exhibition Details

Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory

Curated by Sara Foust


Mary Fahy | Sara Foust | Kaye Maahs

Matthew Mitchell | Gerry O’Mahony 

Marianne Potterton | Trudi Van Der Elsen


Burren College of Art | Ballyvaughan | Co Clare

Exhibition dates: May 30, 2024 – June 21, 2024

Opening Reception: Thursday, May 30, 2024 6-8pm

Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:00pm


contact@burrencollege.ie | 065 7077200

Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory

“Beyond Brushstrokes: Between Matter and Memory,” curated by Sara Foust presents an engaging new movement of painters emerging in rural Co Clare.

This exhibition, featuring artists: Matthew Mitchell, Kaye Maahs, Sara Foust, Trudi Van Der Elsen, Marianne Potterton, Gerry O’Mahony, and Mary Fahy, explores the evolving landscape of painting, where traditional techniques meet innovative expressions. 

The exhibition showcases a departure from conventional painting, embracing experimental mark-making that captures both the physical and emotional landscapes. Each artist brings a unique approach: from Matthew Mitchell’s clay paint that mirrors the geological forms of Clare, to Trudi Van Der Elsen’s electric waterscapes, that are each evolving the expectations of the form and shaping it in unique ways.

Sara Foust, both curator and featured artist, emphasizes the physical in painting, exploring the depth and movement of the medium: “This exhibition is about the physical act of making marks in painting, from subtle techniques like scumbling to more dynamic methods like flicking or flinging paint. It’s fascinating to see how each artist’s gestural movements create a record of their creative process.”

The exhibition invites viewers to experience the intricate dance between the physicality of art (the matter) and its ability to convey and evoke psychological, emotional, and historical narratives (the memory).

Mary Fahy

Mary Fahy captures the essence of north Clare in her vibrant and dynamic paintings. Despite their small size, her works are intense in their depiction of local scenes. Mary’s paintings pull and push the viewer into the landscape, whether it’s the waves at Freagh or the flow of the Inagh river. Her work is a treasure, offering a new perspective on the local landscape with each brushstroke.

Mary graduated from LSAD in 2001 (1st). Her degree show was awarded the Revenue Commissioners Purchase Prize and selected for The Young Contemporaries exhibition, Belltable Arts Centre. Completing her H. Dip in Art Education 2003 (1st), for which she won the Larkin Memorial Award and the Irish Times Award. She has worked an art teacher in Ennistymon since 2003.   Mary was awarded the Clare Arts Office Bursary Residency Award 2023 and the Glór Artist to Artist Mentorship with Vera Klute in 2022. She completed a mentorship with textile artist Laura Angell, supported by JCT and the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland 2023.


Instagram: @maryfahyart


Sara Foust (Curator and Featured Artist)

Sara Foust, curator and featured artist, is inspired by the physical act of making marks in painting. Her work explores various techniques, reflecting the joy and technical skill in the creative process. Her paintings are alive with movement, capturing the essence of water and its many forms.

Sara’s inspiration for the exhibition came from her own exploration of mark-making in her own paintings and observing the tremendous range other artists are using themselves. Working from her Ennistymon studio and gallery, her paintings are alive with scrapes and drips, transparent layers of mysterious depths and surface textures. There are hard edges and soft skies and lots of water. Sara paints the water with skill and playfulness, enjoying the abstraction it can contain. “I love to mess around with different painting tools to create these deep areas of moving water. What are you painting when you are painting water? Everything… the moving surface of the water, the distorted reflections of land and sky, the depths beneath the surface with murky mysteries. It’s a constant adventure.”

“In curating this exhibition, I wanted to celebrate this kind of playful and technical skill that these particular artists use in their work, that is the focus of the exhibition. And it makes for a very exciting group of work, as well.”



Sara Foust was born in 1970 in America and spent her childhood on a rural farm in the deep South.  Sara trained at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design in the USA, and with master muralist Susan Cervantes in San Francisco, California where she painted for many years.  She has lived and worked on the west coast of Co Clare since 2002, and is deeply inspired by the landscape of the west. 

Sara exhibits her artwork throughout Ireland and internationally.  Her work has been supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and Clare County Council, and commissioned by CREATE, Leader/RRD, Cluid Housing and HSE, and is in many private collections in Ireland, UK and America.   Her work has been featured recently in ‘An Bhoirinn’ on TG4.  In her layered and textural landscapes, Sara explores emotional resonance, nostalgia and architectural narrative.  Sara pushes the viewer into her landscapes with vigorous marks and vibrant palette, conveying a visual immediacy which enhances the play of illusion and flattening within each painting.  Sara paints in her studio gallery in Ennistymon, Co Clare, close to the landscape where she finds her inspiration. 

Sara has been curating exhibitions for many years, beginning in 1994 when she was a full-time curator for Abstein Gallery in Atlanta, GA USA. She helped create the gallery program at Ennistymon Courthouse Gallery in 2005 and has served many years on the board of the Courthouse. In 2015, Sara opened Foust Gallery in Ennistymon, where she is the owner, artist and sole curator showing her own artwork and representing 10 other local artists.


Instagram: @sara_foust


Kaye Maahs

Kaye Maahs’ work is defined by daily observations and musings.  It is the residue of these moments that informs her paintings.  Paintings that are never made directly from life, instead they evolve naturally in the quiet moments within the studio.  The art of recall plays a vital part in Maahs’ process, and it is the emotional that dictates the visual within her work.

Kaye Maahs is a painter and a native of Kerry who has been living and working in the Burren, County Clare since 2003.  She was recently awarded an Art Council Ireland, Agility Award in 2023 and in 2021. Kaye was also a recipient of the Clare Artists Mentoring Scheme with Glor, Ennis (2020) supported by Creative Ireland & the Arts Council Ireland; her mentor was Una Sealy, RHA, Dublin.  She was awarded the Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust Award 2019.  Other shows include the Ballinglen Arts Foundation and Museum of Art First Biennial Exhibition, RHA Annual Exhibition, and the RA Summer Exhibition.


Instagram: @kayemaahs


Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell is a fine artist painter based in Co Clare. In 2017 Mitchell completed his MFA at NCAD and was awarded a NCAD Studio Residency at NAStudios, Dublin. Since graduating from NCAD was awarded the emerging Irish Artist Residency Award at the Burren College of Art. He has exhibited widely in Ireland, and is represented by So Fine Art, Dublin. His studio is based in the Gentian Press Artist Hub, Lisdoonvarna. His work is held in both National, corporate and private collections.

Matthew Mitchell’s unique approach to painting involves wild-harvested clay paint, evoking aerial views of geological forms. His process begins with harvesting clay, creating a palette that is fundamentally the colors of Clare’s earth. Matthew reflects on his work: “This work is an attempt to find a visual language for the duality between our necessarily abstracted experience of place and being in the new digital landscape, and our perception of place and being in relation to the more tangible primeval geological past.” His paintings, such as Kilmacreehy and Ballycotton, showcase a blend of earthy textures with modern enamel paints, capturing our multi-layered experience of earth and sky.



Gerry O'Mahony

A graduate of Limerick School of Art &Design, O’Mahony employs a vocabulary of symbols and characters in work which distorts the line between painting and drawing. His pieces explore the power of words to produce a positive or negative response. He works primarily in acrylics and mixed media on board as well as watercolour paper. The work though not allegorical, flows between the visible and the concealed, the effervescent and the obscure. He works in series, often on a number of paintings at a time, shifting back and forth between various pieces to create a body of work.

Gerry O’Mahony has been a member of James Street Studios, Limerick, since January 2018. Before that he was part of Contact Studios, Limerick, (from 2005 until 2017). He is a member of VAI. Most recently he has been on a residency at Cill Rialaig, Co. Kerry. He was awarded the 2022 Tyrone Guthrie Bursary. He is also a member of ArtCan, a U.K. based international art network.




Marianne Potterton

Marianne Potterton is a Visual Artist living and working from her studio in Doolin. She has been working as an artist for over 25 years. She has a Masters in Europe Fine Art where she was based in Barcelona and a First Class Honors Degree in Fine art Painting from Crawford College of Art. Previously she studied in Wales in Southampton University and also Grennan Mill Craft School in Thomastown, Kilkenny.

It was in Grennan Mill that she gained a love for materials while working with clay, metal, weaving, batik and printing. Potterton started to paint the landscape while living in Snowdonia, she would climb the mountain before college early in the morning and at the weekend to paint. Over time she became more interested in the idea of painting as part of the landscape, not viewing it as something separate. The horizon disappeared and her paintings became more topographical resembling maps, both internal and external maps. Mark making is an endless and loved language for Potterton. She obsessively forms new ways of making marks. Often with meticulous detail, Potterton works on her paintings building up layers. Her artworks kind of grow through an intimate relationship with her materials and her environment, and it is always a surprise.

Instagram: @imartingaround


Trudi Van Der Elsen

The virtual network between computers has transformed our perception and experience of the world from the single historical ‘vanishing point’ to a multi-dimensional view. My paintings investigate and echo this multi-dimensional view of perception, not as a representation but rather as a distillation of an essence, a re-creation and transformation; a new way to make visible the inner and the outer layers of perception, simultaneously.

My practice is influenced and excited by the natural environment, the land and landscape surrounding my studio on the Shannon Estuary in South West Clare. In particular the River Shannon, the mythology of the river goddess Sionainn and Connla’s Well. These mythologies resonate with me and inspire me to extend myself, to be open in the process of creative expression. I work intuitively, connecting on a deeper level with all senses involved.  A slow process of pulling and pushing, creating and deleting, resulting in a multi-layered image, where brushed organic forms and pen marks compliment or vie for position within spaces, within layers.

TRUDI VAN DER ELSEN is a visual artist based in Ireland since 2004. Her practice includes painting, drawing, installation work, performance and lens-based media. She exhibits regularly both nationally and internationally.

Recent exhibitions have included:

Echo, solo exhibition ArtNetdlr in Walters, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin (2023) Estuary, solo exhibition Custom House Studios and Gallery, Westport (2023), Sionainn, solo exhibition at Limerick Museum (2023), Breaking Borders, Curated by Valeria Ceregini, LUAN Gallery Athlone & GOMA, Waterford, IRL (2022), Artists from Ireland, online exhibition, Sasse Art Museum, Los Angeles, USA (2021), Fragmented Perception, solo exhibition at Weber & Weber Gallery, Turin, Italy (2021)


Instagram: @trudivdelsen