Art is a refuge for busy mother of three
Life can get pretty intense for Louisa Bermingham. A full-time teacher with three children of her own, she finds peace through her art, usually painting during her lunch break at Sandys Secondary Middle School.
“Art just quiets my mind and preserves my mental health,” she said. “I am not necessarily an anxious person, but I am kept busy all the time. I relax with art the way some people relax with a mindless movie.”
Her latest exhibit is Keeping Calm. The show opened on Friday at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, with 32 acrylic paintings of colourful house plants, room interiors and landscapes on display.
Ms Bermingham trained herself to paint in a speedy and efficient way when her now 20-year-old son Liam, was a baby.
“When I put the wash on the canvas I work in sets of five or six canvases,” she said. “That will take me about a half an hour. At that time I will have a vague idea of what I am going to put on them.“
She then pencils in the shapes she wants to paint, and adds big blocks of colour. The finer details come later.
“I may leave it for a week and then say, I know what that needs,” she said.
“I like listening to the birds, and the natural world around me while I work,” said Ms Bermingham, who has a 17-year-old daughter, Grace, and an eight-year-old son, Francis.
“I have a lot more time now that the older two are bigger.”
Short time constraints have, however, become ingrained in her creative process.
“I intentionally limit the time in which I create images as a way of capturing immediacy with my mark-making,” she said.
Masterworks plans its shows 13 or 14 months out, so she knew Keeping Calm was coming. Some of the paintings were made in 2021 and 2022; most are from this year.
“I did stockpile work a little bit. Quite a few were made just last week,” she laughed. “I work better under pressure – just a little bit, as it turns out.”
She started thinking about the themes of calmness and peace during the early months of the pandemic when the world went into lockdown.
“The pandemic afforded me a lot of time to paint,” she said. “Painting was something you could do to escape, either into or out of your own mind, I’m not sure which.”
The floral paintings all bear witness to her love of patterns, either in the leaves or in the backdrop.
“I did textiles as an undergraduate so I like the repeat pattern,” she said. “It is rhythmic, and there is something comforting in seeing those patterns.”
She often takes photos of friends’ plants, animals or rooms and then goes home and paints a scene.
“Sometimes I take photos when I am walking on the Railway Trail,” she said. “I am always snapping images as I move around.”
Two paintings are of the container dock in Hamilton; one of her favourites pieces is of roses in a Japanese vase.
Although she has a vague idea of what she is going to paint at the beginning of a session, she is often really excited to see how the work will turn out. And while some artists feel self-doubt when they finish a piece, that is not her way. “Usually I totally love it,” she said.
Most often it’s the little details she finds particularly thrilling – like a bright blue cross pattern she decided to put at the bottom of a painting.
“Sometimes if I have had a painting for too long I will recycle the canvas and paint over,” she said. “But I have to really dislike the image, and really need the canvas, to do that. I am having trouble putting some of the paintings in this show on sale. All of the paintings in the show have some aspect that I really love.”
Ms Bermingham’s last show was at Christmas, at the Bermuda Society of Arts. In 2022 her work exhibited as part of the London Biennial. Her last art displayed at Masterworks in 2018.
• Keeping Calm is on show in the Rick Faries Gallery of Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art until October 24. For more information see masterworksbermuda.org. Louisa Bermingham will host a talk about her work at Masterworks on October 17 from 5.30pm to 7pm. For more on her art follow @louisabermingham on Instagram