Imagining the Unseen by Colm Brophy

Colm Brophy abstract art

Colm Brophy an art therapist and former Jesuit launched his latest art collection titled: Imagining the Unseen: Quantum Physics & Cosmology”. An exhibit mainly displaying abstract art, Brophy takes viewers on a journey through galaxies and space. By its very nature, the artwork leaves much to interpretation but there is purposeful meaning behind every canvas.

As Colm explains: “does the title of the exhibition sound over the top? It is.”

The exhibit is very much a journey of learning and discovery, as Colm continues: “I knew nothing about Physics. I never studied any science subject at school. It was only recently that I read four books by Carlo Rovelli. They cover the basic concepts of modern physics; a more detailed history of the subject; a long look at time and an island where great insights blossomed … I was stunned by the simplicity of his writing as well as being amazed at the unusual facts he brought to my attention”.

After taking in the artwork and looking around at the exhibit, I sat down with Colm to talk about the collection:

What inspires you to paint, generally?

Colm: I’m not sure what inspires me. I mean as a small kid I enjoyed painting and it’s just the feeling of freedom when you’re painting, I suppose is what inspires me and when I was in school my best subject was art. In my leaving cert my best marks were in art.

So I suppose I had it in myself somehow but also my ancestry. My grandfather on my father’s side and my grandmother on my mother’s side were both artists and they both did quite a bit of painting and I was always aware of that. I have an Italian grandmother. Her parents came to Ireland after the Catholic Emancipation and they started building churches and her father, my great grandfather, was a wood-carver and carved statues. So he had an artistic side to him… I was aware there was art in the blood


But, you know, I just enjoy it and these days when I paint – I’m just in this space and it’s beautiful and I’m free.  I’m totally free when I am painting. It’s a bit like meditation or contemplation or prayer, if you like, it’s just that I am creating.

Do you feel you have to be disciplined or is it something that because you enjoy it – it comes very easy and you get a blank canvas and off you go?

Colm: Well to do a portrait I have to be very disciplined, if you want people to recognise them as the person. I have to really work at it. But other ones, like that one down there.

-He points to a painting across the room –

That is just free movement and I can enjoy just moving freely like a 3 year old! But others I have to be disciplined and skilled. I attend art classes every week still and I’m always learning from my art teacher and the class.

So there’s a skill involved … so skilled that a painting becomes almost photographic … but there’s something unreal about that. I think the 3 year old or 4 year old has a great lesson to teach about painting. A lot of people say: ‘oh I don’t know how to paint!’ and they feel this fear but just be like a 3 year old! but most cannot do that.

– laughs –

This seems an obvious question but what inspired this exhibit and is it something that is very random or is it something you have been thinking about for awhile?

Colm: I’ve just been thinking about it for the last 3 years, really, because I picked up these books by Carlo Rovelli and got so fascinated by the insights that I was unaware of. The realities of physics, obvious to physicists, and I just thought: wow this is amazing! how can I put that into an image?

So imagining what is not seen. So all this stuff.

-gestures around at the paintings –

The theories depicted, you can’t see it. There might be a huge blackhole but you can’t see it unless you’re a scientist. So I decided, let me try and visualise in my own imaginative way. This all came to me these last couple of years from reading and I became aware of how little I know and how uneducated I am in so many fields. You know? We are all very limited in what we understand and what we know but why not know a little more?


Colm’s latest collection is essentially a compressed statement from Rovelli’s books or rather an imagined statement – which he says ‘he is happy to be corrected about anything you see’. As well as abstract art depicting various theories about space and time – included in the collection are a set of portraits of a number of famous (or in my ignorance, not so famous!) physicists who discovered and developed the scientific facts we live by without knowing much of how they underpin our modern lives.

Portraits include: Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein & Katherine Johnson, whose mathematics brought mankind to the Moon.

Colm is a qualified art psychotherapist and separately as an artist he has had 13 previous solo exhibitions in Dublin, Sheffield, Galway and Wicklow. He works mainly with watercolour, pastels and oils but his present works are in acrylic.

Colm’s exhibit runs until  the 15th September at The Framing Studio, 18a Ranelagh, Dublin. You can see the collection yourself between 10am-6pm.