own in Bray so I felt that family needed to be around her.
‘She was living in my grandparent’s house on Florence Road which Sandy and I had bought, so we all moved in together,’ explains Pat.
It was only now that Pat decided to take up painting.
She had never been encouraged to be artistic before although three of her siblings are artists.
But Pat had a yearning and began an interior design course that led her to a portfolio course that opened the doors to a four year degree in Fine Art in Dun Laoghaire.
‘I spent four exciting years learning about art and knowing what it meant,’ says Pat, ‘Being an artist is a vocation and consumes every waking moment. As an artist you are always thinking of the next thing.’
Pat’s first solo exhibition at the Signal Arts Centre in October 2006 was called Obsession and was a development of prints and paintings of her favourite place, Bray.
‘An artistic project is always an interesting journey for me and I never know exactly where I will end up but it will always be somewhere in Bray. Bray is my only inspiration,’ comments Pat.
Pat’s forthcoming exhibition Topophilia meaning Love of Place conveys her obsession with Bray.
Here she has used The Bray People as a material resource moulded and making paper cubes called Striations from old issues.
‘I consider that the Bray People is an embodiment of the life of Bray, past, present and future,’ explains Pat.
For Pat being backing Bray is a childhood dream made reality.
‘It is a wonderful and fulfilling dream to come back and live here. Bray is full to the brim of happy memories for me and that is why it is so close to my heart,’ says Pat.
Pat Burns with one of the new exhibition.
that she used to create her