A visually impaired Greenisland artist is injecting colour into the lives of Newtownabbey residents as she opens her latest exhibition.
Fine art print artist Mary Kpakra lost her sight due to a hereditary condition in her early twenties, and was registered blind before she started to practise the visual arts.
A former member of Seacourt Print workshop, Mary’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout Ireland including the Waterfront Hall, Dublin Airport, The Ulster Museum, The Island Arts Centre and Flowerfield Arts Centre.
After receiving three guide dogs from Guide Dogs for the Blind over the years, Mary is now selling the unframed pieces from her latest exhibition, entitled ‘Echoes from Around the World,’ in aid of the charity.
The exhibition and sale includes etchings, photo intaglio, collagraphs, dry point etchings and monoprints.
Mary, who is originally from Carrickfergus, told The Times: “My art has been a means of expressing myself as a visually impaired artist.
“I have lived in countries such as Africa, China, India and Peru.
“They inspired my work and every time I have come back I have tried to create a piece of art afterwards.
“I love colour and because I have very little vision I like bright, contrasting colours and textures.
“I have done quite a lot of polygraphs and etchings using trees and tea leaves to create the effect of a leafy tree, as well as Greek herbs to give a more sensory experience.
“I have experimented with other media such as oil painting and watercolours, but when I started experimenting with fine art print making I discovered my forte. It lends itself well to the visually impaired; the collagraphs and relief prints can be very tactile.”
Now in her sixties, the local woman says that while there are areas she finds challenging due to her disability, she simply ‘works around them.’
She has also benefitted from the increased independence which her guide dogs have brought her for the past 24 years.
Mary commented: “I got my first guide dog in 1990 and I remember taking it to the University of Ulster to do my degree - I even had my dog at the graduation ceremony! My guide dogs are a big part of my life.”
Mary’s current companion is guide dog Quiz, who she says has allowed her to continue to enjoy her independence. She commented: “I would be more reluctant to go out if I didn’t have a dog. And it’s a lot better company than a white cane!”
‘Echoes from Around the World’ runs at Mossley Mill’s Flax Gallery until August 30. Admission is free.