President Mary McAleese this afternoon (Nov. 14th) unveiled well over 200 pieces of art by Pauline Bewick at the Walton Building in Waterford Institute of Technology where the valuable collection is to be permanently shown having been donated to the State by the renowned Irish artist along with two further collections - one of which will be displayed in Killorglin, Co Kerry while the other will tour in Ireland and overseas.
President McAleese said she was "delighted" to open the permanent exhibition by an artist who has been painting since 1937 when she was just two years old.
Recalling that Pauline Bewick is a descendant of 19th Century artist Thomas Bewick, the President said, "If ever proof was needed that the thread of genius runs in families, it is here. But it is not Pauline's artistic roots which we celebrate today but the growth and blossoming of her unique visual poetry with its sophistication and subtlety, its hovering impressions and its so-confident drama.
"We know of course that Pauline Bewick is one of Ireland's leading artists and sometimes the simple rehearsal of that well-worn phrase can blind us to the hard road travelled and the process by which such a status and statement are earned. The integrity of the work and of the artist triumphed and it was the quality of communication in her uniquely lyrical graphic style that brought record-breaking crowds to her exhibitions and led to the universal acclaim which we celebrate today.
"All around the world you will find Pauline's work in the finest of galleries and collections. Appreciated by the widest, the most democratic and egalitarian of audiences, her work continues to delight and amaze."
Referring to the gift of Pauline Bewick's work, President McAleese said, "There is something of a role reversal here for we expect our educational institutions to be patrons of the arts. Yet, it is Pauline - the artist - who is both patron of education and of the Irish nation.
"The wealth of tapestries, wall hangings, watercolours and sketches and the sheer variety of media and subjects take us on Pauline's life journeys – the journeys through physical landscapes as varied as Kerry and the South Pacific, and the interior journeys where emotion and thought, passion and reflection are translated into such intriguing images.
"Autobiography and, in this case, visual autobiography is a very tough personal challenge. Yet, here it is done without flattery or pretence, without guile or disguise. The students, staff and visitors who view these pictures will be privileged to experience a visually and intellectually exciting environment.
"Just as the name of the great Ernest Walton (the Co Waterford-born Nobel Physics Laureate in 1951), after whom this building is named pulls them towards the sciences as adventure, so the name of Pauline Bewick will pull them towards the arts as adventure. The balance could not be better and there is considerably more too to learn from both these brilliant people as Walton and Bewick - though immensely talented human beings - also share a natural modesty and unassuming nature well evidenced in the considerable investment both made in Irish life.
"The Waterford Institute and the city and people of Waterford and the southeast region now have this remarkable addition to their cultural heritage and attractions. So many hardworking people have been involved in mounting this collection and I say a big thank you to all on that very long list. But today the person we gather to thank has to be the artist herself. The gift will change the future of Waterford Institute of Technology and Pauline herself will likely never know how much joy her work will bring or how many it will enrich and inspire.
"I am sure that the giving of such a vast quantity of work was an enormous personal wrench and a very considerable sacrifice. I hope that such kindness will be well rewarded and well vindicated by the joy with which this Institute has welcomed the gift and the care it will take of the stewardship it has assumed for future generations."
Prof Kieran R Byrne, Director, Waterford Institute of Technology added "Pauline Bewick's unique style and work have been fairly described as 'Picasso-like'. Pauline is a remarkably prolific artist and, as President McAleese has said, her work can be found in galleries and collections throughout the world. She is rightly acknowledged with membership of the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy) and Aosdána but I know her living legacy here at Waterford Institute of Technology also carries real meaning for this most generous of artists who we can scarcely begin to thank enough.
"It is especially apt that part of the wider collection Pauline has gifted to the State will be showcased in a higher education institution given how adept this artist has been at grasping the concept of lifelong learning – evidenced from her willingness to uproot to the South Pacific in the late 1980s and early 1990s to spend two years working on paintings and sketches that serve to bring that part of the world nearer to us all.
"Pauline's creativity will serve as an inspiration to all the staff and students who work at the Walton Building and the countless others who come here to view this enchanting collection which immeasurably enriches our learning environment.
"In welcoming this enlightened gift to the State, I also want to acknowledge the role of Dr Abdul Bulbulia and Claire and Pat Keegan of Solo Arte in putting Waterford and our Walton Building forward as a suitable home for this cross-section of Pauline's work. I know the wider Institute community, the people of Waterford and all those from Ireland and overseas who view this collection will share my gratitude in this regard. I also extend thanks and praise to Pauline's assistant Martyn Bell who has done such Trojan work on arranging this collection to best effect."
The work unveiled by President McAleese is shown across three floors around the Walton Building's central atrium. The ground floor houses work from the current era while the first floor features work from the artist's middle years and the 2nd floor showcases art from the early years.
The 3,000m² Walton Building forms a key part of the Institute's world-class information and communications technology infrastructure.