FROM next week, the Arts office in Laois County Council will be hosting an exhibition of paintings entitled ‘Sojourn’. This collection of paintings is by Portlaoise artist Christy Browne. The exhibition is being held in association with the HSE and will be officially opened on Thursday March 29, by Kevin Kavanagh, director of the Kevin Kavanagh gallery.
Christy Browne was born in 1954 and lived in Bridge St in Portlaoise where his family ran a General Merchants shop. The shop later became a restaurant and take-away, one of the very few in Portlaoise, which was a very different place at that time. It is now Kelly’s butcher shop. The Brown family are synonymous with the business fabric of the town.
Christy’s first dalliance with the art was in primary school with the Sisters of Charity, and this followed through to secondary school in the CBS where he did Irish dancing and played tin whistle. Christy lost his dad at an early age and at this point he came into possession of a guitar, his first love. He went on to become very proficient at it, the mouth organ and blues harp.
In the mid 70s he indulged in performing arts, busking firstly in London and then eventually in Portlaoise. His regular pitch was the archway at Marshes Lane. He also busked in Tullamore and indeed was the subject of an article in the Leinster Express ‘Laoisman becomes Tullamore‘s Troubadour’.
His musical leanings were folk and ballad with nationalistic tendencies. It was a natural progression that he joined Amnesty International.
Christy suffered a stroke in 2008 which impinged on his guitar playing and led him to be more involved in the visual arts. He describes his influences from both performance and visual arts as Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Christy Moore and also working with Seamus Morton.
From the late 70s Christy encountered mental health problems needing hospitalisation in St Fintans Hospital. It was there that Christy really became involved in art, collaborating with other artists, but with no formal training. In the past five years Christy has attended the Link activity centre in St Fintans campus. Under the guidance of Angela Delaney CNS in Art Therapy intervention his art began to flourish. He won a national competition last year at an exhibition entitled ‘Art against Stigma’ in Farmleigh Estate, Pheonix Park.
Since 2010 Christy has lived in Erkina House, Rathdowney, where his art continues to flourish and where he has his own studio, beside fellow artist Seamus Morton. He is also attending Abbeyleix Further Education Centre, completing an art course under Mary Delaney, arts teacher.
To say that Christy has been on a long sojourn with art is putting it mildly. Christy’s journey has been greatly assisted by the Arts Office at Laois County Council culminating in his very first solo exhibition. The exhibition will be launched at 7.30pm on Thursday March 29 at 7.30pm. All are welcome. The exhibition will run from Thursday March 29 until Friday April 20 and can be viewed by the public in Áras an Chontae, Portlaoise from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.