Bernadette Doolan

It’s about emotion.

It’s common knowledge we have five senses, smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing. However I feel we have more. What about feeling? There is the sixth sense people often talk about and this is an intuitive feeling, a hunch.

I am very much a person who appreciates all my senses, in particular smell and taste.
Gloss paint, cut grass, fresh coffee, oranges, wood burning, old books, mud, ginger, old spice aftershave, mams handbag, babies, petrol, daffodils, never mind lilies, slurry, dust, cigarettes, pipe tobacco, pine cones, Halloween and springtime.

To truly experience all of these we use our smell in the first place, in some of them we have used our taste. However for us to be able to taste, our taste is in fact 80% smell. Try holding your nose when eating a biscuit, can you really taste it? In each of these examples we use our memory to recall what these tasted or smelled like without even a thought. Here is where the feeling comes into play. Take gloss paint for example, with only reading the word I am teleported back to being a young girl. My dad was a painter and decorator, so I remember the smell of the paint clearly. I can then instantly recall a particular time of the day, I am now singling out a particular day, a mundane one. But now my memory is of a winters evening coming up to Christmas, fire on, dinner cooking in the kitchen. Top of the pops on in the other room. The wall papering table assembled in the hall and dust sheets spread all over the floors, while the paint and cooking dinner compete on the smell front. I am able to relive all aspects of that memory complete with feeling and emotion. These can of course be happy or sad memories.

In my case I lost both my sense of smell and my sense of taste seven years ago. Therefore I rely heavily on my memory to remember what certain foods taste and smell like.

My art is about tapping into the emotion, perhaps that of my own experience or that of someone else that I witnessed. I realise now that a lot of me is in my work and as time goes on I realise just how much. However in my figurative paintings these are not portraits of me, they are portraits of emotion. What I find interesting is how other people can relate to the little girl for example. They relate to the child in themselves. It can conjure up memories and feelings. People have often bought from me because the girl in the painting reminded them of themselves, though they clarify not in looks, but in feeling. Sometimes it’s the space in the painting that adds to the emotional experience. It can be about what is left out as much as what you put in.

Exhibition: When I Grow Up.