The Waterford exhibition shows the situation of Syrian refugees

An exhibition that runs across three prominent venues in Waterford City during the festival period shows the life work of a well-known local artist and focuses on the situation of Syrian refugees in recent years.

Elpis is the ancient Greek word for “spirit of hope” and is the title of the retrospective of Ben Hennessy, spanning four decades of paintings.

Over 70 works can be seen at the Gallery of Modern Art in Waterford as well as the Theater Royal and Artform Gallery at 44 The Quay, where much of the third floor is dedicated to the show.

Some of the paintings completed in the last few years are inspired by refugees from Syria who have come to Izmir in Turkey.

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Many are cared for by the center, run by Team International Assistance for Integration Charity, founded five years ago by Anne O’Rorke, who is also from Waterford.

“During the Covid lockdown, I attended an online exhibition hosted by the Imagine Festival here in Waterford,” Mr Hennessy recalls.

Ben Hennessy with Anne O’Rorke (left) and Martina O’Byrne from Gallery 44 The Quay in Waterford

“As part of that, I gave an interview from my studio and mentioned my boat paintings and their references to Alan Kurdi and the Syrian refugees.”

As a result, Ms. O’Rorke made contact, and after their talks, Mr. Hennessy traveled to Izmir to assist at the TIAFI Center with art classes for the young refugee children as part of his work.

“I had been working with children all my life, doing art and theater, and I suggested that it would be a good idea to come out without knowing if it was a good idea because of the desperate situation they were in. , in terms of not having enough food, the life situation, so to go somewhere and make art I was really not sure if I would be welcomed.

“But on the contrary, it turned out to be something that brought a bit of joy there, and I ended up making a lot of Facebook blogs and telling people’s stories in order to raise money to build an art space. So we built an art room. , and the response was so positive that we were able to hire an art teacher for a year, a few days a week, and the money was also able to help with the ongoing work that Ann is doing with an incredible bunch of people in Izmir. “

Details of the exhibition at Waterford are available online and should, according to Mrs O’Rorke, raise awareness of her group’s work.

“Ben has been an inspiration. When you’re over there working all the time and I’ve been there for five years now, you get full of sadness and it’s sometimes a very sad situation and then Ben comes and all the time. suddenly he brings this joy to the place, “she said.

“And although in some of these pictures I can see the sadness in them, there is also a great energy in them, and they really represent the situation of the refugees.

“I think they are wonderful paintings, and not only are they wonderful paintings, but the good will they bring and the fun that Ben brought to us has been amazing.”

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