Artistic view of the Huguenot links


Artistic view of the Huguenot links

The iconic paintings of Co Down based artist Tommy Barr have found the perfect setting and look set to bring a creative twist to this year’s Festival Francais in Port.

The exhibition, entitled 'Un Beau Refuge', will open this year’s festival on Friday 8th July from 6pm, in the old French Church, St Paul’s on French Church Street.

The paintings will be on display in the church over the weekend of the festival. Opening remarks will be by H.E. Jean-pierre Thébault, French Ambassador to Ireland, who said, “French Huguenot heritage to be an integral and important part of our common Irish-French history. A legacy worth admiring when ones considers the impressive contribution made to Ireland’s arts, science, politics and economic life. It is worth reflecting upon also at a time where millions are seeking refuge around the world”.

Tommy’s paintings draw upon the legacy of these Huguenots in Ireland and have been created using a collage of motifs found at their 5 main settlements - Dublin, Portarlington, Waterford, Cork and Lisburn. Creating the paintings has been a labour of love for Tommy who is a direct line Huguenot descendent. He has found visiting these sites and collecting the motifs remaining from the lives of these refugees “inspirational” and “an opportunity to spend a little time exploring in the footsteps of my ancestors”.

To date the paintings have been exhibited to great acclaim in La Rochelle, Bad Karlshafen, Berlin, Waterford, Lisburn and most recently in February of this year at the French Cultural Centre in Boston. At this exhibition Irish Consul General, Fionnuala Quinlan presented one of the paintings to the permanent collection of the centre. Festival Chairperson Mary Foy believes the exhibition is a perfect fit.

“The exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for the people of Portarlington to learn more about the Huguenot heritage of their town and those responsible for many of the buildings that are still standing here today. Culture is a very important part of the festival and we feel that Tommy’s paintings will add to this,” she said..

The paintings will be complimented by the Church’s own collection of Huguenot silver and important documents from the archive. Also on display will be the famous bronze bell presented by Princess Caroline of Brunswick, then Princess of Wales, in 1714.

As part of the Festival, a complimentary talk on Portarlington and the Huguenots will be held in the French Church, on Saturday at 12:30pm by local Historian David Orford. The whole programme is set deliver a real treat for artists, historians and festival goers alike.

Tommy is grateful to the festival committee for their kind invitation, to exhibition co-ordinator Shauna Blanchfield for her vision and enthusiasm and also to Rev. Lesley Stevenson for the opportunity to exhibit in this historic venue. Rev. Stevenson describes the Church as atmospheric and inspiring and is keen to see how the paintings will look there. Tommy is also looking forward to his visit to Portarlington and believes that the inclusion of an exhibition in the framework of a festival always makes it a little special.

Entry to both events is free and all are welcome. Tommy will be on location during the festival and hopes everyone will stop to say hello and enjoy the exhibition.

For more details on the festival and the events planned over the weekend, please visit the Festival Francais de Portarlington Facebook page and festival programs will soon be available from traders in Portarlington town.