Visual Artists' News Sheet – 2019 November December

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Issue 6: November – December 2019

The Visual Artists' News Sheet


Contents On The Cover Dorothy Cross, Listen Listen, 2019, marble (detail); courtesy of the artist and Kerlin Gallery, Dublin. First Pages 6. 8.

Roundup. Exhibitions and events from the past two months. News. The latest developments in the arts sector. Columns

10. 11. 27.

28. 29.

Skills. Agrarian Dimensions. Cornelius Browne reflects on the logistics of outdoor painting during the winter months. Skills. Sold by Weight. Fiona O’Dwyer on her casting techniques. Residency. Colour in the Shadow. Carmel Balfe reports from a monthlong residency in Philadelphia. Internationalism. Bad Mobility. Matt Packer on internationalism. Artist Raisonnés. Catalogue Raisonné. Toby Treves introduces a new members’ association, devoted to catalogue raisonnés. Artist Raisonnés. Raisonné-able Advice. Carl Schmitz provides some practical advice on compiling records for catalogues raisonnés. GDPR. Data Protection. David Murphy outlines GDPR guidelines for visual artists and arts organisations. Book Review. Reclaiming Artistic Research. Sarah Pierce reviews Lucy Cotter’s new book. Book Review. The Current Conjecture. Astrid Newman reviews Curating After the Global.

Regional Focus: County Wexford 12. 13. 14. 15.

The Marshland Akimbo. Julia Dubsky, Visual Artist. Panting. Aileen Murphy, Visual Artist. Visual Poetry. Helen Gaynor, Visual Artist. Unspoken Dialogues. Nadia Corrdian, Visual Artist. Cow House Studios. Frank Abruzzese, Co-Founder. Geordie Gallery. Andi McGarry, Artist. Wexford Arts Office. Liz Burns, Arts Officer. Wexford Arts Centre. Catherine Bowe, Visual Arts Manager.

Introduction WELCOME to the November – December 2019 issue of the Visual Artists’ News Sheet.

The final issue of 2019 profiles a range of significant projects including: Dorothy Cross’s recent performative event, Heartship; Sinead McCann’s socially-engaged project, film and touring exhibition, The Trial; and Eimear Walshe’s recent commemorative project, commissioned by Roscommon County Council. In addition, Ailve McCormack visits current Turner Prize 2019 nominee, Tai Shani, in her studio at Gasworks, London. Shifting our focus to the island of Syros in Greece, Christopher Steenson, reports on the site-specific sound residency, Sounding Paths 2019, which he attended in July, while Andrew Duggan discusses his presentation of unravel_rios at Eye’s Walk Digital Festival. In other festival profiles for this issue, Chris Clarke discusses his highlights from Middleborough Art Weekender 2019, and Sandra Corrigan Breathnach reports on ‘Somatic Distortion’, a two-day performance art event that took place across the town of Manorhamilton. This issue features a broad range of interesting columns, including reviews of two recently published books: Sarah Pierce looks at Reclaiming Artistic Research; while Astrid Newman offers an appraisal of Curating After the Global: Roadmaps for the Present. Skills Columns by Cornelius Browne and Fiona O’Dwyer outline the logistics of outdoor winter painting and bronze age casting techniques respectively. In addition, Matt

18. 19. 20.

From the Studio of... Ailve McCormack interviews Turner Prize 2019 nominee, Tai Shani, about the themes in her work. The Trial. Jonathan Carroll interviews Sinead McCann about The Trial. Made Marriage. Lily Cahill interviews Eimear Walshe about a recent project commissioned by Roscommon County Council. Heartstrings. Sara Baume interviews Dorothy Cross about Heartship and other recent works.

24. 25.


Sounding Paths. Christopher Steenson on Sounding Paths 2019.

Public Art 31.

Derdimus Tower. Michelle Byrne discusses her recent public artwork.

Last Pages 32. 34. 35.

Public Art Roundup. Art outside of the gallery. Opportunities. Grants, awards, open calls and commissions. VAI Professional Development. Upcoming VAI workshops.

Reviewed in the Critique Supplement are Sarah Long at Studio 12, Backwater Artists Group; Joanne Boyle at Mermaid Arts Centre; Claire Halpin at Olivier Cornet Gallery; David Bickley at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre; and ‘Open Minds’ at Rua Red. As ever, we also have details of upcoming VAI Lifelong Learning workshops, recent exhibiitons, public art roundups, news from the sector and current opportunities.

Visual Artists Ireland:

CEO/Director: Noel Kelly Office Manager: Bernadette Beecher Northern Ireland Manager: Rob Hilken Communications Officer: Shelly McDonnell Membership Officer: Siobhan Mooney Publications: Joanne Laws, Christopher Steenson Professional Development Officer: Monica Flynn Opportunities Listings: Shelly McDonnell Exhibition Listings: Christopher Steenson Bookkeeping: Dina Mulchrone

Bringers of Light. Sandra Corrigan Breathnach reflects on the performance art festival ‘Somatic Distortion’. Northern Exposure. Chris Clarke on Middlesbrough Art Weekender. Performing Memory. Andrew Duggan discusses his participation in Eye’s Walk Digital Festival, Syros, Greece.


The Regional Focus for this issue comes from County Wexford, with insights from Cow House Studios, Geordie Gallery, Wexford Arts Centre and Wexford Arts Office. Visual artists local to and originating from the Wexford region, such as Julia Dubsky, Aileen Murphy, Helen Gaynor and Nadia Corrdian also reflect on the evolution of their respective practices.

Features Editor: Joanne Laws Production Editor/Design: Christopher Steenson News/Opportunities: Shelly McDonnell, Siobhan Mooney

Festival 22.

Following recent queries from VAI members about artist catalogues raisonnés and GDPR protocol, we invited contributions from Toby Treves (International Catalogue Raisonné Association), Carl Schmitz (Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association) and David Murphy (Data Protection Commission), who each offer a range of practical guidelines for artists on these subjects.

The Visual Artists' News Sheet:

How is it Made? 16.

Packer introduces a new series of columns, addressing the concept of internationalism within current curatorial discourse.

Board of Directors: Michael Corrigan (Acting Chair), Michael Fitzpatrick, Richard Forrest, Paul Moore, Mary-Ruth Walsh, Cliodhna Ní Anluain Republic of Ireland Office

Northern Ireland Office

Visual Artists Ireland Windmill View House 4 Oliver Bond Street Merchants Quay, Dublin 8 T: +353 (0)1 672 9488 E: W:

Visual Artists Ireland 109 Royal Avenue Belfast BT1 1FF T: +44 (0)28 958 70361 E: W:

Principle Funders

Project Funders

Corporate Sponsors

Project Partners

Critique Supplement i. ii. iii. iii. iv. iv.

Cover Image: Castlerea Prison, For you to be here. Sarah Long at Studio 12, Backwater Artists Group. ‘Open Minds’ at Rua Red Gallery. Joanne Boyle at Mermaid Arts Centre. David Ian Bickley at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre. Clare Halpin at Olivier Cornett Gallery.

International Memberships



Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019





‘Display Link Cure’ (14 to 26 Sept) was The Complex’s first exhibtion in their new location in the Victorian Fruit Market on Arran Street, Dublin. The exhibiting artists – Glenn Fitzgerald, Liliane Puthold, Richard Proffitt and Sibyl Montague – each presented works responding to ideas of imperanence and perishability – traits which paid homage to the gallery’s surroundings, whilst also opening dialogue about the present state of visual arts infrastructure within the city. The exhibition was curated by Mark O’Gorman and Paul McGrane.


‘Desire: A Revision – From the 20th Century to the Digital Age’ is a major new exhibition currently showing at Irish Museum of Modern Art. It explores the evolving role of desire in art and life, and its relationships to power structures. With artworks spanning over 100 years, the artists on display include Marcel Duchamp, Matthew Barney and Tracy Emin. Emerging Irish talents are included, with works by Ann Maria Healey, Oisin Byrne and Elaine Hoey, amongst many more. The exhibition continues until 22 Mar 2020.


Owen Boss is a visual artist and artistic co-director of the theatre production company, ANU. Running until 4 Nov, his current exhibition, ‘Intersection’ at The LAB, focuses on the death of the artist’s friend (and his wife and child), when the plane they were traveling on, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), was shot down over East Ukraine. Using found footage, personal documents, video and sound, the exhibition asks: “How do we remember, celebrate and commemorate when objects, materials and documentation sit at the centre of controversy?”

Molesworth Gallery recently presented the two-person exhibition, ‘Penumbra’, from 13 Sept to 18 Oct. The exhibition featured the work of two painters, Megan Burns and Francis Matthews, who each present their unique takes in representing arcitectural space, light and shadow. Burns’ paintings are abstract explorations of space, creating illusory worlds that are both open and confined, while drawing on Freud’s notion of the uncanny. Matthews’s works takes a considered photorealistic approach to painting, dealing with the phenomenology of place.

From 2 Oct to 2 Nov, ArtisAnn Art Gallery are presenting a new solo exhibition by Peter Richards. Richards is an artist and curator based in Belfast, who works across photography, installation and performance. His artworks often deal with how we form understandings of the world and navigate ideas of truth. According to the press release, the exhibition, titled ‘The Square’, “invites visitors to see something appear as something other, reminding them of their role as the unreliable author of their own truths.”


The influential French filmmaker, Agnès Varda, passed away on 29 Mar 2019, aged 90. A recent group exhibition, titled ‘Agnès & I’ (6 to 28 Sept), took place at the Library Project to celebrate Varda’s life and career. Curated by Aisling Prior, the exhibition featured works by Laura Fitzgerald, John Graham, Salvatore of Lucan, Jonathan Mayhew, Bea McMahon and Fiona Reilly, with each artist using Varda as a point of departure, or drawing parallels to her rigor in making work. ‘Agnès & I’ was part of Black Church Print Studio’s exhibition programme.




Niamh O’Malley’s major exhibition, ‘handle’ ran at the RHA from 6 Sept to 28 Oct. Consisting of both newly-commissioned and recent work, ‘handle’ featured various sculptures made from steel, along with other quiet works made out of wood and glass. Breaking the low-key ambience of this work was a large and towering advertising display screen, which played screen-captured footage of O’Malley scrolling through photographs on her iPhone. O’Malley speculates that the work “comes out of anxiety, a sense of a toofast changing, unreliable world”.

‘Display Link Cure’ (14 to 26 September), installation view, The Complex Ground Floor Gallery, Dublin; photograph courtesy of The Complex


FIX is a biennial of live art, established by Catalyst Arts in 1993. FIX19 ran across various venues in Belfast city centre from 20 Sept to 3 Oct, showcasing the work of emerging, local and international artists taking different approaches to performance. Amongst those performing where Lee Hamill, Marie Ouzzani & Nicholas Carrier, and Dominic Thorpe. Also part of the programme, Bbeyond led a performative walk through the city; and Amanada Coogan held an introductory workshop on performance art at The Lyric Theatre.


From 10 August to 28 September, Golden Thread Gallery presented to the “largest exhibition of contemporary Japanese art ever seen in Belfast”. Titled ‘Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now’, the exhibition features various styles of contemporary art making found in Japan, including video, durational performance, sculpture, photography, installation and more. The exhibition was co-curated by Peter Richards (Golden Thread Gallery), Nozomu Ogawa (Director of Art Center Ongoing, Tokyo) and Belfast-based artist, Shiro Masuyama.


Belfast-based painter, Mark McGreevy, presented his solo exhibition, ‘Flop Sweat’, at The MAC from 19 Jul to 13 Oct. Playing “with the unquestioned assumptions of taste”, the work was awkward in nature, characterised by purposefully wonky compositions and a garish, overworked palette of colours. Depicted in the paintings were strange scenes of dogs struggling to swim or peculiar figures standing alone in barren environments. Characters and visual motifs repeated throughout the paintings, building a world that evokes feelings of anxiety and unease.



Pollen Studios & Gallery hosted their annual Ulster Univeristy Graduate Award Winner exhibition from 3 to 5 Oct. The winner of the award this year was Brennagh Meehan, who presented her first solo exhibition, ‘This Orange May Contain Emotional Baggage’, at the gallery. The exhibition included an installation and a live performance on the opening night, which explored the artist’s grief and loss of her grandmother. Emotion was symbolised through images and sculptures revolving around oranges.

‘How the Image Echos’ (16 – 21 Sept) was an exhibition “with and about painting” that ran recently at PS2. Curated by Dougal McKenzie, the exhibition sought to rraise questions around how art images delineate themselves from other “multifarious” ways of delivering images in the modern world. Featured were works by Brian Bishop, Majella Clancy, Susan Connolly, Joy Gerrard, Christopher Hanlon, Paddy McCann, Dougal McKenzie and Louise Wallace. The exhibition ended with a symposium on 26 Sept, which examined the ways painters think about images.

Fiona Reily, Wishes for Welfare, 2019, artist’s collection of Harp Postmarks from 10 years of state correspondence

Dominic Thorpe performing as part of FIX19; photograph courtesy of Catalyst Arts

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Sahaja Budzilla, Still 1, 2019; courtesy of the artist



Amy Cutler, June, 2010, gouache on paper; courtesy of the artist and Butler Gallery

Laura McMorrow, Hydrangea, 2016/2017, giclée print on hahnemühle photo rag paper; courtesy of the artist and Source Arts Centre



Regional & International


Brian Kielt’s solo exhibition, ‘Bardo: An Unknown Country’, ran at Ards Art Centre, Newtownards from 3 to 26 Oct. The word “bardo” comes from the the tibetan “bár-do”, translating as “between two”. It represents a stage of the soul between death, rebirth and ultimate peace. Kielt explores how traumatic experiences can lead to positive outcomes, as a kind of bardo, in his paintings. The exhibition was funded by an IDA grant which aims to raise funds for Action Mental Health, based in Newtownards.

‘Colloquies’, an exhibition by New York-based artist Amy Cutler, ran at Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, from 10 Aug to 6 October. According to the press release, Cutler’s drawings take inspiration from her own experiences and memories to “convey the complexities and cultural subtexts associated with womanhood”. The works aim to illustrate the unrealistic pressures and expectations exerted upon women in western societies and the destructive effects they can have. The exhibition was programmed as part of the Kilkenny Arts Festival.


‘EMBODIMENT / capture performance focus: IRELAND’ was a group exhibition featuring Irish artists Amanda Coogan, Laura Fitzgerald, Ann Maria Healy, Dominic Thorpe and Suzanne Walsh, alongside Austrian artists Evelyn Loschy, Veronika Merklein and Lilo Nein. Running from 7 Sept to 31 Oct, the opening week of the exhibition included a programme of performances from some of the exhibiting artists, such as Coogan and Thorpe. The exhibition was co-curated Michaela Stock and Fire Station Artists’ Studios Director, Helen Carey.


The 15th edition of La Biennale de Lyon opened on the 18 Sept. Titled ‘Where Water Comes Together with Other Water’, this edition of the biennale takes its name from a Raymond Carver poem. Artists have been invited to create site-specific works for the biennale’s main exhibition space, the former Fagor factory in the heart of the Gerland district. Exhibiting amongst the international roster of artists is Irish artist Sam Keogh, who is presenting work in the ground-floor part of the main space. La Biennale de Lyon continues until 5 Jan 2020.


Solas Art Gallery, Ballinamore, recently presented two exhibitions by artists Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova and Gabrielle Flynn. Fitzgerald Juskova’s exhibition, ‘Perspective’ used a paper quilling technique called ‘Paper on Edge’ to create complex geometric forms that can be appreciated from various viewing planes. Fynn’s exhibition, ‘Disengagement’, featured paintings that explore the psycholgical trauma felt by children and young adults who have been separated from their parents. The exhibtions ran from 30 Aug to 21 Sept.

‘Estuary’ at Draiocht, Blachardstown, is an exhibition celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Fingal County Council Art Collection. The collection features over 160 artowrks by national and international atists, dating from 1994 to the present. The exhibition has been curated by an invited group of Fingal artists – Una Sealy RHA, James English RHA, Joshua Sex and Sanja Todorovic – who have focused on the theme of the physical and natural landscape common within the collection. ‘Estuary’ continues until 16 Nov.

From 13 Sept to 26 Oct, Source Arts Centre, Thurles, presented a group exhibition exploring the rich tradition of photomontage. ‘Cut/Paste: Photomontage in Ireland’ features work by Leitrim-based visual artist Laura McMorrow, Dublin-based artist and filmmaker Joe Lee and Newry artist Seán Hillen. Each of the artists utilises the approach of cutting and collaging from existing material in their work, whilst some of the artists also incorporate new and expanded methods of montage, through the use of digital software.

After receiving an Arts & Disability Connect Mentoring award this year, County Limerick-based artist, Sahaja Budzilla, has been working with visual artist, Brian Maguire, who described him as a “unique talent”. Budzilla’s solo exhibition, ‘The Souls Journey’, was presented at Friars Gate Theatre, Kilmallock, County Limerick, from 7 to 27 Sept. The exhibition featured Budzilla’s “graffiti-street-punk” paintings, made during the period 2014–2018, alongside more recent primal sculptures, composed from old tools and metal.


‘OVER NATURE’ is a touring group exhibition, curated by Valeria Ceregini, that recently showed at Roe Vallery Arts & Cultural Centre, Limavady (6 to 28 Sept) and TACTIC, St Luke’s Crypt, Cork (17 to 26 Oct). Broadly, the exhibition deals with questions surrounding ecological awareness and our responsibility towards the landscape. It features artworks by Shane Finan, Beata Piekarska-Daly, Mary O’Connor, Louis Haugh, Guillaume Combal and Kathy Herbert. The exhibition will be shown next at at Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin (14 Nov to 21 Dec).




‘Xenophon: Life with Life Inside’ is a collaborative exhibition between visual artist Siobhán McGibbon and writer Maeve O’Lynn. The installation explores the idea of post-human reproduction, inviting the audience to enter an “inverted futurespace” where they are asked to consider ideas of reproduction, fertility and the veneration of the female in post-Repeal Ireland. The exhibition is inspired by Cobh’s history as a depature point for millions of emigrants travelling to the new world. ‘Xenophon: Life with Life Inside’ continues until 2 Nov.


‘Archives of Shame’ was a group exhibition exploring the unspoken internalisation of shame in Ireland. The artists were selected following an open call, from which 11 were chosen. The works dealt with shame relating to the “body, sexuality and the necessity for touch”, offering personal and internationl perspectives on the subject. The exhibition ran from 6 to 11 Oct at The Crypt, St Luke’s Former Church, Cork, while a satellite exhibition took place in the Lord Mayor’s Pavillion in Fitzgerald Park, Cork, from 3 to 12 Oct.


Wexford Arts Centre is 45 years old this year, making it the oldest arts centre in the country. To celebrate, WAC has organised the exhibition ‘From the Mountain’, which is currently on show in their gallery space. The exhibition features work from the Arts Council of Ireland Collection, alongside work by invited artists Orla Bates, Stephen Brandes, Fran Greene, Paul McKinley, Olivia O’Dwyer and Michael John Whelan. The exhibition deals with issues of the environment and important socio-historical moments. It continues at WAC until 25 Nov.



Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019


VAI News

General News



The winner of the 2019 Zurich Portrait Prize was announced on 9 October as Enda Bowe, for his photographic work, Cybil McCaddy with Daughter Lulu. As part of the award, Bowe receives a cash prize of €15,000, as well as a commission worth €5,000 to produce a new work for the National Portrait Collection at the National Gallery of Ireland. Bowe’s portrait is shot on a housing state in East London, showing an intimate interaction between a mother and her child. The artist states that his portrait “traces the emotional connection between a new parent and her baby, evoking traditional compositions of mother and child. Further scrutiny reveals details including Cybil’s piercings, tattoos and adorned nails which, with the urban setting, give a contemporary update to this classical theme.” Two other prize nominees, painters Joe Dunne and Salvatore of Lucan, were highly commended for their portraits, titled And Their World of Far and Near Things and Lucy with 3 Hands and Me Holding onto Her Leg, respectively. They both received runner-up prizes of €1,500 each. The judges for this year’s prize were Mike Fitzpatrick (Dean for Limerick School of Art & Design), Fiona Kearney (Director of The Glucksman, Cork) and Irish painter Mick O’Dea. This year also marked the first year of the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. Judges Hetty Lawlor, Perry Ogden and Brendan Rooney selected a winner from each age category (ages 6 and under; ages 7–11; ages 12–15; and ages 16–18), in addition to an overall winner. The winners of these prizes were Callie LePage, aged 6, won the youngest category with Sarah C, a portrait of her teacher. In the second category, 8-year old Jiaming Zheng, won with his self-portrait, The GAP Boy. The 12–15 category was won by 15-yearold Erin Welch for a portrait of the artist’s sister, Brennagh. Cara Pilbeam, aged 17, won the final category with a self-portrait titled Eire: Study of a Young Woman. Each category winner was awarded a personalised box of art materials alongside a cash prize of €250. The New Age by Mabel Forsyth and Mary O’Carroll (both aged 12) was selected as the overall winner, receiving art materials and a €500 cash prize. The Zurich Portrait Prize exhibition, which includes 26 portraits in total, continues at the National Gallery of Ireland until 12 January 2020. The exhibition will tour to Crawford Art Gallery, Cork in January 2020.

Belfast-based arts organisation PS2 (Paragon Studios and Project Space) have announced the second cohort of artists to participate as in the Freelands Artist Programme 2019–2021. The artists are: BROWN&BRÍ, Jane Butler, Mitch Conlon, Jasmin Märker and Thomas Wells. During their time on the programme, the six artists will focus on and develop a body of significant new work. In addition to an annual bursary of £5,000, each artist (or artist duo) will receive ongoing tailored curatorial support; a travel budget; research and mentorship; attendance at two annual symposia; an opportunity to exhibit at PS2 and the Freelands Foundation in London; and the use of PS2’s equipment and workshop spaces. The artists were chosen following a recent open call for applications by a panel including artist Anne Tallentire, Alissa Kleist (Curator of the PS2 Freelands Artist Programme) and Peter Mutschler (Artistic Director of PS2). The next open call for artists to participate in the PS2 Freelands Artist Programme 2020–2022 will be in summer 2020.



Marcel Vidal has been awarded the 2019 Hennessey Craig Award. RHA President, Abigail O’Brien, announced Vidal as the winner at an award ceremony on 9 October. The Hennessey Craig Award is the largest painting prize in Ireland that generously gives €20,000 to one painter aged under 35 who has exhibited in open submission section of the RHA Annual Exhibition and has studied at an art college in Ireland, as per the terms of the bequest of the estate of Patrick Hennessy and Henry Robertson Craig. The full list of shortlisted artists included: Gerry Davies, Stephanie Deady, Leah Hewson, Eve O’Callaghan, Megan Burns, Salvatore of Lucan, William O’Neill, Kurt Oppermann and Kathy Tynan. Each were featured in an exhibition at the RHA Gallery, which ran from 6 September to 20 October.


The recipients of the inaugural Markievicz Award were announced in late August as: Sibéal Davitt, Isadora Epstein, Claire Kilroy, Louise Lowe and working in collaboration are Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Kimberley Campanello and Dimitra Xidoous. Under this award, each artist and artist group will receive €20,000 to support their practices. The Markievicz Award is a new bursary scheme designed to support the careers of female artists. It is an initiative of Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, under the Decade of Centenaries 2012–2023. The Arts Council of Ireland administered the award, receiving 107 applications in total. A second iteration of the Markievicz Award is planned for 2020. The award is named in commemoration of the revolutionary figure Constance Georgine Markievicz (1868–1927), who was elected to the first Dáil in 1918, becoming the first female cabinet minister in Ireland, as well as in Europe. Markievicz is also remembered for the significant roles she played in the 1916 Easter Rising and Irish Civil War.

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, has announced a new €4.7m capital investment scheme for arts and culture centres. Running from 2019 until 2022, the scheme will focus on enhancing the existing stock of arts and culture centres throughout the country, whilst also prioritising carbon footprint reduction, in line with the Government’s action on climate change. Applications to the scheme are open until 7 January 2020 (visit for more information). It will consist of three different streams: the first offers up to €50,000 for small enhancements and expansions; the second, between €50,000 and €300,000 for larger projects; and a seperate scheme aimed specifically at upgrading visual arts workspaces. Applications for this scheme are invited seperately.


Based on recent feedback from our members, we are now offering an electronic version of The Visual Artists’ News Sheet. Members of Visual Artists Ireland can now access the electronic version of the VAN through the members area of the Republic of Ireland ( and Northern Ireland ( websites. Members can now request the electronic version only, if they would rather not receive the print edition. You can select this preference by updating your membership options via the membership area. This option has been introduced as an ecologically-conscious move on our part, which aims to reduce waste and carbon emissions involved in packing and posting the VAN. Along with the new electronic version, we have now also changed our update cycle to our online archive on: You are now able to access immediate back issues, prior to the most recent edition. Our Issuu archive provides online access to every issue of VAN, dating back to 2009. As always, there is a selection of articles from each issue of the VAN on the dedicated publication website: We have also been working on a major archival project over the past year, involving indexing every issue of the Sculptor’s Society of Ireland/ Visual Artists Ireland publication archive, which extends back to 1980. As part of this project, we are currently compiling a contents database, with a long-term plan to digitise every print publication produced by SSI/VAI. We will be republishing select material from the print archive in a special edition of VAN to mark VAI’s 40th anniversary in 2020. Further details to be announced soon. In the meantime, if you have any enquiries relating to the print archive, please contact VAN Features Editor, Joanne Laws ( or Production Editor, Christopher Steenson ( SAVE THE DATE: GET TOGETHER 2020

Visual Artist Ireland’s Get Together 2020 will return to TU Dublin, Grangegorman, on Friday 12 June 2020. The theme for the day is “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine”, an Irish saying that translates as: “People live in each other’s shadows”. For the visual arts, this saying suggests a range of interdependent relationships and networks, built on mutual support and cooperation. This sets the tone for the day, where VAI will have a number of talks and discussion looking at the diverse building blocks that forms the visual arts community. The day will include the return of the Visual Artists Café. There will also be a chance to meet range of curators in our Speed Curating sessions. A full programme of events will be announced in early 2020. To keep up to date, visit the Visual Artists Ireland website ( and subscribe to the VAI mailing list. CORRECTION – VAN SEPT/OCT 2019 ISSUE

In the Critique section of VAN’s Sept/Oct 2019 themed issue, Colin Darke’s review of ‘Do Governments Lie?’ at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, was accompanied by two images. While the review focused on Philip Chancel’s exhibition, ‘Kim Happiness’, we inadvertently included a photograph by another artist, Jacob Burge, who also participated in Belfast Photo Festival 2019.


The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty TD and the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD have announced that the Social Welfare Scheme of Professional Artists on Jobseekers Allowance is now accepting applications. The announcement was made at the beginning of September. The Social Welfare Scheme for Professional Artists began as a pilot scheme and was open to visual artists and writers. It was initiated under the Creative Ireland programme and was officially announced by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD in June 2017. A recent review of the pilot scheme was undertaken by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, in consultation with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The review recommended for the pilot to be established as a permanent scheme and that it should be extended to other artistic disciplines. As of September 2019, the Social Welfare Scheme for Professional Artists now is now open to self-employed visual artists, literary writers, screen writers, film directors and film actors and people working in theatre. Musicians, dancers, choreographers, opera composers and circus and street performers are also now included in the scheme. This expanded scheme recognises the unique creative circumstances of professional artists in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance and gives them special assistance in their first year out of work, allowing them to focus on their creative output and develop their portfolio. They will be exempt from participating in the normal labour market activation activities for the first year that they are out of work. In order to qualify for the scheme, professional artists must apply for and satisfy the qualifying conditions for Jobseeker’s Allowance, including a means test. They must be unemployed, capable of, available for and actively seeking work. Applicants are also required to provide a certificate/declaration from their professional body as to their status as a professional artist. In the case of visual artists, this means being a Professional Member of Visual Artists Ireland. They must be registered as self-employed with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and at least 50% of their income should be derived from their art in the previous year. Participants on the scheme can continue on a voluntary basis to avail of the supports of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s Public Employment Service. More information about the scheme is available via Speaking about the new expanded scheme, Minister Doherty stated that “Giving professional artists an opportunity to expand their creative work in a practical way is our way of acknowledging the important work that professional artists do.” With Minister Madigan adding that artists and performers “deserve our full support particularly given the significant income challenges they can face”. Madigan also noted that “The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will work with the Arts Council and the representative bodies for artists from different art forms to develop an independent and objective validation process that will certify the artists’ professional credentials.”


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019




Agrarian Dimensions

Sold By Weight



ALL GOING TO plan, these words will appear in print just as my new solo exhibition opens. Exhibiting in winter I find gratifying. Plein air painting binds one closely to the seasons. Being an all-weather, year-round, outdoor painter lends an agrarian dimension to my work. So much so that for years now, I have felt a level of kinship with agricultural and piscatorial workers that possibly eclipses affinity with studio artists. And just as farmers tend to bring their harvests and livestock indoors as the days shorten, it feels natural that my paintings should see out the year in the warmth of a gallery. Seeing my landscapes, beautifully lit, safely behind glass, in galleries, one of the things I find exciting are the vestiges of their outdoor lives. Pockmarks left behind by rain, insect wings, speckles of muck, embedded sand: intrinsic to the works are these little signs that these paintings, in their entirety, have been moulded by weather – landscapes shaped by actual landscape. As a child, artists seemed to me akin to magicians, weaving spells. Traditional art materials are illusionistic in intent. Sand, wings, and the like, however, are resolutely non-illusionistic materials. They are plain facts of experience; fragments of the physical world woven into the skin of paint. This alters the ontological situation of the painting. The surface becomes layered, embodying two kinds of reality at once: pictorial illusion and material presence. In this sense, one might say that landscapes painted outdoors are to a lesser extent social constructs than landscapes created indoors. The human hand weakens as nature asserts force. External pressures, usually skyborne, place the punctilious conjuring of illusion beyond reach. On craggy hillsides, Atlantic blasts filling my lungs, painting becomes a bodily experience. A diary entry from last winter: “I paint with my ears – the roar of the sea, the mew of gulls overhead, tune me in to distances sweeping from the canvas in all directions. I paint with my legs – weary after another long equipment-burdened walk that seems as much part of the artwork as anything visible within the completed painting. I paint with my gut – nature exists only on the

verge of its own disappearing (think of a sunset!) and this constant state of flux engenders such painterly speed that reaction occurs in the same breath as stimulus. True all year round. Amplified in winter.” Summertime outdoor painters are fairly common. Winter painters are rarer creatures. Health permitting, I would encourage more artists to consider tackling this beautiful hibernal period. As the days narrow and sharpen, there is no denying the unpleasantness of most Irish winters, wind and rain continually sullying the promise of crisp light. Yet this is the season when nature has the best hope of speaking through the painter. My own winter painting experiences have been marked by the subject becoming substance. Weatherised I may be by thermals, woollen layers, and waterproofs, still this substance – whether in the form of cold, cloudburst, storm, ice or snow – actively conspires to prevent me working. Each brushstroke becomes a struggle, to the point where brush making contact with canvas counts as an achievement. The price of winter outdoor painting is great personal discomfort; the rewards potentially astonishing. Paintings carried home may be rougher, rawer, perhaps even uglier, than those produced when the world is free of winter’s grip. Winter, however, may have forced one to yield to spontaneity to such extent that the resultant works are a genuine shock. In my own case, winter has gifted me a primitiveness, or artless simplicity, moving me further from anxiety-ridden self-control and closer to my true nature. Spontaneity being, I believe, total sincerity. Ageing, I feel increasingly weathered by each passing year. In the 1950s, Robert Rauschenberg remarked that he wanted to work in the gap between art and life. Assembling my winter exhibition, just outside the frames move the shadow hours of ordinary existence. A year of painting is a year of living. Cornelius Browne is a Donegal-based artist. His solo exhibition, ‘An Invite to Eternity’, continues at the McKenna Gallery in Omagh until 24 December.

Cornelius Browne, Checking Lobster Pots on a Snowy Morning, 2019, oil on board; courtesy of the artist

Fiona O’Dwyer, Mould tests, bronze and fired moulds, dimensions variable; courtesy of the artist

AS PART OF my recent solo exhibition, ‘I Went

Up the Mountain With Someone Else’s Story and Came Down With My Own’, at Limerick City Gallery of Art (21 June to 23 August), I exhibited 138 small bronze sculptures, entitled Sold By Weight I and II, that were made using Bronze Age casting methods. Much of the motivation behind this work centres on an account written by my father of his experience picking ‘hurts’ (wild blueberries) as a child in 1950s Tipperary. He described materials and colours in great detail, making handles for tin cans found in the local dump, for example. From this, I began selecting materials and processes for the project. I chose to use these tangible things as a means of accessing the intangible or the unknown. Last year, I took part in ‘Umha Aois 2018 – Sounding the Bronze Age’, a week-long experimental bronze casting symposium in County Kerry. I knew I wanted to cast hurts and this presented an opportunity for first attempts. Having been fully involved in all aspects of these castings, there was to be no going back – to the foundry! For the next eight months or so, I set about replicating these processes at my studio in Ennistymon. I began taking casts of hurts from Tipperary, from my garden and imported berries, in plaster, then in alginate. Ultimately, I found that highgrade silicone was required to reproduce fine detail in the berries; however, replicating these details in wax was more difficult. I experimented extensively with various pouring methods, wax mixtures, temperatures and so on, before achieving consistent results. Initially, I assembled the small waxes into a complex tree-like structure, but I eventually decided to cast one berry per mould. The wax berries, with risers and pouring cups attached, were first coated in a fine slip. Over much experimentation, materials included ball or china clay, fine molochite, shredded egg boxes, donkey dung vinegar, silica sand, fine ash and finely ground charcoal. More layers were then built up, carefully filling the hollows and small details. When just barely dry, a coarser layer of donkey dung, clay and sand was then built up to complete the

moulds, which were burnt out and fired in a pit fire over a number of days. In Kerry, we used hand-pumped goatskin bellows and a pit furnace to melt the metal. For expediency and greater flexibility, I used a furnace made from a tin bucket and ten-inch flowerpot, which sits over ground and allows for mobility. Instead of bellows, I used a modified hairdryer for the air supply. I experimented with different alloys, using commercial phosphor bronze and ‘classic’ bronze, made from 90 wt% copper and 10 wt% tin. The metal was placed in a graphite crucible, which sits in the furnace surrounded by charcoal. Fuel is added regularly to build up and maintain the heat required to melt the metal, up to 1100°C. The molten metal is stirred with a sally rod to burn off gases and when ready to pour, you can see your reflection clearly in the liquid bronze – an extraordinary moment. After pouring, the moulds are broken and the results of all the steps can be seen. At this point, the bronze berries had pouring cups, risers or sprues attached. I spent weeks rotating them around me in my living/working space, from the kitchen table to the floors, on every available surface, contemplating intimately. Then I had to separate, clean and patinate them. I had been testing patinating agents such as urine, salt, vinegar, milk, berry skin and more. As time was running out, I sought advice from artist Seamus Connolly, who showed me just enough to keep experimenting. I also found online articles by archaeometallurgists invaluable, particularly research by Anders Söderberg, detailing exact firing temperatures and the reheating of moulds. Following months of making and re-making – and after repeated failures, when I was ready to give up – the pieces started to emerge from the moulds one after another, with the process eventually yielding a special unknown quality. It seems that this constant repetition, honing of the process, and considerable amounts of heat, imbued these finished objects with an energy of their own. Fiona O’Dwyer is an artist based in Ennistymon.

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019




Colour in the Shadow

Bad Mobility



“Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility - these three forces are the very nerve of education.” – Rudolf Steiner CAMPHILL SCHOOL, Beaver Run, Philadelphia, is a private residential school for children and young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The school, which is based on the Waldorf (Steiner) educational model, uses dramatic, visual, musical and movement arts as important vehicles for students to explore, learn and develop. The facility is part of the Camphill movement, an initiative for social change comprising over 100 communities worldwide, including over a dozen in Ireland. ‘Colour in the Shadow’ was a month-long residency in Camphill School, Philadelphia, that took place in August 2019. The residency invitation included full use of the school’s facilities and support from the teachers and staff. The residency – initiated and produced by Guy Alma, Director of Development of Camphill School – was specifically created to invite Wandering Lighthouse Arts to work with the Camphill community, following a conference presentation in Vermont two years previously, on working with people with disabilities. The residency was primarily funded by the Camphill School and also through an Arts Council Travel and Training Award. Wandering Lighthouse Arts is an arts initiative created by Tom Meskell and I. We both have well-established individual practices and considerable track records. We have previously developed numerous highly interactive visual arts projects, ranging from environmental sculpture and art installations, to puppetry. These works often involve audience participation, inviting them to become co-creators and editors, as well as observers. Tom Meskell is a visual artist specialising in arts and health, education and participatory arts. This includes painting and specialised sculpture, in particular lantern sculpture and the devising and construction of large parade structures. During the residency, using a carefully designed format, Meskell guided the participants through a process of creative realisation, based on their individual needs. The hanging of a large-scale installation in a Goetheanum-inspired building (Steiner Architecture) gave him the opportunity to assess his work in a more philosophical context. I am a puppeteer and puppet-maker. A strong focus of my work is the combination of fabric and sculpture, with puppets and sets often created through soft sculpture fabrication. Shadow puppetry is also a medium I explore using fabric to create layers of translucency and narrative imagery. The artworks produced during the residency extended my capacity to work with groups in producing a puppet-based performance. Having access to the Camphill facilities, including a six-metre purpose-built shadow screen with natural stained-glass lighting, allowed me to push the boundaries of engagement with shad-

ow puppetry, particularly within a special needs context. The ‘Colour in the Shadow’ project allowed us to merge our individual practices through our shared focus on the use of light. Cultural exchange was also central to the project. The legends of the Fenian cycle were chosen as a way to explore Irish storytelling, and also as a window into Irish cultural heritage, as interpreted and presented by two contemporary Irish artists. Over the month, three Irish legends – The Salmon of Knowledge, Tír na nÓg and the Giant’s Causeway – were told and retold in regular storytelling sessions, with puppet ‘Maggie’ as the main storyteller and Meskell illustrating the stories visually and through commentary. The legends were explored during daily workshops. Over a period of three weeks, we worked with three different groups of Camphill students and their co-workers (adult support workers) in each of our specific mediums. Meskell teased out the most significant images of the stories with the group, and made large-scale lanterns using tissue, wire and leaves. I created a series of shadow puppets for each legend with the students, and together we devised a shadow puppet show, which was presented to the whole school during the final week. A book about the project, featuring images and input from the staff, is due to be published in November. Some of the Camphill teachers have since taken the Fenian cycle of legends as subject matter for their syllabus and are doing further research into the legends. A reflection of the project’s success, Wandering Lighthouse Arts has been invited to work with Camphill again in the future. Carmel Balfe is an artist based in Mayo and codirector of Wandering Lighthouse Arts.

Residency documentation, Camphill School, Philadelphia; courtesy of Wandering Lighthouse Arts

WHAT IS BAD mobility? I was in Brussels, taking part in a Creative Europe workshop on the i-Portunus artists’ international mobility funding scheme, when this question came up and resounded around the room in uneasy silence. The workshop brought together institutional representatives who are in the business of working internationally – artist residency centres, intermediatory arts bodies, biennials and festivals – and a number of artists who had recently been awarded mobility grants to allow them to travel, research, produce work and ‘internationalise’ their practice in an unstructured process-driven way. Until the question of bad mobility came up, it hadn’t really been obvious (to me, at least) that discussions of artists’ mobility and internationalisation tend to be progressively self-confident in their approach. In this particular workshop, like many others I’ve previously attended, there was a general consensus to do more, and to solicit further funding to do it even better; to mobilise more artists and encourage those artists that had so far been excluded; to work beyond the axis of cultural centres; to minimise access barriers and the hindrance of the application process; to make the funding less accountable to results, receipts, justifications of value. The entire discussion defaulted on the attitude that artists’ mobility and internationalisation was unquestionably vital in improving the horizon of opportunity for artists and cultural work more generally. The question of bad mobility was introduced by Alan Quireyns, Director of AIR Antwerp (and one of the authors of Contemporary Artists’ Residencies: Reclaiming Time and Space – one of only a few books that has sought to build a discourse around the artist residency as a particular institutional and behavioural model of artistic practice in recent years). His rhetorical question introduced the problem of evaluating artists’ mobility in any grant-aided or competitive application process. Regardless of other typical criteria – project proposal, career profile, etc. – should we consider that all mobility is justified in-principle or should we set some limit to its acceptability? Asking ourselves to consider bad mobility could put some precision to the assessment process of the i-Portunus funding scheme (and various others), but it might also compass the values of international mobility in a broader sense. Environmental impacts are surely top of the list, when it comes to thinking about the detrimental effects of international mobility, and the arts sector should not seek exception from the calls to reduce the carbon emissions of air travel and other mitigating efforts. There are other negative impacts if we also consider how mobility programmes actually exacerbate the precarity of artistic livelihood and cultural work, through their disruption to domestic routines and social and family relations. In the worst cases, I have seen how mobility programmes have effectively pushed artists into the systematic homelessness of seeking one residency after another, year upon year. There is also, of course, the broader political discourse in which mobility now finds itself, amid suspicions of ‘global elitism’, growing protectionisms and travel restrictions based on reli-


gion and ethnicity. To assume the entitlements and freedoms of travel against this geopolitical backdrop doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but it should act negatively on the conscience if we’re to believe in working internationally as an act of networked solidarity and codevelopment. As Taru Elfving stated pointedly in her essay ‘Residencies and Future Cosmopolitics’: “The age of innocence is over concerning international mobility even for us here in Europe … What does it mean to be mobile at a time of enforced migrations, reinforced borders, growing xenophobia, escalating climate crises, and mass extinctions?... Who has access to global circulation? How and what processes of value production does it take part in? Who and what do travel and, for example, ‘networking’ actually serve?” In 2018, Flanders Arts Institute published a short pocketbook, titled (Re)framing the International: On new ways of working internationally in the arts, that collected testimonials and research findings on internationalisation from its own regional perspective. The book’s findings, regarding the negative impacts of artistic mobility, included worsening economic inequality, detriments to personal health, cynical instrumentalisations of professional networks, ethical impositions, practice-based compromises, and (albeit slight) examples of environmental abuse. For a state-funded arts advocacy organisation like Flanders Art Institute to support research like this, it threatens to burst the bubble of its own stated mission to promote internationalisation yet provides a rare example of institutional leadership through critical self-awareness that many could learn from. These issues also need to be seen from structural and infrastructural perspectives. This is especially true in an Irish context, where internationalisation is entirely embedded within models of success and enablement, to the extent that we have naturalised the very real potential differences that it can make, in terms of access to technical and production resources, for instance. There’s a question to be asked about how artists’ funding and policy attitudes have actually reinforced place-based advantages and disadvantages, leaving a small country like Ireland sustainability lacking the kinds of things that we’ve become accustomed to seeking elsewhere. This VAN column is the first in a series focusing on ideas of internationalism, and it serves as a way of introducing some of these problematic ideas. Over the next issues, I will focus on how internationalism is precisely manifest in the focussed examples of the biennial model, curatorial research, the commercial market, and the geopolitical distribution of arts discourse itself. For those of us who believe in the value of working internationally, there is a responsibility to be sensitive to what it actually is and what, beyond our own self-interests, is being performed in the process of exploiting these opportunities and privileges. To do anything less would be extremely bad mobility. Matt Packer is a curator and the Director of EVA International.

Regional Focus County Wexford

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Panting Aileen Murphy Visual Artist

The Marshland Akimbo Julia Dubsky Visual Artist

AT THE TIME of writing, I have just returned from London, where I had my first solo exhibition in Amanda Wilkinson Gallery (10 September – 26 October). Coincidently, the title I gave the show explicitly relates to Wexford. I called it ‘The Marshland Akimbo’. My family home is in Ballymoney, near Gorey, County Wexford, and my mum grew up in Bannow Bay, where she still has a plot of land by the sea. It’s a marshland and wildlife reserve. I titled my exhibition ‘The Marshland Akimbo’ in reference to this, as well as to Rosso Fiorentino’s portrait, A Young Man (1517–1518). Rosso’s painting, which I visited in the Gemäldegallerie in Berlin, depicts a wetland backdrop that percolates though the sitter to his amphibious appearance. He has one hand on his hip ‘akimbo’, which prompted the second part of the exhibition’s title. ‘Akimbo’ simultaneously denotes another meaning: legs splayed open. Pointing to two opposing gestures – both open and closed – the word contains a contradiction. In the exhibition I presented new paintings, developed from semi-automatic charcoal drawings in which I began to notice a somewhat contradictory variety of lines and marks. In my opinion, they look as though different people have made them. Some signify cartoon, others esotericism or drawing from life, or a more objective presentation of material. It was a sort of style finding exercise, except it didn’t resolve into one; rather it remained multiple. I found this very strange, so it became the focus of my work for the show. The painting I titled Brown Ghost Fanal is one of the initial works that I used as a guide for the other paintings in the exhibition (‘fanal’ is another word for beacon). It was a fun coincidence – or maybe not – that this very small painting of a brown ghost laughing down at the entertainment of a green loop was hung among three other occurrences of green that are quite large paintings; as though teasing their apparent size. A good friend, Amelia Groom, who is an academic living in Berlin, wrote an essay to accompany my exhibition.1 She wrote: “There is something homophonic at work in Julia Dubsky’s recent paintings […] Like sounds that can point in several directions at once, these paintings are sites where multiple appearances coincide in a single set of marks – with gathered elements involving a variety of unsettled figurations.” The motif of a single eye was something I noticed appearing repeatedly in my work. Amelia wrote about this: “Eyes make pictures more like ‘I’s; they animate an agency which implicates us by returning our gaze. When the eyes started showing up in these paintings, Dubsky recalls, it was ‘as though the observed picture – like a sleeping subject – had opened an eye to check whether it was being watched.’” That refers to a painting by Nicolas Poussin, depicting Narcissus sleeping.

It can be considered as an allegory for painting and sight: the subject is being observed without being able to gaze back – just like the medium of painting. I studied Painting and Visual Culture in NCAD and graduated with a BA in 2016. I’m currently based in Berlin and I’m doing an MA with the artist Jutta Koether at HFBK Hamburg. After NCAD I went to the Drawing School in London for an intensive term of drawing, painting and tuition in the National Gallery and I worked in the Serpentine Gallery. In late 2017, I was over the moon to received the Recent Graduate Residency Award at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios so I moved back to Dublin and I worked in the Douglas Hyde Gallery. The residency gave me time, support and a lot of space to develop my art practice. Next, I look forward to doing a term in Goldsmiths and some smaller group shows in Hamburg and London. Notes 1 Amelia Groom, The Marshland Akimbo, Press Release, September 2019.

Top: Julia Dubsky, LP, 2019, 200 × 150 × 3 cm, oil on canvas; courtesy of the artist Bottom: Julia Dubsky, Brown Ghost Fanal, 2019, 30.5 × 26.6cm, oil and charcoal on canvas; courtesy of the artist

WHEN I WAS 16 years of age I began taking art more seriously, while taking after school art classes in Gorey Community School, Co. Wexford. My family were living just on the edge of Gorey town and my mother would drive me there on Tuesdays and Saturdays. These classes encouraged me to make a portfolio and earned my place in the National College of Art & Design in Dublin. Last July marked my graduation from the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. I quickly left Frankfurt to move to Berlin and establish a life there. My first winter in Berlin was mostly grey – the sky was a bright grey in October, becoming a duller grey in November, and a heavy titanium grey for a long time after that. I remember painting fluorescent red and cadmium yellow grounds in the studio. When I started to think about what I would make for my current solo show in Temple Bar Gallery + Studios in Dublin (20 September – 16 November), I was already working on paintings that were different to those I had been making in my last months in Frankfurt. These featured more red, dark greens, medium-format squares, motifs of explosions, giggling and running legs, as well as layers and layers of oil paint that were not always going anywhere in particular. At the time, I was asking myself how I could spend longer on a painting, build structure and weight, but still remain open and light. My studio was in an old apartment where my boyfriend Eric lives and also has his studio. I went there on my days off from my job and sometimes in the evenings, regularly making tea and toasted cheese. The back wall of the studio, in between the windows, was covered in old photographs, drawings and notes – notes like “darker colours!” and “expand the square!” It had images of paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Arnold Boecklin, Francis Picabia; images of Kate Bush; king charles spaniels; Egyptian drawings; and museum postcards sent by my friend Mikhail, including James Ensor’s De Zonderlinge Maskers – one of my favourite paintings. That wall was a kind of cheerleader in my studio. That winter I was unsure how to approach the show for TBG+S. I was making paintings I was excited about, but was not imagining any destination for them. This exhibition was my first opportunity to show a group of paintings that would be seen together in one large space at the same time. I became interested in this potential. The main gallery space of TBG+S is expansive, with architectural elements that I really enjoy, such as two columns in the centre and three small, oddly-inserted windows. If you turn TBG+S floorplan to the left, it looks like a drawing of a figure. In some way, I think of my paintings as alive. They should feel active, like they are coming out to meet you, coming out for a dance, looking to make noise and when the lights are turned off, they are secretly doing something. At the end of winter, Eric and I went to Mexico for three weeks. When we came back, I had the feeling I was starting again in the studio – a specific feeling of dread and motivation. I really want to know what would happen, but there is a resistance that needs to be pushed past. My tactic at the time was to start anywhere and paint

Top: Aileen Murphy, Ursula, 2019, oil and cold wax on canvas, 150 × 120cm Bottom: Aileen Murphy, Scuffle, 2019, oil on canvas, 240 × 200cm (two equal parts). Both photographs by Stafan Korte, courtesy of the artist, Kevin Kavanagh and Deborah Schamoni

large dark crescent moons. Other supportive activities included cutting up children’s cookbooks and collaging them into figures; listening to ‘Siamese Dream’; and reading Ninth Street Women. As painting shifted direction towards Dublin, I felt more inspired to play hard. Pinks repeatedly entered my palette, while the studio floor gained a dirty yellow glow from avid pacing. As work progressed, each painting developed its own question, its own focus, its own figuration and space. How the group worked together became important – especially in how they differed from one another. The paintings in my exhibition were made with the intention of being seen together, in order to pose different questions about painting and about making a painting exhibition. Some of them do have a dark crescent moon as an early layer, now hidden. There are six paintings in my solo show, titled ‘PANTING’.

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Regional Focus

Visual Poetry

Unspoken Dialogues

Helen Gaynor Visual Artist

Nadia Corrdian Visual Artist

I CURRENTLY MOVE between my home at the

south-end of Wexford town, my studio in the town centre, and an occasional studio at the north-end! My income – at the lowest end of the spectrum – sees me regularly teetering on the edge of insolvency. Graduating from NCAD with a BA in Fine Art in 1995, I returned to Wexford to set up my creative practice. Drawn to its history, harbour and notions of home, the next phase of my artistic journey began. I am a painter, but have delved into music improvisation, mixed media and a writing practice – particularly poetry. My other qualifications include: Higher Diploma in Digital Media Design (IT Carlow, 2014); MA in Creative Writing (University College Dublin, 2013); Diploma in Writing for Publication (National University of Ireland Maynooth, 2012); and several music qualifications from the 1980s. In my paintings, the medium and its materiality, colour, pigment and mark, are dominant, though in some works, mood or narrative take precedence. My larger paintings are created over longer periods of time; everything that happens during this timeframe – in the world and in my life – is subsumed into these works. Smaller pieces are almost playthings – involving experimentation with ideas, materials and so on – but often possess a clarity of thought, occurring as they regularly do, after the bigger pieces have been worked. Motifs that recur have become part of my personal language. The process – from conscious start, to instinct-driven development – means that hindsight is necessary, before the direction becomes clear. Gerhard Richter summed it up: “When I paint an abstract picture, I neither know in advance what it is meant to look like nor, during the painting process, what I am aiming at and what to do about getting there.” My more recent writing practice has begun to influence my painting and vice versa. Indeed, I began writing while taking notes for painting. Now, I view the painted piece as a visual poem. My recent show in the public space of Wexford’s Creative Hub (where I currently have studio space), called ‘Cutting the Lake, an Anthology’, begins the work of marrying visual with literary poems. For me, each visual poem is an exploration and a process of discovery, connected at a deep level. It is a constant fascination for me that, even though painting draws on real experience, my process relies on things that are neither possible, rational nor real. And the results often surprise me. The landscape of the visual arts in Wexford town, which is also home to an outstanding Opera Festival, has changed with time. There is a thriving visual arts community now. IT Carlow’s Wexford Campus has a degree course in Fine Art; Gorey now has an art school, with an ambitious exhibition programme for its Periphery Arts Space; and the county boasts many outstanding artists exhibiting their work on both national and international stages. In 2017, I was co-curator of ‘And Creatures Dream... A New Language’, which was shown concurrently at Wexford County Council buildings and Wexford Arts Centre. The exhibition focused on the language of paint, as explored by artists with Wexford connections, including Robert

Armstrong, Rosie O’Gorman, Emma Roche and myself. However, despite our ambitions, the age-old problem of how to maintain a professional arts practice remains constant for most. There is a small pot for funding and the numbers applying have steadily grown. The Arts Council of Ireland’s bursaries remain elusive for many artists. In County Wexford, we are beneficiaries of funding through Artlinks, but aside from that, traditional sources of income have all but evaporated. There is not much evidence of economic recovery in a town like Wexford. Buying art is still an unaffordable luxury. I have had instances of financial support over the years, but the sums were more ego-boosting than life changing. I remain on the breadline. So, it is all about practice. And passion. I work because I find it impossible to not work; my world is processed through my creative practice and personally, I am the better for it. For the next project I am working on (a publication), the challenge will be to find ways of achieving results with minimal expenditure.

Top: Helen Gaynor, View from the Edge of a Clearing (detail), 2019, graphite, acrylic and oil on canvas, 120 × 150 cm; courtesy of the artist Bottom: Helen Gaynor, The Treasure Hoard, 2019, graphite, acrylic and oil on canvas, 107 × 107 cm; courtesy of the artist


MEMORY AND TOUCH are central themes

within my practice. I work primarily in oil and my paintings have both figurative and landscape elements, where I explore colour, form, light and composition. Behind all my work is a story. In the past, my paintings have looked at stories of stolen identities, of war refugees and of family members living with Alzheimer’s disease. The work shown as part of my recent solo show, ‘In Time’ at Presentation Arts Centre, Enniscorthy (24 August to 5 October), looked at fragmented memories and conversations I’ve had with my family and friends over the years. My paintings examines how both ordinary and extraordinary moments bring us closer to understanding our own personal meaning in life’s journey. To avoid conveying such heavy representations of a subject matter, my practice focuses on painting in the simplest of forms. I allow for each layer to be seen – the raw canvas, the pencil marks and thinned oil paint, which gives the illusion of watercolour. The paintings offer a glimpse or a subtle suggestion as to what the narrative may be. The majority of my current work is figurative, with a particular focus on hands. I am repeatedly drawn to the intimate nature that hands can reveal, conveying unspoken dialogue and human interactions in both public and private moments. Compositional considerations are also central within my work. Pared back scenes of unknown figures, purposely concealed – and mostly free from landscapes – are frozen in cropped compositions. There is a sense of fragmented time occurring. The use of negative space is equally considered. I wish for the empty canvas to say just as much as the application of paint, and to push against the traditional idea of a finished painting. I hope for my work to probe, evoke and conjure up faded memoirs and gaps of uncertainty, allowing room for the viewer to fill in the narrative and reflect on their own personal experiences. Since moving to Wexford in 2016, I feel my practice has really begun to take shape, not just as an artist but as a business. I’ve attended many of the professional developments workshops that Wexford County Council Arts Office provide to artists, from ‘How to Promote your Work Online’ to ‘Tax and Accountancy’. The Arts Office also partnered with Visual Artists Ireland to hold a Visual Artist Café and Help-Desk event, led by VAI staff and Arts Officer Liz Burns. All have been incredibly beneficial. At times, it can feel overwhelming and off-putting, when reading the text-heavy information on getting set up as a professional artist; but these workshops provide a safe space for artists to meet one another, swap experiences and pose vital questions to experts. It is an incredible relief! The more I attend these events, the more I question why these skills were never taught to us in art college. I have had the opportunity to project manage a small arts festival called The Enniscorthy Arts Trail, which has taken place on the August bank holiday weekend for the last two years. The arts trail idea was inspired by taking part in K-FEST in Killorglin, County Kerry. I felt that transforming vacant retail premises into colourful pop-up galleries, over the course of a weekend, could be done anywhere. After

Top: Nadia Corridan, Cecelia, 2018, oil and pencil on canvas stretcher, 70 × 100 cm Bottom: Nadia Corridan, The Long Goodbye, 2018, oil and pencil on canvas stretcher, 87 × 87 cm; all images courtesy of the artist

speaking to The Presentation Centre, the idea was brought to our local Arts Officer and we were given a small budget to create this artist-led initiative. Our pilot programme in 2018 brought together eight artists, rising to over thirty artists and musicians in 2019. My perspective on the arts changed hugely by participating in the festival as an administrator, rather than as an exhibiting artist. As a working artist based in Wexford, my practice has grown in such a short space of time. The WCC workshops have helped me to secure exhibition opportunities and to sell my work in galleries and online. This year I also began teaching children’s art classes in both Wexford Art Centre and Presentation Art Centre. I am grateful for the many opportunities I have been given through the Wexford art scene, which all started when I popped in, back in 2016, to say hello.


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Regional Focus

Cow House Studios

Geordie Gallery

Frank Abruzzese Co-Founder

Andi McGarry Artist

WE RAN OUR first residency at Cow House

Studios in 2008, inviting four artists to live and work at our newly-renovated studios for 12 weeks, from September to November. While the studios and facilities have expanded over the years, the core aim of the residency has remained the same: to provide productive time and space for Irish and international artists to develop new and existing bodies of work. Over the past 12 years, we have added a host of new facilities and equipment, including: a range of painting materials, a darkroom, a computer lab with Adobe Creative Suite, a large-format Epson Printer, a sizeable selection of powered woodworking tools, digital cameras, lighting and audio recording equipment. We are currently in the process of developing ceramic and screen-printing facilities. We are grateful to have enjoyed an eventful 2019 and look forward to a busy schedule for spring 2020. Most recently, we said goodbye to Eithne Jordan, Richard Gorman and Tamsin Snow, who were our 2019 residents, as part of Age & Opportunity’s Bealtaine Festival. The idea behind the two-week residency (curated by Tara Byrne) was to create a quiet space for artists from different generations to consider their practices and the changing contexts of their work, as their careers have progressed. This programme is something we look forward to every year because, in addition to being wonderfully gracious guests, the participating artists have consistently been practitioners who we have long admired – and this year was certainly no exception. To begin 2020, from 3 February to 15 March, we are offering our annual Open Residency (the deadline is 10 November). This residency is intended to give artists critically valuable time and space to think, research and make new work. The aim is to minimise distraction and ensure that momentum gained while working in the studio can be acted upon, thus helping to make even short stays highly productive. Artists may apply for a minimum of one week but can opt to stay the entire six-week residency period. Resident artists are provided with meals, accommodation and full use of the studios, equipment and materials we offer.

From 30 March to 12 April, we will be offering our first ever residency designed specifically for parenting artists. With the generous support of Wexford County Council – and building upon the excellent research and pilot programme run by The Mothership Project at our studios during Autumn 2018 – this residency will offer time and space for artists to work, with full-time daycare provided for their families. While building a career in the arts has always been a challenging proposition, it can be particularly precarious for artists with young families. This residency aims to address the needs of these artists while simultaneously raising awareness so that the art world can become more inclusive for parenting artists. The deadline for applying is 10 November Starting in 2015, we have offered an annual curated residency, providing a thematic focus and exhibition opportunity for participating artists. From 20 April to 17 May we will be running ‘Leeward’, curated by Karla Sánchez. Starting with the premise that the “rural” is a cultural construction that we need to demystify and deconstruct, this residency will address misunderstandings about how the countryside works, what it needs, what it can offer, and current theories regarding the survival of our species. Again, with the generous support of Wexford County Council, this residency will offer time and space, as well as facilitated talks and visits to sites of interest and the production of a publication of artworks and writings. The deadline is 12 January 2020. Throughout the spring, we will also be running various residencies for those whose artistic practice makes use of digital and/or analogue photographic processes. These will include a week-long residency with UK-based collective Planetary Processing, a meeting of the North American and European branches of the Piece of Cake collective and continued collaboration with PhotoIreland Foundation. We are thrilled to be offering a diverse array of residency programmes for 2020, to meet our aim of providing opportunities for artists at all levels, working across various disciplines and interests.

Maeve Coughlin screening at Cow House Studios, 2014; photograph by Frank Abruzzese

Andi McGarry in the Geordie Gallery, Tagoat, County Wexford

GEORDIE GALLERY IS located on a five-acre

site at Yola Hedge School and Family Centre in Tagoat, Wexford. The site was one of a few parcels of land given over to the community by the Irish Land Commission in the 1980s. The current project is run by a board of trustees and a voluntary committee, which was started by local school teachers Paul O’Keefe and Deirdre Doheny around 2010. I clambered aboard the project 15 years ago to become a long-serving, voluntary resident artist. Since then, I have been involved in a number of projects, including: the construction of a water-worthy boat; the creation of a wooden indoor skate park; and painting a selection of large-scale murals, inspired by art history, including one based around the old Yola language. These murals were created in collaboration with residents from the local community centre and children from the local school. The Yola Hedge School has an abundance of derelict buildings describing previous lifetimes – sheds, out-places and even a broken windmill. Along with generating an inclusive community space, our mission is to try and bring some of these buildings back into use. This included the Geordie Gallery (which opened in May of 2018) with its black beams and white walls – colours suggestive of Newcastle United, thus a reference to my Geordie roots. At the outset, I declared that Geordie Gallery would be a community venue, fostering local artists and showing local art. I showcased some of my own paintings and a selection of my artist’s books for the inaugural show, inviting the local school children. I was bowled over by the depth of interest the kids got out of the work – an instant success. We couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of this already – a living, breathing, creative space. I remember seeing my work on the wall, with the new lights shining down and dancing around the sprung floor, laughing out loud: “I’m a gallery, I’m a gallery!” On the downside, the building has a leaky roof and inadequate toilets, and it’s a struggle to get annual insurance cover. Our venue is also quite hard to locate – way down a farm track with pot holes. But I like the challenge. Start

small with nothing, have belief and build it up, enthuse and encourage with a passion. The main audience is the visiting school children, who usually come down the lane at least once a week to walk and play on the site, plus the visitors to our openings and a smattering of intrepid tourists. In June 2018, the gallery showed a selection of works by ‘Nexson’ – a persona that the kids from the Yola Hedge School created, along with their teacher Paul O’Keefe. Through this event, the kids learned how to put on an exhibition: they held an opening; organised publicity; invited the press; got a two-page spread in the local paper; and even practiced and delivered the speeches. This show was followed by a touring photographic exhibition, on loan from the V&A Museum of Childhood collection, depicting children playing in Shiremoor Adventure Playgroud in Newcastle upon Tyne. I have always liked lens-based work and this exhibition got me thinking about opening a photographic gallery in another part of the building. After this show, we exhibited the work of local painter and recent graduate, Billie Jean Doheny, whose paintings are heavily influenced by ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture, followed by another local graduate, Lauren Breatnagh, whose colorful and painterly explorations provided the first sales for Geordie Gallery. At the time of writing, we are currently prepping the gallery for an exhibition of sculptures by Imogen Stafford (on show from 1 October to 30 November). On foot of the gallery’s success, I turned my attention to the entrance of the Yola Hedge School and another space adjoining the building, to create the Open Lens Photographic Gallery. So far we have shown two collections: one by local photographer Michael Duggan and artist Declan Cody, titled ‘Kathmandu’; and a second collection, titled ‘Half a mile from home’, by local photographer Tom Dunne. A new show is planned shortly for Simon Bates, whose collection, ‘Laborer’s Cottages of County Wexford’, was recently featured in the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin.

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Regional Focus

Wexford Arts Office

Wexford Arts Centre

Liz Burns Arts Officer

Catherine Bowe Visual Arts Manager

WEXFORD COUNTY HAS a long-established

and vibrant art scene, particularly in music and visual art, as I discovered after moving here three years ago, to take up the role as County Arts Officer. Arriving at the start of Wexford Opera Festival season in October 2016 was a baptism of fire in many ways, but a good one, as it gave me a crash course in everything to do with arts and culture in Wexford. The festival celebrates the best of international opera and coincides with Wexford Fringe Festival (which includes drama, music and an impressive visual arts programme) and the Spiegeltent Festival, showcasing the best of local, national and international music. Of course arts and culture is not exclusive to Wexford town. Gorey, Enniscorthy, New Ross, Kilmore Quay and Bunclody all have active art scenes, housing different types of arts, cultural and community centres, serving diverse rural and urban audiences. This is perhaps the most challenging part of being an Arts Officer – one’s remit is extremely broad, in terms of supporting countywide arts provision across all art forms. My previous role in Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin – as well as my own curatorial interests – has stood me well in the role, to which I bring my expertise in visual arts, film, public art and socially-engaged practice. Having worked in the arts for over 18 years, I realise artists’ needs remain the same. Sustaining an arts practice, funding, affordable studio spaces, professional development, upskilling and networking opportunities are all high on the list of artists’ needs across all art forms. With additional Creative Ireland funding, Wexford Arts Office invited Visual Artists Ireland to deliver a range of professional development workshops in Wexford during spring and autumn 2019. Through Artlinks, Wexford Art Office – in collaboration with Waterford, Kilkenny, and Carlow Arts Offices – continues to offer annual artist bursaries across all art forms. Artlinks is currently looking at ways to support artists in working together regionally, nationally and internationally. Working on Wexford County Arts Plan, ‘Advancing the Arts 2018–2022’, was an ideal way for me to get to know the county, by meeting and consulting with artists, art centres, council colleagues and other key stakeholders. Wexford County has two art colleges: Wexford Campus School of Art and Design (Institute of Technology Carlow); and Gorey School of Arts (GSA), which runs a portfolio preparation course. Wexford Art Centre (WAC) has a strong reputation in the visual arts through its curator Catherine Bowe, their exhibition programme and the tenyear-old Emerging Visual Artists Award. This nationwide annual award, which WAC runs in partnership with the Arts Office, was rebranded and restructured in 2018/2019 as the EMERGENCE Award and now runs over two years. It comprises a cash award of €15,000; a solo show in WAC; and €2,000 in mentoring for the artist. In addition, we’re delighted to introduce a new strand to this award, in partnership with IT Carlow, whereby the artist will engage with the college and students over the two-year period, in exchange for space, equipment and other resources. Following a nationwide open-call in

spring 2019, Laura Fitzgerald was selected as the 2019–2021 winner. Wexford town offers a good range of exhibition spaces, including WAC, the County Council building, Kamera 8, Green Acres, Blue Egg Gallery, as well as numerous pop-up galleries that emerge during the Opera Festival. Gorey School of Art has Periphery Space, Enniscorthy has Presentation Arts Centre, and there’s Artbank in Bunclody. Responding to a need for subsidised studio spaces, Wexford County Council took out a lease on a disused shopping mall in the centre of Wexford town, to offer studio, exhibition, performance and retail spaces for artists. This new Creative Hub opened in July 2018 and houses over 30 visual artists, craft makers, dancers and writers across ten units. The day-to-day running of the space is managed by WAC, on behalf of the council and it’s currently full, with a waiting list. Public art commissioning and Per Cent for Art is active again in County Wexford, with three ongoing commissions currently being managed by the Arts Office. These include artist Caoimhe Kilfeather, who is working on a permanent art commission, and two socially-engaged art commissions with artists Christine Mackey and Maria McKinney. All are due for completion in 2020. Another commission, titled DisPatch, was recently completed by artists Ciara Roche, Becks Butler and Astrid Newman. In 2018 Wexford, Fingal and Dublin City Council Arts Offices received an Arts Council Invitation to Collaboration award, to test new models around public art commissioning. Titled ‘An Urgent Enquiry’, three artists were awarded research residencies in each local authority in summer 2019, with public outcomes now taking place. Artist Mark Clare was awarded the Wexford residency. It’s an exciting time, in terms of public art, and I foresee new opportunities being created for artists across all art forms in the coming years.

Mark Clare (pictured) was awarded the Wexford County Council Residency, ‘An Urgent Enquiry’; photograph by Brian Creggan


WEXFORD ARTS CENTRE is the oldest regional

arts centre in the country and is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. We are based in the listed Cornmarket building in Wexford town, which dates back to 1776 and was originally a market house, built by Wexford Corporation. The windows of the lower gallery are arched recesses designed for the traders, which serve as a reminder of the building’s former commercial function. It opened its doors as Wexford Arts Centre in 1974. To celebrate this milestone, our current exhibition places emphasis on the Arts Council of Ireland’s continual support in the development of the arts countywide. Working in partnership with the Arts Department of Wexford County Council, ‘From the Mountain’ (21 October – 25 November) features works from the Arts Council Collection and by invited artists Orla Bates, Stephen Brandes, Fran Greene, Paul McKinley, Olivia O’Dwyer and Michael John Whelan. The exhibition’s title is taken from a video work by Whelan, which explores our connection with the environment and questions our diverse roles as observer, protector and eventual consumer. ‘From the Mountain’ also highlights the ongoing partnership with the Arts Department of Wexford County Council on our visual arts programme. Since 2015, we have worked together on a number of exhibitions. The most ambitious to date was ‘HERE/there: Wexford meets Wuppertal’ (24 June – 26 August), which ran between Wexford County Council, Wexford Arts Centre and Kamera 8 Gallery. The exhibition linked with Galerie GRÖLLE Pass Projects in Wuppertal, Germany, and showcased work exploring the historical significance of the two regions. The Ireland-based German curator Anya von Gosseln and her Rhineland-based colleague, Jürgen Grölle, brought a selection of contemporary art from these two regions together for the exhibition. Other shared initiatives with Wexford County Council include the EMERGENCE Visual Art Award. Working with Carlow IT Wexford Campus School of Art & Design, the award aims to support visual artists with the development and promotion of their practice. Offered biannually, the award has a monetary value of €15,000 and includes mentorship support over the award cycle and a solo exhibition at Wexford Arts Centre. As part of this new partnership, Wexford Campus School of Art & Design offers self-directed opportunities to engage with the staff and students and to avail of practical resources (such as studio space and access to equipment) for the duration of the award. After a lengthy selection process, we are delighted to announce Laura Fitzgerald as the recipient of the 2019 award. Autobiographical and fictional narratives are explored in Laura’s practice through drawing, text and video. Referencing her own rural background and general anxieties of what it means to be an artist, she constructs representational spaces using models and projections. Using text self-reflexively, she considers the act of making art as a romanticised endeavour and an experience-based reality. Through her video work, Laura draws on the nuanced differences between the documentary veracity and archival montage, generating

Laura Fitzgerald, Stone Head (Self-Portrait), 2019, courtesy of the artist. Fitzgerald is the recipient of the 2019 EMERGENCE Visual Artist Award

ambiguity between fiction and fact. For the EMERGENCE Award, Laura will produce a series of videos and drawings exploring notions of success and failure and the usefulness of art itself, using places of interest in County Wexford to frame the works. She will also work collaboratively with interested students of IT Carlow Wexford Campus of Art & Design on a series of art writing workshops to develop the video narratives. The award is an important part of our programme, supporting the professional development of artists by providing a framework for experimental practice and the production and presentation of new work. The commissioning of new work is also a key priority in the national tours we undertake, which are supported by the Arts Council’s Touring and Dissemination of Work Scheme. In 2020–21, we will work collaboratively with The Model (Sligo), Highlanes (Drogheda) and Limerick City Gallery to tour the work of Wexford-based artist Mary-Ruth Walsh. MaryRuth takes inspiration from the language of architecture, constructing imagined spaces while exploring ideas relating to the built environment and contemporary culture. Through film, sculpture, installation and collage, the artist will extend her interest in architecture to explore the idea of skin as a substance and metaphor. Over the next two years, the production and touring of ‘Skin Deep’ will provide the framework for our in-house and off-site exhibition and education programmes, exploring the themes in a variety of ways through collaborative projects and new commissions. Referring back to the building’s historical function as a market house, we will invite and commission artists to respond to ideas around agriculture, trade and the politics of production, while also taking inspiration from the wider socio-economic history of Wexford town and harbour.


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

How is it Made?

Tai Shani, DC Semiramis, installation view, Turner Prize 2019 at Turner Contemporary, Margate; photograph by David Levene, courtesy of Turner Contemporary


I VISITED TAI Shani in her studio at Gasworks in south London, as she was preparing to send work off to Turner Contemporary, Margate, for the Turner Prize 2019 exhibition.1 Her studio is a bright, light-filled space, ram-packed with objects and creations. Upon entering, I made my way past some giant cardboard pillars. Looking to my right, I noticed some dripping, jewel-like puddles, set out on a table in front of which sat a giant hand, cupping in its palm a tiny 3D-printed face. It’s like entering a deconstructed magical land, on the cusp of forming itself into something recognisable. It’s quite wonderful. There is no set way to describe the work of Tai Shani. Her practice encompasses performance, installation, film and photography, but still, it’s hard to say exactly what to expect when encountering her work. Tai is friendly, softly spoken and very open about discussing her practice. She had an unconventional childhood; her parents were part of a counter-cultural left-wing collective called The Third Eye in Israel before she was born, and as a child she lived in a commune in Goa in India. She didn’t start formal school until she was 10 years old.

Ailve McCormack: Do you feel that your upbringing has impacted your work? Tai Shani: My work doesn’t necessarily come from having had an exotic or unconventional background; however, I’ve never had to battle with expectations, so in that regard it gave me space to explore my creative side. In terms of how it relates to my work, there are certain areas of interest that have emerged. Growing up in Goa, there were a lot of philosophical conversations that took place and I think my upbringing aligned me with a particular ethic of life – an experimental approach and an openness to the world. AM: You’ve said before that you had a realisation of what you wanted to achieve as an artist when you were only 14 years old. What was it? TS: It was mostly a feeling. I remember my mother gave me a postcard of a painting of Ophelia and I cried because of the sheer beauty of it. I remember thinking: “how is it

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

How is it Made?


possible to move another person in that way?” The impossibility of what’s created in an artwork at that particular moment is very fleeting but very powerful. Something about that was very appealing to me and on an abstract level, I wanted to be able to create this feeling in my work. AM: What is a typical day in the studio? TS: I don’t have a traditional studio practice, in the sense that I don’t often come in without a reason. I don’t come to the studio to experiment. Most of the early work happens in my head, and when I come to the studio it’s a process of execution and production. My work happens in different ways and my ideas often emerge quite slowly. For example, a song or a particular tone can suddenly be very present and I will try to create something around that. Writing is often the first step and from these texts, images emerge, which I then translate into the objects I make. AM: Your practice stretches across many media, including performance, film, installation, photography and text. Can you describe how all this works? TS: For many years, performance was the main output of my work and within the performances there were texts. It’s funny, my early performances were all women casts, but I hadn’t realised at that stage that I was interested in feminism. I didn’t have the language and I wasn’t plugged into the discourse in a way that I could properly develop my ideas. I’ve long been interested in ideas of subjectivity and identification and about how temporary realities are constructed. Years ago, I started to create these characters for every new work I made – almost like a never-ending play. I also began to adapt existing texts. This is when I came across Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), which I find very interesting. I’m interested in the structure of the book; the fictional city with all these different characters. It enabled me to start writing my own characters and to populate my work with them.

Tai Shani, DC Semiramis, installation view, Turner Contemporary, Margate; photograph by David Levene, courtesy of Turner Contemporary

AM: Many of these characters appear in your ongoing work, Dark Continent. Can you tell me a bit about that? TS: ‘Dark Continent Productions’ is an ongoing feminist project, iterated through character-led installations, films, performances and experimental texts. It’s an expanded adaptation of The Book of the City of Ladies and takes the shape of an allegorical city of women. This city is populated by composite, symbolic protagonists that embody excess, and examine ‘feminine’ subjectivity and experience, as well as the potentials of a realism defined by excess and the irrational – qualities traditionally surrounding notions of ‘femininity’. This project articulates the feminine not as female, but as a kind of ‘radical otherness’ to any conception of the real. The Turner Prize exhibition will be the last time I show this work. A lot of the writing in it was very personal and even though it was ventriloquised through different characters, it was still an unravelling of my insides. It’s not that it was therapeutic, but a lot of it was looking back, kind of processing, and once I finished, I wanted to move on. AM: Can you expand on this term, ‘radical otherness’? TS: Over the course of making Dark Continent, my politics have changed. Definitely in the beginning, there was a big emphasis on giving a voice to a very interior feminine subjectivity, but it’s really not about women in a conventional gendered way. I was interested in otherness and writing about experiences that are linked to femininity, but this evolved into a post-patriarchal city, rather than a city of women, and that’s how I define it now. I’m not interested in it being a binary city at all. When I started the project, I began a journey in terms of my own engagement politically. The discovery of feminism, for me, was about finding a language to describe my experience and where I was situated in the world. Through research, I’ve become aware of a lot more discourse and my thinking has evolved. I’ve learnt a lot from intersectional feminism, and it’s changed how I see what this city or artwork could be.

Tai Shani, DC Semiramis, installation view, Glasgow International 2018, photograph © Keith Hunter, courtesy of the artist

AM: Your upcoming show – ‘Tragodía’ at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (20 December 2019 – 15 February 2020) – will be some people’s first encounter with your work. What would you say to them upon entering? TS: I don’t think that people need to be prepared for my work in any way. This work is a bit different than Dark Continent, which draws on so many references. This is quite reference-free. It’s a tragedy and has a devastating tone. It’s also very much about love – about how love situates us, and the loss that’s completely implicit within that.

Ailve McCormack is an arts producer and consultant who has recently returned to live and work in Dublin. She is founder and writer of the ongoing blog, From the Studio of…

Tai Shani is an artist based in London and a tutor in Contemporary Art Practice at the Royal College of Art. Her multidisciplinary practice revolves around experimental narrative texts.


Nominees for the Turner Prize 2019 are: Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo. The winner will be announced on 3 December. The Turner Prize 2019 exhibition runs at Turner Contemporary, Margate, until 12 January 2020.


Tai Shani, DC Semiramis, installation detail, Turner Contemporary, Margate; photograph by David Levene, courtesy of Turner Contemporary


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

How is it Made?

The Trial JONATHAN CARROLL INTERVIEWS SINEAD MCCANN ABOUT THE TRIAL – A SOCIALLY-ENGAGED PROJECT, FILM AND TOURING EXHIBITION. Jonathan Carroll: The Trial is a collaboration with the School of History in UCD. You designed a creative process which enabled men from The Bridge Project, Dublin1, to engage with UCD research on healthcare in prison, past and present. How were you invited to make academic research visible using art making? Sinead McCann: At the time, I was working in a public engagement role on ‘Prisoners’ Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland 1850–2000’ – a five-year Wellcome Trust-funded research project, based in UCD and led by Associate Professor Dr Catherine Cox. This role involved brokering creative projects between theatre makers and artists to critically and creatively engage the general public with academic research. I saw an opportunity to expand an area of interest in my own art practice, so I invited Dr Cox and men with lived prison experience from The Bridge Project to collaborate with me on The Trial. JC: I visited Spike Island prison to view The Trial, which proved a very impressive and effective location for your work. You also showed the work in Kilmainham’s Old Courtroom, as well as Lifford Courthouse and now, Dublin Castle. How did you decide on these locations and did you have them in mind when making the work? SMc: The Trial is a multi-screen installation exploring health care provision and human rights within the Irish prison system, past and present. Central to the aesthetic and experience of The Trial has been the careful selection of site-specific locations with a history of incarceration. It was originally conceived and made for the Old Courtroom in Kilmainham Gaol, where it made poetic and explicit use of the courtroom space. Spike Island has a very recent and long history of incarceration. For this reason, it was suggested by one of men from The Bridge Project, who collaborated on the making of The Trial. JC: The script for The Trial was produced through a series of workshops using contemporary and archival material and lived experience. This process involved filtering diverse material to create a workable script and a 22-minute film. Can you discuss this working method? SMc: The project took 13 months to plan, research, develop and execute. The men who collaborated on the project felt strongly about their healthcare experience in prison and wanted to articulate these on behalf of their community. Some of the men had engaged in drama while in prison, so I was keen to merge elements of discussion, academic research, drama, performance art, writing and archival material, to critically explore this topic in our creative workshops. Theatrical enquiry was one of the formats we used to process this diverse material. While in prison, all of the men sat before visiting committees, answering questions about prison conditions. The format of these enquiries – many professionals on one side of the table and the prisoner sitting alone on the opposite side – became a useful and playful strategy to develop material for the script. We worked with writer and prison researcher, Sarah Meaney, to support us to do this together. JC: The three characters who appear in The Trial each have a distinct style of delivering their monologues. Is there significance behind their levels of anonymity? SMc: The three characters tell the real-life stories of those who were held and worked in the Irish prison system in the 19th and 20th centuries. Tommy (played by the Fair City actor, Tommy O’Neill) is dressed in a suit and looks at us straight on, with no disguise; Charlie (played by child actor, Charlie Hughes Farrell) is dressed in a school uniform and is seen in profile with his head cropped; while Neili (played by Fair City actor, Neili Conroy) is completely silhouetted. We worked closely with Mary Caffrey and Dan Monk (Sixbetween video productions) to produce the video material for

Sinead McCann, The Trial, 2019, installation view, Spike Island; photograph by Jed Niezgoda, courtesy the artist

the installation. The aim was to vividly illustrate the contrast between some of the healthcare accounts of the prisoners (both historical and contemporary) and the official line taken by professionals who worked in the prison system over the years. We achieved this through the considered way we approached the filming and in the complex post-production work. In terms of how the artwork deals with anonymity, for example, we worked with the 1963 RTÉ Radharc report.2 This report consisted of filmed and broadcasted interviews with children in St Patrick’s Institution for young offenders in Dublin about how they ended up there. In this archival footage, the children’s heads are cropped. In The Trial, this aesthetic is emulated in how Charlie is filmed. This is intended to be an ironic nod to the era which explores the tension existing in the protection of the children’s identity on screen, despite the awful conditions they were experiencing inside the walls of St Patrick’s. JC: The installation of The Trial across four screens is very effective. The screens were installed in a very anthropomorphic way at Kilmainham’s Old Courtroom, with two of the screens located where the judges would sit and the other two acting more as witnesses. But on Spike Island, the effect was more in the site’s history, obviously contained within the walls. What are the stark differences in how the work is read in each location? SMc: To discern what is on trial – and from whose perspective the story is being told – the viewer has a little figuring out to do. The three characters move from one screen to another in an unsettling way, shifting from the position of witness to judge. In the courtroom, for example, the viewer is at a distance, encountering the screens from below, in a kind of juror’s role. At Spike Island, The Trial was installed in a 19th-century building, which was previously a prison hospital and later a children’s prison. In this context, the four screens stood upright on the floor at head-height. The viewer could stand directly beside them, creating an intimacy, as if there was a person in the room, telling them their story directly. Inviting the viewer into the work in this way plays with ideas of complicity, through their presence as witness. JC: Tommy O’Neill has experienced prison life – did he contribute his own knowledge in the final work? SMc: An important decision taken in the development of the

project was to work with an actor who had prison experience. Creative professionals and the men workshopped the performance of the men’s monologues with Tommy – during this creative process, he reflected upon his own prison experiences, which were written into the script. JC: What is the ultimate message of The Trial? Is it a commemorative work or does it seek contemporary advocacy? SMc: Resonating with current issues – particularly regarding mental health within the Irish prison system – the thematic focus of The Trial is on the experience of solitary confinement, dealing with separation from family when in prison, mental and physical well-being in prison and childhood experiences of St. Patrick’s Institution Dublin. It offers a range of perspectives on healthcare in prison and invites the viewer to reflect on them and to draw their own conclusions. Dr Sinead McCann is a Dublin-based artist. She also coordinates curriculum-based, community-engaged projects across disciplines at the Technological University Dublin. The Trial is created, directed and led by artist Dr Sinead McCann, in collaboration with UCD School of History and The Bridge Project. It was originally core funded by a Participation Award from the Arts Council of Ireland, with further funding from Dublin City Council, University College Dublin and Wellcome Trust. The three-venue national tour of The Trial is funded by the Arts Council’s touring and dissemination of work scheme. The exhibition travelled to Spike Island, Cork (26 July – 22 August); Lifford Courthouse, Donegal (29 August – 12 September); and Dublin Castle (26 September – 3 December), where it was programmed as part of Smashing Times Arts and Human Rights Festival Dublin. Notes 1 The Bridge Project supports high-risk male ex-offenders with a history of repeated violent crime, through education and training programmes to support integration back into their families and communities. 2 Radharc was produced for RTÉ by Radharc, an independent production company run by Catholic priests and lay staff from the 1960s–1990s.

The Visual Artists' News Sheet

Critique Edition 47: November – December 2019

Castlerea Prison, For you to be here, installation view, ‘Open Minds’, Rua Red; photograph by Tommy Clancy


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Sarah Long ‘Kingdom’ Studio 12, Backwater Artists Group, Cork 12 September – 11 October 2019

Sarah Long, I’ve been silent for so long, 2019, 3D wire drawing, installation view; all images courtesy of the artist and Backwater Artists Group

UNSTEADINESS IS A deliberate quality of Sarah Long’s work, recently exhibited at Studio 12, Backwater Artists Group in Cork. For this exhibition, titled ‘Kingdom’, Long presented five mixed-media works on canvas and one wirebased sculpture. Behind blotches of paint, the canvases lie host to trembling pencil lines, indexing a shakiness of either the hand or ground. Tremors would exit through the utensil either way, traveling between floor and body and, in Long’s show, right to the tip of the art objects themselves; as a viewer nears the glass case containing the wire sculpture, its thin ends quake with each approaching step. The encased piece is titled I’ve been silent for so long. The silence the wire proclaims – fugitively, breaking nothing – is indicative of Long’s interest in interfaces between the Irish landscape and the English language, and the literary history that embeds the two. Long’s textual references range from Yeats and other Romantic poets, to contemporary writers like Derek Mahon, whose poem, A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford, supplies two artwork titles in the show. One of these artworks, The world waltzing in its bowl of cloud, uses Arcadian purples and pinks; the titular work, Kingdom, incorporates glitter, indulging the colorful fantasies of the literary and artistic imagination, while simultaneously scratching them out. Natural hedgerows are Long’s primary subject. The wire sculpture materialises the prickliness of hedgerows, its knotty lines and barbs poking in and out to form a warped honeycomb barrier. Like language, borders are another imposition on landscape. I’ve been silent for so long is Long’s first foray into sculpture, which she labels a ‘3D wire drawing’ – a term insisting on her sculpture practice’s lineage in her painterly background. It suggests lines being coaxed off the surface to intrude on the observers’ space, out in the open. Open space in Long’s paintings is anything but empty, with white canvas overrun by bands of delicate lines. Sometimes the lines coalesce into weeds and flowers, like sketches in a naturalist’s notebook. More often they run freely, filling works like Kingdom in a way that Long has compared to the population density that distinguished Romantic Ireland from coun-

terparts in Scotland, rural England and Wales. With over eight million people in Ireland before the famine, there was simply less vacant territory. Working at West Cork Arts Centre last year, on the exhibition ‘Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger’, Long has incorporated this history into her research, showing us how landscape is ceaselessly written over. Through unsentimental shapes and lines, she renders the callousness – the hardening over – that characterises a landscape withstanding before, during and after famine. Testifying to this endurance, I can recall – Long’s ‘lyric poem’, presented as a wall text and de facto epigraph to the show – speaks to centuries of change witnessed by the natural world. It reads like an account of a long war, in which the lost are given a chance to tell their story beside the living paintings. In the third stanza, Long writes about “the last wolf of Ireland’s plangent cry at the hands of the old noll.” The last wild wolf in Ireland is thought to have been killed in 1786 along the Wexford-Carlow border – near, perhaps, the disused shed in Co. Wexford? The wolf had been killing sheep, so the hunter killed the wolf. Hunting reads like a motif in the show, with artworks like Kingdom incorporating the camouflage colours of a hunting blind. Art historians have often integrated British Geographer Jay Appleton’s theory of prospect-refuge1 into theories of landscape, which suggests that the environment is something we scan from the perspective of both predator and prey. To hunt smartly, predators must empathise with prey; as such, empathy is not a neutral construct. In the context of environmental precarity, Long’s work finds more reciprocity in relationships of entanglement than in relationships of empathy. Unsteady is this new hand. The ship is rocking, down to the tip of each single gluey branch of wire. One footstep and the wire quakes; one stroke and the wolf is gone.

Sarah Long, Chalk and Crown, 2019, oil and mixed-media on canvas, 90 × 90 cm

Sarah Long, Kingdom, 2019, oil and mixed-media on canvas, 140 × 100 cm

Frani O’Toole is a writer currently based in Cork. Notes 1 See: Jay Appleton, The Experience of Landscape (London: John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 1975).

Sarah Long, The world waltzing in its bowl of cloud, 2018, oil and mixed-media on canvas, 100 × 50 cm


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Joanne Boyle Mermaid Arts Centre, Wicklow 13 September – 26 October 2019

‘Open Minds’ Rua Red, Tallaght 6 September – 5 October 2019

Priorswood Prison, First impressions; photograph by Tommy Clancy, courtesy of Rua Red

Shelton Abbey Prison, Sweet Jesus; photograph by Tommy Clancy, courtesy of Rua Red

‘OPEN MINDS’ FEATURED over 70 artworks made in Irish prison education programmes, with the installation at Rua Red furnishing a metaphor for imprisonment. We know nothing of these artists’ lives. They were necessarily anonymous, with artworks attributed not to the artists, but to the institutions that confined them. No context concerning them was available, save for the titles they had given their work. It was rarely clear quite what was on show. Prison Staircase, a spiralling, assiduous pencil drawing from Wheatfield Prison, was typically enigmatic. But a sense of the privileged intimacy of the disclosure prevailed, and the works were recast by this public encounter. Across the exhibition, rampant natural themes frequently channelled darkness. Blood of Abel is a pastoral painting made in Midlands Prison. Its stippled impasto of violent, autumnal oil paint struck me before I noticed the title, which relates virtue, vice, punishment and striving. A sizeable contingent of ceramic animals appeared stuck. In forty-odd tiles from Arbour Hill Prison, flora and fauna burgeon outward, recalling the sensual benevolence of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. Yet context petrified them, their symmetrical alignment suggesting some institutional chamber. In three paintings from Cloverhill Prison, tall windows are stifled with thick, milky light. Their similarity could signal derived technical commonality, or simply the facing of shared confinement. Matchstick Wagon with Whittling from Castlerea Prison was installed on a plinth, its doily curtains pulled shut. Elsewhere, nature appeared splendid and wild. A ceramic work from Cork Prison, Monet’s Garden on TV, was magnetic, its bevelled screen images the subject in fuzzy saturation. Monet’s footbridge resembles burnt toast; its reflection underneath as red as blood. All over is cadmium yellow, eggshell and ultramarine, with watery plants rendered in insouciant dots and stripes. The painting seemed to suspend a manic recollection of isolation, rushed by a frenetic cultural stream. Impressive animals also came courtesy of Cork Prison. One of several feathered, piebald Gypsy horses veered audaciously in a massive acrylic painting, like one of those cosmic biker images.

The exhibition title recalls the dreary platitude of ‘keeping an open mind’; but it was also invaded by vital purpose, reminding us that we are open and alive to environmental influence. In the crowded installation – where attending to works felt like hauling them out in haste – one also sensed an ongoing defining and nurturing of self. Identities and social relations were examined; pain was explored and experimented with. In Life Inside (a plaster sculpture made in Castlerea), a spectral torso and head of cropped hair were seen from behind, hung from an old-fashioned, curlicued coat hook and disappearing into the wall. Between the shoulder blades is a six-sided, jagged hole – a murky window, like a Magic 8-Ball – in which little specked stars can be discerned. The exhibition curator, artist Brian Maguire, who has previously worked extensively with prisoners, stresses that art “is a means of resistance, albeit a legal one.”1 ‘Open Minds’ relates to the concept of ‘outsider art’ – what art-making looks like, untouched by academic influence – but privilege and welfare marked a more important distinction. It’s not hard to imagine that many of these artists had to go to prison to find conditions conducive to making art. Here they lacked the freedom to enter the gallery, or to even identify themselves. First Impressions, ceramic and wooden sculptures from Priorswood House in Coolock, displaying large fingerprints on bamboo-like tree stumps, offered a thoughtful treatment of this absence. Meanwhile, a greenish ceramic hand from Arbour Hill was scored with brick wall – one of many such allusions to this motif. It looked as though a flattened hand had been used for a template. Although viewers could not know the exclusion and adversity of these artists, the oblique visibility of these experiences was provocative and memorable. A related exhibition of creative arts made by people in custody is currently showing at the Hunt Museum, Limerick, until 24 November. Danny Kelly is an artist based in Dublin. Notes 1 Hadrien Laroche, ‘About the Experience of Violence and Violence as the Destruction of Experience’, Open Minds, Rua Red, 2019.

JOANNE BOYLE’S SOLO exhibition at Mermaid Arts Centre can be viewed as a testing ground for her ideas around material processes and display. The exhibition comprises oil paintings and glazed porcelain pieces, reflecting Boyle’s attempts to “articulate the non-everyday occurrence alongside the everyday”. The idea of an exhibition as an installation is also evident. As Boris Groys observed in his essay ‘Politics of Installation’: “Today, there is no longer any ‘ontological’ difference between making art and displaying art. In the context of contemporary art, to make art is to show things as art.”1 The exhibition articulates a preoccupation with the concept of ‘the object’, emphasising that paintings are also objects. When they are named and framed as ‘paintings’, they are read differently, in contrast to being seen as objects. Process emerges as the connecting thread between Boyle’s paintings and ceramic objects, while her use of materials is playful and process driven. In the ceramic pieces, gravity is allowed to do its work. The clay slumps and falls into place with little intervention. In the paintings, a muted palette emerges through the mixing of wet into wet paint. It all appears to happen very spontaneously. The quick handling of paint on canvas surfaces allows form to emerge. There are suggestions of mounds or hills – simple shapes that could allude to landscape. This motif is picked up strongly in the large painting, High Winged Woman, which shifts between a sheaf of hay or a small mountain. A series of delicate porcelain wands are placed on a table in front of this painting. The wands could be individual sheaves of hay, or perhaps a set of paintbrushes, saturated in the colours just used on the canvas. There is a nice open-endedness to the imagery here, while the connection of the ideas moving between painting and sculpture is clear. Boyle’s ceramic wands remind me of Manet’s 1880 painting of asparagus, whose form and quality continues to captivate viewers. His focus upon small areas, with a few deft brushstrokes, directs our focus as viewers to experience its power. There is similar precision of focus in Boyle’s ceramic wands, through her use of colour, as well as the simple modelling of form and display. The installation of the work also alludes to improvisation: one painting is tacked to a board and leans against a wall; another canvas is hung from the ceiling; while the ceramics are displayed as a series of test pieces, just out of the kiln. Each artwork is at play within the environment of the exhibition, rather than being enclosed in worlds of their own. The materiality of the ceramic pieces leads the viewer back to the paintings, to wonder at this relationship. The nature of the respective materials is explored, as well as the nature of form itself. On the whole, the exhibition appears to be testing out ideas ‘on the fly’; emerging possibilities and connections are invited through the display of the work. This juxtaposition of objects and materials, paintings and ceramics, make me consider the intrinsic nature of each. Medium specificity has started to lose its prevalence in contemporary critical debates surrounding art practice; arguably, it regularly goes in and out of fashion. However, the intrinsic qualities that both mediums inhabit shouldn’t be overlooked. The power of individual mediums is in the ideas brought to them by artists – they don’t necessarily need to be in dialogue with one other. Another recent trend in exhibition making is to frame painting

as an auxiliary ‘player’, suggesting that painting is not enough to be considered on its own merit. Some argue that painting exists as part of a network of ideas and systems. However, it is still worth considering the intrinsic power of a medium, because to focus on a material or medium is to realise its infinite creative potential. Alison Pilkington is an artist based in Dublin who completed a practice-based PhD in NCAD in 2015. Her work is featured in the forthcoming exhibition, ‘Mountain Size’, which takes place at the Pineapple Black Gallery, Middlesbrough (1 – 30 November). Notes 1 Boris Groys, ‘Politics of Installation’, e-flux Journal #02, January 2009.

Joanne Boyle, Seven Hearts in a Bag, oil on canvas, 165 × 165 cm; courtesy of the artist

Joanne Boyle, High Winged Woman, oil on canvas, 162 × 162 cm; and Wands, porcelain and glaze, dimensions variable; courtesy of the artist

Joanne Boyle, Initiation, oil on linen, 60 × 60 cm; courtesy of the artist


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

David Ian Bickley ‘Threads’ Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen 20 September 2019 (Culture Night) DAVID IAN BICKLEY’S latest film, Threads, was

presented on Culture Night in a darkened studio space at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre. In the small landing leading to this space, Three Candles was installed, comprising a prose piece and a video interview with local historian Gerald O’Brien, shown on a monitor with headphones. The story tells of a body lost in a river and located using folk-magic means. This tale was the inspiration for Threads, as well as the prose piece, a meandering stream of consciousness, presented on scrolls of paper, hanging in columns on two walls: “…Alive the thread, that runs like a river. Gently through this land of mind…” I found this method of presentation somewhat problematic. Framing the entrance to the film screening with the display of supporting material seemed to influence my interpretation of the installation too rigidly. However, the presentation of this material does raise interesting questions regarding the importance of an artist’s intention behind their artworks, and how these may be read by an audience. Threads was screened on the back wall, while footage of rippling water was projected simultaneously on the floor of the space, reminiscent of rippling desert sand. The piece resonated anecdotally with Anita Groener’s exhibition, ‘The past is a foreign country’, being shown in Uillinn’s main gallery space. The surrounding context and viewpoint we bring with us can often colour how we view and interpret an artwork. The ability of an artist to mould the meaning we extract from their work can also be dependent on many external factors – from the site of installation, to events taking place in society. Playing on a loop without titles or credits, Threads is open to multiple readings. The atmospheric unfolding of imagery in the film is achieved through soft, slow dissolves, echoing the fog and mist veiling many of the scenes. All

David Ian Bickley, Threads, installation view, Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre; courtesy of the artist

David Ian Bickley, Threads (film still); courtesy of the artist

of this footage seems to have been shot at night. The dominant motif running through the film is the moon – an orb that fades in and out of focus, moving on a trajectory from left to right across the screen, increasing and decreasing in size, waxing and waning. Another recurring image is that of a thin, bright pink, worn-looking rope, which cuts along the frame horizontally. I interpreted this sequence as referencing the encroachment of man-made systems on the natural world, including the choking of the world’s seas by plastic waste. This interpretation held resonance for me, given that the film was screened on the same day as the student-led Global Climate Strike, when young people around the world took to the streets to protest government inaction on climate catastrophe. The film soundtrack comprises an assemblage of natural sounds, against a constant backdrop of lapping water. An electronic drone soundscape swells and subsides, creating a vaguely ominous atmosphere. Apocalyptic readings of the work bring to mind Lars Von Trier’s melodrama, Melancholia (2011), in which a wealthy family holes up in a countryside mansion, waiting out their final days until the large planet Melancholia collides with Earth. Touching on the ‘uncanny valley’ effect – where artificial simulations look almost life-like – Threads has an unreal, luminescent quality. Something is not quite right, but it is difficult to identify what. The camera’s vantagepoint shifts from that of an individual, to one of a transcendental all-seeing eye. It moves slowly, snaking through reeds and grass, capturing the sparkling moonlight reflecting off the velvety, ultramarine water. Intermittently, the large silver moon dominates the screen; at other times, it is small and seen through a lattice of twigs and leaves. Rushes emerge from a dark background, an oozing, bubbling ground, with splashes of light and wisps of fog. Some frames seem to suggest that what is depicted is a model of some kind. There is deliberate play with scale, and it can be difficult to discern proportions, as things come in and out of focus, before disappearing into the mist. Threads works impressively as an immersive installation, with the combined sound and imagery producing a meditative, hypnotic effect on the viewer.

Catherine Harty is a member of the Cork Artists Collective and a curator at The Guesthouse Project.

Claire Halpin ‘Raw War’ Olivier Cornet Gallery, Dublin 12 September – 6 October 2019

Claire Halpin, Gaza May, 2018/2019, oil on gesso, 37 × 57 cm; courtesy the artist and Olivier Cornet Gallery

CLAIRE HALPIN’S EXHIBITION, ‘Raw War’, is a mystical interpretation of the horror of war. Using miniature retablo-style compositions, Halpin captures the human instinct to contain tragedy within defined boundaries of understanding. In one series, small square panels feature sharply edged circular paintings of disaster on the Mediterranean, as refugees crowd vessels in search of safety. Halpin pins these events within a telescopic lens, referencing surveillance by the military, governments and news media. With startling clarity and expression, she skilfully renders the confusion of people clambering into sinking boats or attempting to swim to other vessels out of the frame, using the tiniest of textured brushstrokes. Halpin exercises restraint with scale to respectfully avoid spectacle; the obscured horizons and glassy blackness of the water powerfully contextualises the hopelessness and terror unfolding. This infinite depth of sea and sky is punctuated with high-viz life jackets, sea splash and confusion. Despite their miniature execution, the intensity of these exquisite paintings expands their impact exponentially. A strange set of paintings are made on panels in the form of pie-shaped segments from a circle. They are lined up in a row of six, each one inset with a painting of a young boy seated on a cushioned or carpeted floor against a curtained backdrop in an alarming jihadi tableau. Some even have weapons. But this is softened by the colourful and patterned staging of ethnic textiles and gentle expressions of the boys. These works have an overt message of the vile normalcy of conflict and its exploitation of children. Such horrors are hidden in plain sight within Halpin’s illustrative and folksy depictions of home, family and cultural pride. She avoids sensation by embedding her message into layers of visual subtext. Included in the exhibition are slightly larger panels in which Halpin brings into focus isolated and distant structures again in miniature scale, set against amorphous apocalyptic environments. One of these, Seed Vault presents a barely visible outline of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – AKA the ‘Doomsday Vault’ – emerging out of a cold and misty arctic fog. Halpin could be referencing the first withdrawal of seed deposits in 2015, only two years after having been deposited by the Syrian authorities, an unintended direct consequence of four years of conflict.

Other works present Halpin’s stated interest in clandestine and drone surveillance, and unmanned warfare. In Farewell Palmyra a Roman theatre rises up on delicate stilts out of the shadow of a drone, while floodlights sparkle and 4 July bunting streams across the structure. Another boat loaded with desperate souls sits within this festive milieu. Bedford Bedouin morphs a Bedouin tent into a festival marquee, erected on a manicured green lawn that levitates in the night sky as fire and smoke of explosions billow around it. Pop Up Palmyra is another nocturnal desert scene, with discarded military vehicles scattered across the darkened terrain. Light from an unknown source illuminates plumes of dust, as a HIAB crane reinstates ancient ruins destroyed by ISIS. All three sets of paintings – the circular, pieshaped and rectangular panels – place the viewer in a covert and safe surveillance point, some distance away. Even though ‘Raw War’ is a collection of paintings driven by biblical-scale narratives, and Halpin’s treatment is that of a detached voyeur, she achieves an intimate one-to-one encounter with human suffering by virtue of sensitive composition, sympathetic figuration and sublimely rendered glazed depths of sea and sky. These play homage to the dominant centrepiece of the show, Syrial Serial – a Guernica-style vista, executed across a much larger, elongated landscape panel. Halpin dramatically changes key with an impasto collage of ravaged and burning settlements; crashed public transport vehicles; invading fleets of ancient galleys and modern destroyers; fallen fortifications; a grid of freshly dug graves; market stall displays of missiles; military parades; and tent cities – all laid out across a rolling mountain, sea and desert landscape. Every inch of the painting is loaded with references to war and conflict, from ancient to modern times. In some ways, the other works tell of the ‘apocalypse now’ – visible across our TV screens and newspapers, but in Syrial Serial the phrase could be ‘apocalypse before, now and forever’. Halpin has produced a very fine exhibition that distils and compresses an enormous weight of ideas through the relatively humble act of painting and picture-making. Carissa Farrell is a writer and curator based in Dublin.

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

How is it Made?

Made Marriage LILY CAHILL INTERVIEWS EIMEAR WALSHE ABOUT A RECENT COMMEMORATIVE PROJECT, COMMISSIONED BY ROSCOMMON COUNTY COUNCIL. EIMEAR WALSHE WAS awarded The Margaret Cousins Commission by Roscommon County Council, funded through Creative Ireland, to “celebrate and commemorate our extraordinary citizens through exceptional and unexpected visual art projects”1. Margaret (‘Gretta’) Cousins (1878 – 1954), theosophist, nationalist and suff ragist, was born in Boyle, County Roscommon. Eimear’s commission resulted in a radio play, I Know Why Women Cry at Weddings, and a supporting publication, Gretta. The publication was launched, along with a live immersive performance of the radio play, in the historic King House, Boyle, in August 2019. The publication will be available at the Dublin Art Book Fair at Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (21 November – 1 December).

Lily Cahill: You are a cross disciplinary artist working in sculpture, publishing, performances and lectures. When might it be best to sculpt and when might it be more suitable to talk? What kind of projects might dictate a certain kind of response? Eimear Walshe: I have different relationships with all of these materials, and I am probably trying to never give any of those relationships a primary status or romanticise them. Speaking can be enjoyable, frightening, alienating, persuasive, politicising. Sculpting is generally expensive but extremely satisfying to watch people interact with. Publishing, especially online, is disorientating and exhilarating because you don’t know whether you’ll make some profound unexpected connection, or get doxxed. The kind of encounter you produce is the result of an estimation based on what your current priorities are, what resources are available, where the work is going, and what kind of exposure you can make or take at a given point in time. Getting to learn something along the way is always a significant priority. So, for this commission with Roscommon Arts Centre, curated by Linda Shevlin, working through radio and publishing made sense because of the kinds of local distribution and intimate encounter they allow for. Myself and Margaret Cousins are/were big ‘talkers’. And radio is kind of phantasmic. It felt like the right way to write and present a dialogue between myself and a historic person who has since passed away, and allow others to listen in. LC: How important is collaboration in the generative aspects of your work?

Eimear Walshe, I Know Why Woman Cry at Weddings, performance, King House, Boyle, 25 August 2019; ambisonic sound design by Christopher Steenson and live fiddle by Sinead Kennedy; photograph by Donal Talbot

EW: To give you a sense of its role in this project, firstly my grandmother Maisie Gately wrote a text about the intricacies of arranged marriage in Roscommon pre-1950, and Dyuti Chakravarty – who is working on a PhD regarding feminist mobilisation in India and Ireland – wrote a more academic study of Margaret Cousin’s sexual politics. These were both hugely inspirational for my written contribution to the project, a radio play which creates a dialogue by citing from Margaret Cousin’s own writing, where her aspirations are being tested against the present moment. Then within the radio play, I worked with three other performers – Holly Moore, Phoebe Moore and Ailbhe Wakefield Drohan – respectively acting as Margaret Cousins, my interjecting grandmother, and the narrator. I was also very glad to get to work with the sound designer Christopher Steenson for the live and radio versions of the play, the graphic designer Paul Guinan, who designed the publication, and Sinead Kennedy, who played a live score on the fiddle for the performance in King House. So safe to say, the project wouldn’t exist at all without all these brilliant collaborators. LC: What led you to focus on marriage in the play, via the representation of Gretta’s archival thoughts on the matter, and your own – that “marriage ought to be outlawed rather than incentivised. If you really must be married, you should be willing to go to prison for it!”2? EW: Well the social, economic, labour, emotional, sexual and domestic politics of marriage pull up a lot of problems for me for sure. But I suppose I’ve treated the ‘Myself ’ character in the play the same way as I’ve treated Margaret’s character, citing both of our own most emphatic politics accurately, but strategically, to create moments of dissonance and accord. She’s clearly got more wisdom and experience, but I’ve got the benefit of hindsight, and the even greater advantage of still being alive. So it felt important to make a kind of fool of Myself, by asserting that marriage and prison are alike – a fairly bold claim in context, considering I’ve experienced neither and Margaret had been through both (Margaret was imprisoned in Ireland, the UK and India for her suff ragist and nationalist activism). Anyway, the suggestion in the play text about the criminalisation of marriage is mainly a polemical proposition and a paradox. If marriage and prisons are alike, and by implication should both be abolished, imprisonment then wouldn’t

Eimear Walshe, GRETTA, 2019, Publication designed by Paul Guinan, essays by Maisie Gately and Dyuti Chakravarty; photograph by Paul Guinan

be available as a viable deterrent to marriage. Introducing this kind of boneheaded logic signals a point in the play where the sparring gets messy and disjointed; her dialogue becomes more sentimental, whilst Myself gets more zealous. LC: You were a Research Fellow at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, on the Deviant Practices Research Programme. Was Margaret Cousins a deviant? What drew you to her? EW: In 2017 and 2018 I ran public workshops in the museum. In the first case, the ‘deviance’ in question was queer and feminist separatisms in the arrangement (or selforganisation) of society and of knowledge. I had a criticalbut-sympathetic attitude to this kind of deviance. Then in the more recent iteration, The Department of Sexual Revolution Studies, we looked at popular types of ‘deviant’ sexuality, such as cuckolding, dogging, or hook-ups, that are fuelled or fed by more complicated libidinal economies. The media we looked at and our role-play games kept highlighting this idea – deviance isn’t a morally stable category. There are so many sets of orthodoxies which, at every step, you’re aligning yourself with or distinguishing yourself from. So Margaret Cousins was deviant in a load of ways, and in other ways was very much a woman of her time and class background. For example, her sexual abstinence in marriage was strongly motivated by the will to preserve her personal freedom and resist reproductive imperatives. At the same time, her arrival at this position seemed grounded in a judgement of others, in her duography with her husband she writes: “I found myself looking on men and women as degraded by this demand of nature”.3 I’m not sure it’s for me to say where that definitively falls. Especially since what exactly this ‘demand of nature’ even constituted was materially different then, I imagine. Eimear Walshe is an artist from Longford. Lily Cahill is an artist and writer based in Dublin. She is a co-editor of Critical Bastards Magazine. Notes 1 See: 2 Eimear Walshe, I Know Why Women Cry at Weddings, Gretta, p.101. 3 Margaret E. Cousins and James H. Cousins, We Two Together, (Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1950) p.108.

Eimear Walshe, GRETTA, 2019, publication excerpt, designed by Paul Guinan



How is it Made?

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Dorothy Cross, ROOM, 2019, Carrera marble 24 × 240 × 480 cm; courtesy of the artist and Kerlin Gallery

IN FEBRUARY 1999, the ghost of a small ship appeared in Scotsman’s Bay. It returned


every night for three weeks, glowing on into dawn, fading as the hours passed and revealing itself, in daylight, to be a decommissioned lightship called Albatross, which had been covered in phosphorescent paint and moored to the spot. Its protracted presence off the coast of Dún Laoghaire has since become one of the defining works of contemporary Irish art, as well as the stuff of urban folklore. Twenty years later, on a glittering afternoon in September 2019, a different kind of haunted ship set out from the naval base on Haulbowline Island and sailed hesitantly up the River Lee. Strange, soulful music radiated from its top deck and out across the waters and shores of Cork Harbour. It appeared to be carrying a sole passenger – a figure wrapped in a sparkling foil blanket sat huddled against the grey steel. Below deck and out of sight, a human heart in a lead box was being returned to the place from which it had been stolen over 150 years ago. On a quayside in the city, a crowd had gathered to meet it. Dorothy Cross isn’t resistant to Heartship being called a sequel to Ghost Ship, though the two-decade anniversary is a coincidence. Mary Hickson, director of Cork’s Sounds from a Safe Harbour Festival, first approached her with the offer of the use of a naval ship in 2017, and the project had been planned for last year. “It has not been smooth,” Cross says. I meet the artist the morning after the event. She is in exuberant form, if not a little overwhelmed. Now that Heartship has finally been realised, Cross is keen to praise the hard work of Hickson, as well as the foresight of Captain Brian Fitzgerald of the Irish Navy, but she also despairs of “the calcification of imagination” that she encountered repeatedly along the way. “I think of the project in terms of an isosceles triangle...” Cross says, “... the heart, the voice and then the ship as a container, a reliquary – this vessel which is about both protection and destruction.” The voice is that of Lisa Hannigan and the song, Prayer for the Dying, is drawn from her 2016 album, ‘At Swim’, though it has been rearranged, pared-back and coupled with the music of Alasdair Malloy playing the glass armonica. Cross knew she wanted music that “originated from water” and she had already worked with Malloy on her ‘jellyfish films’. As soon as she heard Hannigan’s song, with its agonising refrain of my heart / your heart, she was besotted – “... it just seemed to sum up everything I was trying to do.”

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Heart (unknown origin); image courtesy of General Pitt Rivers Museum

The stolen heart is a remarkable object – a blob of wizened, colourless gristle which has been nestled in tissue paper and encased in a lead box in the battered shape of a heart. It might be as much as five-hundred years old, but nothing is known of its owner, nor of the circumstances which led to its being placed in the crypt of what was once Christchurch and is now the Triskel Arts Centre. It was discovered in 1863 and later acquired by General Pitt Rivers – an English officer, ethnologist and archaeologist whose collection of artefacts ended up in the University of Oxford. Cross had first encountered the heart in an exhibition in the Wellcome Trust in London in 2007. “It’s been in my consciousness for a long time...” she says, “... that the last heart I might work with would be human, after the snakes, and then the shark.” But securing permission to borrow it was the main source of the project’s delay and she found herself exploring other options: “I contacted all of the universities where hundreds of hearts languish on shelves; I spoke to surgeons about maybe getting a diseased heart which had been taken out in a transplant. I knew I was dealing with sensitive territory, but at the same time it was with such great respect that we were going to be treating the organ.” She went back, again and again, to pursue the Christchurch heart specifically because of its origin, and her tenacity, in time, paid off. The anonymous, Corkonian heart finally sailed home to its harbour. “Part of me wanted to take it and throw it in the River Lee...” Cross says, “... and its lead box would draw it right down to all the silt and rubbish on the bottom and that would be the end.” Instead it disembarked, safely, in the sunshine to a military salute. “There was no attempt at any point to theatricise the process. I didn’t want any fireworks or fakery, but only what the navy would normally do – their own daily rituals and theatrics.” The heart was taken directly to a glass case in The Glucksman, while simultaneously in Crawford Art Gallery, a short film (also entitled Heartship and made in collaboration with Alan Gilsenen) played on a loop in a darkened lecture hall. Cross is still surprised that the film came together in time for the festival. “In my head,” she says, “it had become too complex, but Alan had the faith that I lacked at that point.” The film is elegant and understated. A wind-buffeted Hannigan roams the decks, the camera following her but also wandering off, settling momentarily on the metal-ware and military equipment, panning across the ashen horizon. “We just went out into the harbour one day, as the navy did their routine manoeuvres,” Cross says. “At first I was afraid of Lisa’s beauty in a funny way – afraid that it would take away the essence of the project and turn it into a pop video. But I didn’t want to bring in the notion of the refugee too much either, to dress her in something which would suggest that. Essentially, I wanted to neutralise Lisa – to just have her voice as much as possible – the heart as the heart; the ship as the ship and Lisa as the energetic conduit between the whole thing, and that was what Alan managed to create.” In spite of its understatement, it’s impossible to watch these scenes without calling to mind the Irish navy’s humanitarian role in the Mediterranean migrant crisis. When I ask the artist about politics, she speaks instead about her exhibition at Dublin’s Kerlin Gallery, ‘I dreamt I dwelt’ (6 September – 19 October). “It’s very much about human presence on the planet...” she insists, “... about demise and decay; time and extinction.” The exhibition presented three significant new sculptures. Listen Listen comprises a pair of carved marble pillows with a right and a left ear rising, as if sprouting, out of

How is it Made?


The heart being escorted from the L.É. James Joyce; photograph by Bríd O’Donovan, courtesy of Sounds from a Safe Harbour Festival

their indented centres. ROOM – “as in the verb...” Cross explains, “to give room...” – is an expanse of marble floor from which a small shark emerges; its position makes it difficult to tell whether it is struggling to the surface or being dragged down. “And then the third piece is quartz stones found on the beach which have been rolled by the water over centuries. Twenty-six of them have been carved with the letters of the Roman alphabet. It’s our language just thrown – scattered.” The artist’s choice of material is intrinsic to the meaning of the exhibition. “Marble should be humble and organic, but it has been glorified throughout history. There’s something unifying in its nature; there’s lots of subtraction but absolutely no addition; there’s the purity of it but also – it is so connected to death. Marble is both the tomb and the domestic dwelling; this is where the title comes from.” The title is from a line in a popular 19th-century aria: I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls, with vassals and serfs at my side. The line, like the exhibition, is full of darkness and longing. On show concurrently at the Irish Museum Modern Art is another new marble sculpture by Cross, Everest Erratic, in the group exhibition, ‘Desire: A Revision from the 20th Century to the Digital Age’ (21 September 2019 – 22 March 2020). Speaking of this new work, she states: “I wanted to make a thing which was like a glacial erratic – a miniature representation of the pinnacle of our planet, which for most people is inaccessible, and yet at the same time, recently we’ve watched people queuing up to climb Mount Everest as if they were just waiting for a bus.” This kind of stirring contradiction has often been at the core of Cross’s work – her ability to marry elements which seem, at first, to be at odds has never waned throughout her career, now spanning thirty years. Each new work falls effortlessly into a continuum – branching from the last and stretching on – and yet when I ask her the dreaded question “what’s next?” she winces and insists that “... Heartship does feel like a bit of an ending. How can you ever get anything more powerful than those three elements? You can’t go past a human heart. It’s the essence of everything.” After our interview, she will go to The Glucksman and visit the stolen heart before driving back to Connemara. “Heartship is gone now...” she says, “... it’s never going to be seen again. Maybe it just becomes narrative.” Maybe, in twenty years, people will still be telling the story of how they were there on the quayside in Cork harbour on a sunlit autumn day, as a haunted ship sailed up.

Sara Baume is a writer based in West Cork. Based in Connemara, Dorothy Cross is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary artists. She is represented by Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, and Frith Street Gallery, London. Heartship was presented as part of the biennale festival, Sounds from a Safe Harbour (10 – 15 September 2019). Heartship was made possible through support from Cork City Council, The Irish Naval Service, The Glucksman, UCC, Crawford Art Gallery and participating artists.



Brian Connolly, performance documentation, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, ‘Somatic Distortions’ (4 – 5 October 2019); courtesy of ‘Somatic Distortions’


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Fausto Grossi, performance documentation, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, ‘Somatic Distortions’ (4 – 5 October 2019); courtesy of ‘Somatic Distortions’

‘SOMATIC DISTORTION’ WAS born out of the desire to create a new platform for performance art in Ireland. It took place at Leitrim Sculpture Centre (LSC) and The Glens Centre on 4 and 5 October. The event was filled with live performance art, video works, a keynote speech, talks, photographic prints, and a historical timeline (spanning from 1913 to 2019). Having moved to the North West of Ireland, I was looking to create this new platform within the region. I felt the Leitrim Sculpture Centre, with its expansive gallery, would be the ideal space for the event. I approached LSC Director, Sean O’Reilly, who was very open to my proposal and suggested that Brendan Murray (Director of The Glens Centre) would also have an interest in the project, so together we set out to make ‘Somatic Distortion’ a reality. In curating the event, I selected artists who offer a broad spectrum of practice. Their commitment, and that of all involved, was for me what generated the spirit of the event, experienced as a supportive freedom of expression. The eminent Nigel Rolfe opened the event in LSC, highlighting “a shared language beyond language” which speaks to the true nature of live performance art. He noted the body as central, and that this language of the body cannot be recorded, the phenomenon only fully occurring by direct presence. Alastair MacLennan created the opening performance. He delineated the floorspace with a square of gloves, bearing the black stains of his drawing practice, and pairs of large black sacks, with paper placed upon them. On the floor lay two sticks, each with dolls attached, the dolls bodies burnt and disfigured, suggestive of the disfigurement of a child’s mind through trauma. His figure now dark and sublime, MacLennan moved slowly towards each set on the ground. Following dual drawings, in which both hands moved synchronistically, he began with shamanistic ease to weave a drawing in the air – an immaterial drawing of energy, which emitted an electrical aura around him. Within the corner of the adjoining space, I had positioned Stuart Brisley’s Arbeit Macht Frei (1973). Brisley’s audio rose and fell throughout MacLennan’s performance, with both works evoking disturbing truths. Fergus Byrne began his performance with Eadweard Muybridge images (relating to the induction of an artificial convulsion) pinned to the wall. Byrne sat on a plain wooden chair in the corner of the space, his hands and arms in constant movement, bouncing off his ever-moving legs. Byrne repeated a lengthy text, at times visibly strug-

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

gling. I felt conflicted, as part of me wanted him to reach this induction in support, but the other part of me was fearful of the outcome – it was a powerful performance. Next to Byrne’s space was the iconic video series, Art Make Up (1967/68), by the world-renowned American artist, Bruce Nauman. The work was commanding, with the young Nauman appearing at every turn, covering his face and torso in body paint. Another highlight among the video works was Meredith Monk’s 16mm Earrings (1966). Her voice echoing out into the adjoining hall gave me solace later, as I prepared for my own performance. The LSC Main Street space housed two works by Nigel Rolfe – Milk of Human Kindness (2008) and opposite, Dust Breeding (2008). I chose to hang these works with another work by South African artist, Kim Gurney. Pulse (2016) featured the burning of beehives, which seemed to correlate with the works of Rolfe. Staggered with Byrne’s performance was that of Madrid-based artist, Analía Beltrán i Janés. On the floor lay red clay, ripe pomegranates and two traditional Spanish vessels called botijos – one large and one small, filled with wine. A notable moment in i Janés’s performance occurred as she placed a pomegranate in the centre of her chest, just under her white chiffon dress. She pierced it in a stabbing motion with wooden spikes, which were left protruding, the juice staining her dress, seeping out as if her own blood was pouring from her heart. With arms outstretched she reached into the air divining a connection with a higher power. Later, i Janés began to siphon wine from a botijo, sucking it up through the clear plastic tube which wrapped around her body, akin to the veins of life. The Glens Theatre housed two works on monitors by the legendary Northern Irish artist, Andre Stitt – one, Black Wings and Soldier things (2004) and the other, I’m your Mammy (2000). Boris Nieslony’s film, MA (2003), was shown on the stage screen from 6-8pm, offering surreal insights into the dreams of Nieslony, one of the founders of the performance collective, Black Market International. This was followed by Jayne Cherry’s performance, during which I felt the stillness of complete absorption, as I listened to her recounting a heartbreaking night of domestic abuse, when she had to flee her home in fear. The direct confrontation of Cherry revisiting this night brought a swell of emotion to all; lifting everyone out of this sensitive state, Cherry sang, followed by a strong call to empowerment. On Saturday, Fergus Byrne gave the Keynote Speech, titled ‘A History of Performance Art – Trans Global Threads’, outlining the historical links between performance artists situated in different parts of the world, which was followed by artist talks. Saturday’s performances began with a durational piece by Brian Connolly. Connolly sat down at one of the tables and, with knife and fork in hand, he cut up and ate some paper money. This was a very powerful action, reaffirming the banality of human fixation with the monetary system. As his performance progressed, objects became transformed; clamps now a sculptural form, I noted the beauty in the shadows they cast. Sarah Riseborough also created a durational performance, positioning a large roll of paper onto the wall on a moveable holder. Pulling the paper and securing it to the floor, at times she seemed to disappear, but her presence was asserted with the movement of the paper. I sat and watched her as she and the drawing became one, the synergy between the two more apparent on each return; the drawing had become a sculpture, which seemed to float, enveloping the space. James King and Caroline Murphy’s performance was created with 14 blue plastic chairs. At times these chairs were sat on, but they also served to create forms within the space. King and Murphy seemed to be giving each other instructions in an undecipherable and, at times, unspoken language, followed by individual actions. Their sounds were like those of animals crying in the wild. In an adjoining space, Fausto Grossi began his performance by laying out a large square sheet of black plastic. He walked in, holding a bag of terracotta clay over his shoulder like a swag bag, with mischief in his eyes, darting a stern glare and conjuring feelings of slight trepidation. Grossi began placing the red clay onto his head, pushing it into his ears, forcing it inside his mouth, until his head was entirely covered in clay, appearing like the head of a deformed satyr. He gathered the plastic sheeting and clay from the floor, threw it over his shoulder and walked out of the front door of the gallery. For her performance, Elvira Santamaría Torres used a small glass of water, some pieces of tissue paper and some small spools of thread. She began to unravel the spools slightly and dipped the tissue into the water. She grasped the sodden tissue around the thread and threw it with forceful energy into the air. The tissue firmly fixed itself to the ceiling with the thread dangling down, and the process was repeated. Santamaría Torres then spoke of how that morning, she had seen a spider who had inspired her. She gathered everyone a little closer and then with her head down – like the spider crouched inside her thread web – she pushed her hand between her hair, making a fist, not as a show of aggression, but rather, as a show of strength. The last three performances took place on Saturday afternoon, one of which was my own. Because of this, I was unable to view the performances from Rainer Pagel and Keike Twisselmann. I spoke briefly with Pagel afterwards about his performance. He had made gilded papier-mâché cups, saucers and a teapot, in which he made tea, which became slightly slumped – by this process they were also performing an action. As I left the space following my performance, I caught a glimpse of Twisselmann’s piece, her body sheltered under cloth, with blue pigment all around – it was a striking image. Even in the beginning, a sense of how special these two days would be was visible. Nigel Rolfe noted within his opening speech, the sense of a change occurring here, and the possibility for things to be different within “dark times”, emphasising that “we are the bringers of light and must remain in light.” Sandra Corrigan Breathnach is an artist and curator working mainly in performance, based in the North West of Ireland.



Sandra Corrigan Breathnach, Innate, 2019, performance documentation, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, ‘Somatic Distortions’ (4 – 5 October 2019); courtesy of ‘Somatic Distortions’

Keike Twisselmann, performance documentation, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, ‘Somatic Distortions’ (4 – 5 October 2019); courtesy of ‘Somatic Distortions’



Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

‘Dark Matter’ installation view (L–R): Libby Griffiths, Ed Lawrenson, Mags Jittaksa, Lisa Thompson, Jack Connor Kemp. Front: Meghan Graydon Darby; courtesy of Middlesbrough Art Weekender

LIKE MANY TOWNS in the North of England, Middlesbrough was once an industrial


powerhouse, noted for its steelworks and shipbuilding, and is currently undergoing an uneasy transition to a service-led economic landscape. This shift, of course, entails an emphasis on culture and creativity, education and tourism, and, in this regard, the town has a few infrastructural advantages over its regional rivals, including: the Teesside University campus; the relatively new Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima); a surplus of vacant and available warehouses and retail outlets as potential off-site studio spaces; and, in its third year, Middlesbrough Art Weekender (MAW), a city-wide festival of performance, music, exhibitions and arts education, which took place from 26 to 29 September. There is also a connection between Middlesbrough and Cork, through MAW co-directors Anna Byrne and Liam Slevin, who respectively have previously worked with the city’s acclaimed theatre company, Corcadorca, and with the interdisciplinary arts space, Sample Studios. These backgrounds might explain the eclecticism of the Weekender programme, which encompasses contemporary art exhibitions, interactive public installations, hands-on workshops and experimental performative pieces. Having relocated to Middlesbrough in 2015 after several years in Berlin, and sensing a lack of exhibition infrastructure and opportunities, Byrne and Slevin initiated a city-wide pop-up festival that included forty venues and an open submission art trail. The North East Open Call still plays a significant part in MAW and, this year, is represented in an exhibition of 13 artists, selected in collaboration with mima and displayed in an empty shop on Albert Road. The show – which includes Jenny McNamara’s steel geometric forms, placed on multi-colour vinyl platforms, Kimberley Beach’s stack of retro monitors displaying films shot on her iPhone, and Gordon Dalton’s vibrant, expressive painting on hung, unstretched canvas – is therefore indicative of MAW’s focus on inclusivity and integration. The support of emerging practices is dependent not only on the participating artists, but on partners who open their properties and offer their time to such projects. A good example of this – and the largest site in the festival – is the Auxiliary, a converted warehouse that houses exhibition galleries, studios and workshop/performance spaces. Guest curated by Kypros Kyprianou, the theme of this year’s MAW is ‘Autonomy’, a term that evokes the (partial) independence that such a DIY ethos affords, but

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019


Karina Smigla-Bobinski, ADA, installation view, Middlesbrough Town Hall; courtesy of Middlesbrough Art Weekender

which is also critiqued in the titular exhibition, with the corollary statement that “there is always a negotiation going on: between people, materials and the environment.” A sequence of Willie Doherty’s large-scale photographic prints – a sky of accumulating clouds overlaid with the words “False Dawn” and, in slightly smaller font, “Endless”, a chain link fence, a pair of stone blocks barricading a country road – portrays the disputed territory of the Northern Irish border. His seemingly innocuous images, however, always bear marks of conflict and contestation, even if only implicitly or by exclusion: a patch of dandelions against a tarmac road is titled No visible signs, for instance. Doherty’s photographs served as an intriguing accessory to several other works, including: Rose Butler’s presentation of surveillance footage from the Stasi Records Agency, a context which lends an unsettling air to the grainy, black-and-white imagery of everyday activities; Joe Shaw’s sculptural replica of the grassy knoll, from which an alleged second gunman shot John F. Kennedy in 1963; and Chris Dobrowolski’s homemade tank, with its hull constructed from thrift-shop John Constable reproductions and its turret housing a fully functional flamethrower. In the latter work, an array of television monitors displays the artist operating and driving the vehicle; in fact, at several points during the Weekender’s Saturday night performances, Dobrowolski unsuccessfully attempted to run over one of these (surprisingly durable) sets in his tank. This event demonstrated another aspect of MAW: live performance and, in particular, experimental music, which, for this iteration, included vocal improvisation by Odie ji Ghast, freeform noise from Territorial Gobbing, and a blistering electronic set by AJA. Collectively, the performances were bruising, confrontational and perfectly framed within The Auxiliary’s brutalist, industrial setting. Such extreme moments might infer that MAW is an especially niche, esoteric festival; yet, in several locations across town, there were public-minded, participatory projects, including Tom Dale’s Department of the Interior, a bouncy castle in black PVC, and Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s ADA, installed in Middlesbrough Town Hall. In the latter, an inflatable sphere dotted with protruding charcoal sticks could be volleyed by visitors around a contained, pristine interior environment, gradually covering its white walls with black marks and lines. While public engagement is an often overused term, this was a truly interactive moment, with children happily lobbing the ball back-and-forth and – during my visit to the site – an impromptu performance by a number of attendees from Middlesbrough Pride, which coincided with MAW and complemented its overall festive atmosphere. Further afield, in Poppy Whatmore’s off-site installation, Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Office Party, workplace furnishings and fixtures had been dismantled, reassembled and adapted into absurdly affective sculptures: the wheeled bases of office chairs aligned into a gently curving wave (which disappeared into the overhead ceiling tiles); window blinds fanned out like a wingspan; and a slice of a filing cabinet left prone on the gallery floor. In The Living Archive, a project by Alyson Agar and Nick John Williams in collaboration with Vlogbase, visitors were encouraged to choose from a series of keywords, setting off an algorithmic search for corresponding projected imagery and sound, and immersing the spectator in a highly responsive, interactive envi-


Alice Highet, Sunbeams and Snake Venom; courtesy of Middlesbrough Art Weekender

'Autonomy', installation view, Auxiliary (L-R): Willie Doherty, Chris Dobrowolski, Willie Doherty, Rose Butler; courtesy of Middlesbrough Art Weekender

ronment. The exhibition, ‘Materials’, at Platform A gallery – accessible past the outdoor tracks of Middlesbrough train station – included a number of abstract works, such as Emma Bennett’s crisp compositions of checked patterns and stripes and Alan Hathaway’s diptych of black and silver aluminium panels. It was while en route to this last space that I stumbled across other public artworks, including Suzie Devey’s oversized postage stamps, situated in the underground tunnel of the station and portraying local people who’ve welcomed and hosted asylum seekers, and Eddy Dreadnought’s Steel, a billboard of vertical colour bars which served as a homage to the seminal American abstractionist, Ellsworth Kelly, installed in the Albert Road A66 Underpass. In a modest-sized locale such as Middlesbrough, these endeavours stood out. While the town boasts an exceptional arts institution in mima, it might actually – and unexpectedly – be to the benefit of MAW that this year’s festival coincided with the museum being engaged in a temporary exhibition changeover period. It allowed events to be curated from the periphery, to give ample attention and focus to those sites often relegated to the margins, and to shift the spotlight ever so slightly away from the centre of the town. For this weekend, the outliers were in charge. Chris Clarke is a writer and Senior Curator at The Glucksman, Cork.


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019



Andrew Duggan, unravel_rios, 2019, Eye’s Walk Digital Festival, Syros, Greece; photographs by Giannis Vavitsas, courtesy of the artist

Andrew Duggan, unravel_rios, 2019, Eye’s Walk Digital Festival, Syros, Greece; photograph by Siobhán Dempsey, courtesy of the artist

I BECAME AWARE of Eye’s Walk Digital Festival – an inno-

vative festival experimenting with digital technology, video installation and performing arts in the public space on the island of Syros, Greece – while researching (manifestations of a masculine type found in) defense structures and the marking of borders. Similar to how boundaries were marked here in Ireland by menhirs during the Bronze Age, in Ancient Greece thresholds were marked with a square-stoned pillar with a carved phallus and head on top [herm], typically of the Greek god Hermes. In 2016, after an intense period of successive artist-led projects, I decided to entirely focus on developing work in the studio; reappropriating objects, geometric principles and images to reframe post-structuralist ideas of masculinity, landscape and desire.1 Informed by writers such as Siri Hustvedt, Anna Arrowsmith, Andrea Dworkin, Abraham Akkerman and Bernard Tschumi, coupled with references to Arcadia, Sisyphus and Hermes – the Greek god of borders – I began focusing on the physical body again, to make a combination of objects and lens-based works. Eye’s Walk Festival first appeared on my radar in 2016. That iteration of the festival focused on the island’s port of Ermoupoli (founded by immigrants and named after the Hermes), as a way of speaking about boundaries and borders, bridges and prejudices. How the festival navigated the relationship between art, audience, the philosophy of Jacques Derrida and public space through multi-discipline performances and projections appealed to me greatly, as I had done similar projects in Ireland. In early 2018, I contacted the festival’s curator, Filia Milidaki, and an engaging conversation began to develop. Milidaki invited me to consider the bold inspiration underpinning the festival: erotic speech. She states that erotic speech is an act where words have power to change people, an act of joining, of sharing, an act before death and while we are still alive. She continues to say that thought is not an act but that words have power; they can change people. She chose a poem from the Greek poet Meleager (1st century BC), in order to show the affirmative and constructive nature of erotic speech when it is addressed directly to ‘a loved one’:

‘Bird-lime your kiss, Timarion – your eyes are fire! If you look at me – you burn, if you touch, you have caught me fast’. This idea, the performative idea, that an action can generate or consummate another action to effect change, to reveal possible alternative narratives and understandings of social and cultural paradigms, has been central to many of my collaborative film and performance-based works.2 I decided that I would reframe my work, unravel_rois, within the festival’s philosophy and location. Created in collaboration with performer Olwen Fouéré and ethnographic photographer Siobhán Dempsey, unravel_rois was initially developed amidst the interlacing labyrinthine stone walls on Inis Oírr during a residency at Áras Éanna. Incorporating installation, action and image to explore the relationship between place, memory and the physical body, the work uses the continuous action of unwinding and rewinding through different built and natural landscapes to connect hidden histories, physical structures and metaphysical philosophies. The work fed into Milidaki’s curatorial inquiry whereby possible narratives of place are ‘revealed’ through the act of ‘fastening’ an art action to the space. On Syros, she selected the abandoned Eastern Telegraph Company building (overlooking the port’s industrial shipyard) to site the work. I performed at this landmark building on 30 July. Two exciting developments happened. Firstly, I got the chance to explore an aspect of the work I had always wanted to pursue: the relationship between the live and the recorded. The curator had at her disposable a production team who were able to project the film I had made with Olwen, Siobhán and my daughter Jude on Inis Oirr onto the façade of the building while I went about unravelling and rewinding the yarn. Secondly, during my earliest conversations with Milidaki, I had expressed an interest in involving others in the performance. While on Syros, she invited dancers from Proastio Art Center in Athens, who were also presenting work at the festival, to participate in the performance along with my two

daughters. Their participation became an essential factor in the work. Their caryatid stance was later read by the audience as a symbolic, performative image in the continuing campaign to return the ‘stolen’ caryatid (part of the contentious Elgin Marbles) held at the British Museum to Greece. Unraveling a length of yarn, intertwining the dancers with the building initially appeared linear to the audience; yet when the yarn was rewound untethering the performers and then repeated again to re-tangling performers and the building, the work became a meditation on thought and recall; between ‘the initial action’ and ‘the repeated action’. As the film was being projected, there was an interplay between it and the live action exploring ideas of ‘a rewound memory’ or ‘a repeated action designed to generate memory’. One member of the audience said to me afterwards that memory itself was being performed. Eye’s Walk Festival enabled me not just to make the geographical and philosophical connections between an island on the western edge of Europe (with its own venerable culture), it also allowed me to: develop the work further (a crucial aspect that is often overlooked by funding partners); push the boundaries of an action; include other performers in the work (who in turn bring their own histories); and present the work to new audiences, who each bring essential additional readings. The presentation of unravel_rois at Eye’s Walk Digital Festival (27 – 30 July) was generously supported by Culture Ireland and Ealaín na Gaeltachta. Because I presented unravel_rois at Eye’s Walk, the work was also presented at Paadmaan Projects Video Event in Tehran, Iran (9 – 11 October 2019). Currently Milidaki and I are making plans that will involve bringing other Irish artists to Syros for next year’s festival. Andrew Duggan is a visual artist and educator based in the West Kerry Gaeltacht on the Dingle Peninsula since 2000. His experimental collaborative video works, installations and curatorial projects have featured Jazmin Chiodi and Alex Iseli, Cindy Cummings, Paul Galvin, Olwen Fouéré and the National Folk Theatre of Ireland. Notes 1 A post-structuralist approach argues that to understand an object, it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object. See: Gérard Raulet, ‘Structuralism and post-structuralism: An interview with Michel Foucault’, Telos, 16:55 (1983) pp.195-211. 2 Performativity is the power of language to effect change in the world: language does not simply describe the world but may instead (or also) function as a form of social action. The concept of performative language was first described by the philosopher John L. Austin, who posited that there was a difference between constative language, which describes the world and can be evaluated as true or false, and performative language, which does something in the world. See: Jillian R. Cavanaugh, Performativity (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019




island of Syros. Built by the Venetians in the 13th century, it is within this unique setting that for 10 days in July, unfamiliar visitors can be seen wandering the streets. Distinguished from the usual wide-eyed tourists, these strangers mark themselves out through their appendages. They carry microphones, musical instruments and other devices, and are led by their ears, rather than their eyes. Following an open-call in May 2019, I was invited to participate in Sounding Paths, a residency focusing on site-specific sound and intermedia projects. The residency is organised by Syros Sound Meetings, with curation and coordination by artists and educators Danae Stefanou and Yannis Kotsonis. Commencing in 2013, the residency has invited over 100 sound artists, composers and improvisers, from all over the world to live and work in Syros for an intense ten-day period. Broadly speaking, the organisers select participants based on how their proposed projects can engage with the local context of the island. The residency ends with a showcase, when participants present their work to the public. For Sounding Paths 2019, there were 12 participants including myself.1 The interests of the other artists ranged from experimental composition to improvisation, anthropology, sound-based technologies and beyond. Every year, the organisers also specially-invite one or two artists to give a workshop during the residency.2 This year it was the duo, Native Instrument (Felicity Mangan and Stine Janvin). They work together creating techno-inspired music that blurs boundaries between nature-based field recordings and synthetically created sounds. Their workshop introduced their collaborative practice, followed by an improvisation session led by Janvin. Over the past seven years, the hub for the Sounding Paths residency has been the Old Jesuit Monastery. This historic building, which dates back to 1581, is where residents sleep, eat and hold group meetings and workshops. The monastery is situated near the top of the hill within the Ano Syros settlement, overlooking the island’s main port and the newer town of Ermopouli. Ano Syros has no roads or direct car access and can only be traversed on foot. The settlement’s many winding paths and stairs can feel like an Escher-like labyrinth. The use of the monastery is thanks to the Syros Institute, founded by Danae Stefanou’s father, Joseph Stefanou. The Syros Institute is focused on conserving particular areas of Ano Syros and encouraging cultural activities. Their long-term ambition is to have the Ano Syros settlement recognised as a UNESCO-protected heritage site. My residency proposal involved documenting and representing underwater noise pollution on the island. A term related to the ‘Anthropocene’ – an environmental buzzword describing a new geological epoch in which human activity has begun to significantly impact the earth’s ecosystem and climate – is the ‘anthropophony’, which describes aspects of the earth’s soundscape produced by humans. Anthropogenic noise pollution can have various detrimental effects on other forms of life that rely heavily on acoustic information for intra and interspecies communication and navigation within their environments. A well-studied example would be birds, who must adapt their songs, to be heard above the electromechanical din of traffic. But just as affected – and perhaps less accounted for – are the animals that we can’t see, living in the ocean. The ocean is a site of sonic warfare and we are the enemy. Large boats, like ferries, cruise ships and cargo vessels, produce high-intensity sounds that disrupt the navigation and communication of native marine life. Sound travels roughly 4.3 times faster in water than in air, meaning that nautically emanating noise has more wide-scale effects than is possible above water. With this in mind, I wanted to explore underwater noise pollution. Syros’s main port has an important role in Greek history, once being more powerful than Piraeus Port in Athens. This is no longer the case, but the Syros port still

remains busy, through the regular flow of passenger ships and the adjoining Neorion Shipyard. Currently, the shipyard provides several services, including building and repairing ‘mega yachts’, military vessels and oil-rigs. The increasing number of tourists and shipyard trade coming to the island year on year is escalating demand for the port. I learnt while in Syros, that there are plans to expand the port, so that it can accommodate more and larger ships (similarly to Dublin). I spent significant periods of time at Syros Port using underwater microphones (hydrophones) to record the sounds of ships coming in and out. By the end of the residency, I had amassed around 5 hours of recordings. Inspired by my own ferry trip to the island, where I saw the sunlight bouncing off a cafe table and vibrating in sync with the ship’s motor, I presented a light sculpture during the public showcase that incorporated my underwater field recordings. I blacked out a room in the lower part of the monastery and hung a mirror from the ceiling using fishing wire. A light shone on the mirror, casting a reflection on the adjacent wall. A surface transducer was attached to the mirror, allowing the sounds of the ships to pass through it, making the mirror’s magnified reflection pulsate. The sculpture served as an immediate way of understanding the impact of ‘hidden’ forms of anthropophony taking place in the sea. I’m now researching other ways of using light and water to represent underwater sources of noise pollution. A second project I undertook during the residency responded to three church bells attached to the monastery. There are over 50 small churches and cathedrals dotted around the island. We were not allowed to ring the bells at the monastery, because they were still used by the adjoining church. Using contact microphones, I was able to quietly record the bells’ sounds. Over the course of a few days, I experimented sounding the bells using unconventional actions, such as rubbing and scraping their surface with different objects. As this process progressed, I also began making pencil rubbings of the bells’ decorative embossings, whilst also recording the sounds that my drawing actions made. This resulted in a series of ‘sound drawings’, focusing on the religious figures depicted on the bells’ surfaces. Emerging through the static of my pencil rubbings, they suggest a haunted presence. Historically, bellringing has served as a method of binding together a community, while acting as a signifier of identity, religious power and control. To me, the sound drawings I made document an aspect of the ‘acoustic community’ that’s being increasingly overwritten in a digital age, typified by user-specific content and personal notifications. Looking back on the residency, I am extremely grateful to Danae and Yannis for the opportunity. I dearly miss the company of the other residents. I am also grateful to the Arts Council of Ireland and Arts Council of Northern Ireland, who funded my trip through the Travel and Training Award and SIAP Travel Award, respectively. I have since exhibited one of the works I made during Sounding Paths at Catalyst Arts, Belfast, as part of the closing event for the ‘Resonance’ sound art exhibition (curated by Liam McCartan). I am working on further presentations, which will take place over the coming year.

Christopher Steenson, Campanology #1 (Syros) – Bell 3 (detail), 2019, pencil on paper and sound; courtesy of the artist

Christopher Steenson, Untitled (installation detail), broken mirror, fishing wire, light source, audio transducer, amplifier and sound files; courtesy of the artist

Christopher Steenson is an artist based in Dublin. He is Production Editor for the Visual Artists’ News Sheet.

Notes 1 The full list of 2019 open call participants were: Tytti Arola (Finland), Melanie Delaney (UK), Sholto Dobie (UK), Lauri Hyvarinen (Finland), Maja Jantar (Belgium), Klemens Kohlweis (Austria), Lia Mazzari (Italy/ UK), Mara Probst (Switzerland), and George Samantas (Greece), Christopher Steenson (Ireland), Stefanos Syminelakis (Greece) and Vicki Zioga (Greece). 2 Previously invited artists have included: Viv Corringham (2014), Michael Pisaro and Deborah Stratham (2015), Graham Lambkin and Áine O’Dwyer (2017) and David Toop (2018).

Christopher Steenson, Audio Ritual, 35mm; courtesy of the artist


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019


Artist Raisonnés

Artist Raisonnés

Catalogue Raisonnés

Raisonné-able Advice




Association (ICRA) was founded in London this summer. Its purpose is to serve as a practical forum for people involved in the compilation and production of catalogues raisonnés and to encourage the high standards that these publications must meet to serve their purpose. A catalogue raisonné is the only publication that records an artist’s entire oeuvre; if done properly, it proves an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the artist’s work. Not only does it list every work, it also normally displays the sequence of the oeuvre, clarifies factual errors in the canon – including those relating to titles, dates, medium, dimensions as well as mis-attributions – and gives a detailed understanding of how the oeuvre has developed. For the general reader interested in the artist (the largest market for such publications), a good catalogue raisonné can be extraordinarily informative, while for the professional, it is essential. That is not to say that monographs or more discursive books are inferior – far from it. The information, ideas and interpretations contained in those publications are often immensely important in shaping understanding or appreciation, but without a catalogue raisonné, all such books are based on an incomplete knowledge of the extent of the artist’s output. Thus, while a catalogue raisonné should in itself be an exemplary piece of scholarship, it also greatly contributes to the subsequent literature on that artist. Admittedly, most of the corrections or ‘discoveries’ in a catalogue raisonné may seem mindlessly pedantic. In isolation, such minutiae might seem to be the concern of obsessives or nitpickers. But sometimes, like a fibre at a crime scene, they suddenly become amazingly important. The current controversy surrounding the most expensive painting in the world is merely the best-known case where seemingly trivial details matter greatly and not merely because of the money at stake (that’s only significant to the seller, the buyer and their agents) but because of the revered position the artist occupies in European culture. The work of an acknowledged genius rightly demands attention, that of a pupil less so. If the Salvator Mundi demonstrates the great responsibility placed on the author of a catalogue raisonné, the high costs of such projects only increase it. Starting at half-a-million pounds and often easily exceeding that sum, a catalogue raisonné, however flawed, is unlikely to be superseded for decades, if ever. Thus, the author and the publisher must ensure comprehensiveness, accuracy, impartiality, properly reasoned argument and clarity. Failure to meet that duty undermines the book’s authority and can damage the reputation of an artist for years. Yet, regrettably, even today there are too many catalogues raisonnés where not even the minimum standards are met: where pictures are grossly misrepresented in reproduction; where design confuses the reader; where such basic information as literature has been left out; where reasoning is weak; where dubious works have been accepted into the canon; and perhaps most lamentable of

all, where authors or funders have sought to settle scores in commentaries or through the active demotion of works that are indisputably part of the canon. None of this serves the oeuvre, the artist or art history. The most valuable resource needed by any large research project undertaken by one person or a very small team – as most catalogues raisonnés are – is time. It takes an immense amount of time to find and visit all the works; to gather and examine all the primary documents; to form a good working knowledge of the information gathered; and to write, edit, design and produce a large, information-heavy book that is easy to use. Ten years is average, but twenty is not rare. This is a real problem. The enthusiasm of funders and publishers can diminish as a project drags on. Indeed, even the author can lose heart as the conquering of one mountain of research seems only to open up a whole range of other mountains. In that atmosphere, the temptation to give up or cut corners can grow. Who will ever care if you checked whether there is a knot in the wood panel? Who will ever know? However, something constructive can be done. Other areas of research demonstrate that a central forum where researchers can discuss issues and share information in a collegiate way streamlines the research process and improves outcomes. This is why the ICRA was founded. The myriad things that catalogue raisonné researchers have to discover or clarify can be facilitated by an active members forum. There, questions about, for example, cataloguing practices can be discussed, or recommendations given, or contacts shared. In addition to a forum for such detailed matters, various bigger questions can benefit from the type of discussion and exchange provided by a conference: the pros and cons of database programmes; the advantages and disadvantages of online and hardcopy; the legal responsibilities of the compilers and publishers of catalogues raisonnés; the question of image rights; the role of estates and the artist’s family; the importance of design; the importance of qualified authors (and what those qualifications should be); impartiality in practice and why it matters; the role of conservators and science in the catalogue raisonné, and so on. These are important subjects for everyone involved with catalogues raisonnés, wherever in the world they are being compiled, and that is why ICRA is consciously international. It is clear that the history of art is globalising. That history will be immeasurably improved if there are excellent, reliable catalogues raisonnés to which students, scholars and curators can refer. Toby Treves is treasurer of the International Catalogue Raisonné Association and CEO of Modern Art Press. He is author of Peter Lanyon: catalogue raisonné of the oil paintings and threedimensional works (published in 2018) and is currently working with Catherine Lampert on the catalogue raisonné of Lucian Freud’s oil paintings.

DURING THE PARIS Olympics of 1924, Jack B. Yeats won a silver medal for his painting of the Liffey Swim. This event has been noted over the years for the historical curiosity of the Olympics giving medals for art, as well as for Yeats’ painting becoming more widely known than the annual swimming race it depicts. While the Olympics would eventually discontinue its art competitions, the artwork of Yeats endures. The immortalisation of Yeats’ art is illustrated by the three catalogues raisonnés that document his paintings, works on paper and cartoons. In contemporary usage, a catalogue raisonné is a comprehensive compilation of every artwork made by an artist. A catalogue raisonné may document all of the media in which the artist worked, or it may be restricted in focus to a particular medium, such as paintings, works on paper, prints or sculptures. Along with an image reproduction and a detailed description for each artwork – including title, date of creation, medium, dimensions, inscriptions, and full histories of ownership, exhibition and publication – catalogues raisonnés also typically include additional research documents, such as a biographical chronology, an exhibition history and a bibliography. Each aspect of a catalogue raisonné (“raisonné” comes from the French for “reasoned”) calls for thorough research and the application of connoisseurship. As catalogues raisonnés bring together so many details, the performance of these projects takes exceptional care and dedication. Hilary Pyle invested decades of research into her multiple-publication project on Jack B. Yeats. Since Yeats kept detailed records on his artwork, Pyle was able to serve the artist as documentarian and critical interpreter. Pyle published her biography of the artist in 1970 and the catalogues raisonnés in the early 1990s, having commenced preparatory work not long after the artist’s death in 1957. Catalogues raisonnés are also being produced at a greater frequency for living artists. This development relates to a number of factors, including the art market’s expansion, an increased interest in artist legacy projects and the availability of art object database software. Inspired by legacy goals that took root just a few years ago, the catalogue raisonné of Janet Mullarney’s artwork was published this summer by the Irish Academic Press. Just as Yeats merited a medal for his work as an artist, Mullarney’s catalogue raisonné editors – Catherine Marshall and Mary Ryder – are due recognition for their dedicated art historical work. Not every artist will have a catalogue raisonné. As a reflection of all the burdens, sacrifices and risks that went into just being able to make art, your body of work is nevertheless worth noting. Below are some suggestions and best practices for documenting your art that would also benefit a catalogue raisonné project.

and having backups is even better. As a way of identifying completed works, take photographs of your art before it goes out into the world for sales, exhibition or conservation. Keep calendars of important events as they relate to your life as an artist. Keep any exhibition ephemera like press releases, checklists and reviews, especially for exhibitions that are themselves ephemeral. Keep your press clippings and download or print copies of any that you see online.

Keep records. Maintain as much information as you can about your art. Make lists of artwork titles, dates, media and dimensions. Using either a notebook or a digital device for your lists is fine,

Carl Schmitz is Director of Communications and Publications for Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association.

Keep clarity. Assign each artwork a studio number. Use an arbitrary numbering protocol and give every work a unique number. A studio number will operate as a simple identifier that connects an artwork to its related object information and serve the database-readiness of your documentation. Inscribe the studio number somewhere on the artwork itself and try to include that number in your photographs on a card or piece of non-adhesive tape. If you print photographs of your work, write the studio numbers on the back along with any other relevant details. If your photography is all-digital, use the studio number in the filename and add any other relevant metadata to the file. If you keep works-in-progress that should never be considered completed works, have a consistent way of identifying and separating them. There may also be art that you don’t want as part of your body of work: remember that unless you dispose of them as appropriate, they may resurface in unexpected ways. Keep relationships. Tracing the history of ownership of an artwork can be extremely time-consuming. There are catalogue raisonné researchers who spend years searching for contact information, making calls and sending letters to track down provenance information. Sometimes the goal of this work is to rediscover an artwork that has passed through the web of private owners, galleries and auction houses. At other times, the more modest goal is to confirm the dates of ownership by a previous owner. Some of this detective work will be unavoidable as art changes hands over time, but a good starting point is to keep contact information for the owners of your art and to ask the galleries that you work with to provide you with the same. Interested buyers may be few and far between early on in a career and tracking the trail of ownership could therefore seem silly, but at some point, it will become serious. Keep up. Most of your energy might be channeled into creating art, but properly documenting what you create should expand your aura as an artist. If record keeping becomes a burden, then you might also be in a position to bring on studio help. Until you decide to look seriously at your legacy, the catalogue raisonné research staff can wait.

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019


Data Protection DAVID MURPHY OUTLINES GDPR GUIDELINES FOR VISUAL ARTISTS AND ARTS ORGANISATIONS. THE GENERAL DATA Protection Regulation (GDPR) became applicable in law in May 2018 and was a major development in the data protection landscape in Europe. It has brought new responsibilities and challenges for organisations that obtain and process personal data. This column is designed to answer some of the questions that artists may have, when trying to get to grips with their GDPR obligations. Am I a data controller? The first step is knowing whether you are a “data controller”. If you obtain personal information from individuals and use this information in the course of your professional activities, you are a data controller. Using people’s personal data is called ‘processing’, which covers a wide range of activities including collection, recording, storage, consultation, disclosure, and destruction. For arts organisations, this could include information about studio members, employees, volunteers, event attendees, and mailing list subscribers. A useful way to understand your role as a data controller is to conduct a data mapping exercise. This involves examining and documenting the categories of individuals whose data you hold, what particular items of data you process, and for what purposes.

What are my responsibilities? The responsibilities of data controllers can be broken down into some key areas of data protection: •

Data processing shall be lawful, fair and transparent – nobody should be surprised with what is happening with their data! Transparency means making sure that the people whose data you use understand why. Data shall be processed for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes – before you collect information from people, you understand why and don’t use it for something else after the fact. Only data that is adequate, relevant and necessary shall be processed for a particular purpose – only collect the information that you need, don’t collect extra information because it might be useful in the future. Data must be kept accurate and up to date – holding inaccurate data, such as contact details, creates a risk of disclosing someone’s information to the wrong person. Try to keep all records of personal data up to date. Data should be retained only for as long as is necessary to achieve your purposes – keeping personal data on an indefinite basis is generally not permitted. Consider why you need the data and decide what reasonable timeframe can be put in place. Security measures must be put in place to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data – this means technical measures (such as email encryption and strong passwords) but also making sure everyone who handles data understands their responsibilities.

Data controllers should also consider the legal basis for the processing they carry out. One of the following must apply to each use of data:

• • • • •

Consent – the individual has given you permission to use their data. Contract – you need to use the data to fulfil the terms of a contract. This will apply in particular in employment. Legal obligation – you are obliged by law to process data, for example a reportable accident, to the Health & Safety Authority. Public interest – for public bodies, you need to use data to carry out your public functions. Legitimate interests – for private and notfor-profits, you need to use data to achieve your legitimate goals.

This language can seem quite legal and formal, but in going back to your data mapping exercise, you can begin to understand why you use data and what legal basis applies. Importantly, the principle of accountability underpins all of these responsibilities, as it requires controllers to be compliant with the law and to be able to demonstrate compliance – take the time to document your decision-making about data protection. What about email lists? The use of mailing lists is important in a sector like the visual arts, for events promotion, marketing and so on. The best advice is that you make sure to get a clear opt-in from people and that each email has an unsubscribe option. If you use a third-party platform to manage your contacts, make sure that this is built-in to your communications. Where should we store data? In smaller and voluntary organisations, people will have to use their own laptops and mobile devices to process data. Make sure that shared email accounts and online databases are password protected and avoid using personal email addresses for organisation business where possible. Using email accounts to store data is not best practice; email is a communication tool not a storage medium. Data Subject Rights. Data controllers have important obligations around individual’s rights. Primarily, people have a right to clear and transparent information about why you process their data. Where you collect information online, a website privacy notice is the best way to do this. People also have a right to access information that is held about them and you have an obligation to facilitate this. If someone requests a copy of their information, it should be provided within a month. Do I need a Data Protection Policy? A data protection policy is considered best practice, in terms of setting out what your organisation does with data and helping staff and volunteers to know what to. It’s also a good way to meet accountability requirements. Would you like to know more? The Data Protection Commission provides further guidance on these topics. You can contact the DPC Voluntary Sector Consultation Team.


Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019


Book Review

Book Review

Reclaiming Artistic Research

Curating After the Global



IN HER INTRODUCTION to the recently published Reclaiming Artistic Research, Lucy Cotter comments on the materiality of the book itself. She describes its size and shape (“small and fat”) and relays her and graphic designer Tomáš Celizna’s intention for the book to “declare itself as an object” to be “held in the hand” rather than “placed on a shelf.” (p10) For Cotter, this quality places this book at odds with other books. A thing, more tangible than literary. An object to be touched and received through its material form. For Cotter, artistic research invokes a paradox of sorts which involves the reader from the outset: “It is very strange to try to write a book about artistic research if, like me, you believe that art’s value lies partly in the fact that representation affects thought.” (p10) The immediate effect (and affect) of this uncertainty, calls attention to Cotter’s voice, as she skilfully discloses her situatedness within the current study. She is editor and writer, interviewer and interlocutor, as well as the curator and “trained” (but not practicing?) artist. Art as an epistemic practice is marked here; she marks it: “I am aware that all of these structural choices reflect assumptions about how art relates to other forms of knowledge.”(p10) Cotter prepares us for a specificity of artistic thinking, which is at the crux of competing interests at play in artistic research, on the one hand indifferent to academic protocols and on the other preoccupied with the status of artistic inquiry. Without reverting to old formalisms, Cotter calls upon us to take art’s contribution to thinking seriously by focusing on its ‘formal interventions’. This will inevitably mean thinking about art’s materiality as the radical basis of specialised and advanced knowledge production. For Cotter, this is exactly what needs to be reclaimed. Without situating as an artwork per se, formally, Reclaiming Artistic Research borrows from a legacy of print-based, or ‘dematerialised’ conceptual projects (think Seigelaub and Lippard) as well as many dialogic practices. I flick through the pages. The font is dense, sans serif, uniform and laid out as black text on white paper without images or other visuals. Each chapter represents a conversation, or “dialogue”, formatted in alternating paragraphs notated with initials – LC and her varied guests. With the exception of two chapters, each dialogue is between Cotter and an artist or curator. The chapters vary in scope, at times theoretical and philosophising, at others explanatory and descriptive. An underlying theme is the apparent contest between materiality and the immaterial (not to be confused with the digital) as competing ways of producing meaning, which in turn impacts what we mean by artistic research. From an exploration of “non-knowledge” that recurs in multiple dialogues and unfolds eloquently via Sarat Maharaj’s discussion of Georges Bataille, to Grada Kilomba’s reference to “colonial legacies”, and phrases like “material resistance” used in conversation with Liam Gillick, we witness a number of parallel and intersecting concerns at

play, as each dialogue considers art’s relationship to knowledge production. Gillick is wary of invoking the term “research” to describe just reading or just looking something up on the internet. We might ask, does the term “artistic” refer to just making, and for that matter what makes research artistic? Are we discussing the material aspects of production, or material/ised forms of inquiry, or is artistic research the formalisation of research into works of art? Indeed, much of the dialogue in Reclaiming Artistic Research focuses on what constitutes the grounds for ‘research’; the ‘artistic’ is less questioned. The practices and artworks considered circulate in a contemporary field, so-to-speak, and remain secure in their relationship to the artworld as credible research-driven works. It would have been worthwhile to test these relationships here, so that part of what it means to reclaim artistic research is to ‘unsettle’ other well-established territories. What might happen to a consideration of works of art, for example, if we were to decide exactly what we mean by artistic research? Not all making is art, not all artists are researchers. One difficulty when discussing artistic research, besides the usual paranoia and ambivalence, is a tendency in both the academy and the artworld to agree to disagree, or worse, to favour ambiguity. The currency of this volume lies in the undoing of learned and accepted behaviours, where orthodoxies of research are not merely questioned but decolonised, unmasked, and resisted. In this regard, the most compelling moments of dialogue in Reclaiming Artistic Research involve artists probing artistic research as a real territory to be contested and defined. Sky Hopinka offers insights into the conflictive often precarious regimes of identity politics that arise when we are the ‘subjects’ of research; Falke Pisano proposes research that is performative rather than discursive, embodied more than pursued; Katarina Zdjelar seeks nocturnal research “as an engagement with uninhabited and unknown zones of knowledge”; Em’kal Eyongakpa troubles subjective/objective knowledge systems in favour of in-common, epigenetic knowledge. If we listen to these artists, artistic research is central to what it means to work over long periods of time on projects that are difficult to manage, formally complex and rebellious. Through the collective words (and works) of artists, the radicality of Cotter’s premise takes hold; artistic research hinges on practice. Cotter’s dialogues work back-and-forth, speaking to and across each other, without a single trajectory, but always towards more complex narratives about what art is and can become. We might view reading such a collection as the ultimate surrender to a paradigm that necessarily resists consensus. I am left holding this book, knowing that for something to be reclaimed, something has been forsaken.

Sarah Pierce is an artist and educator based in Dublin and co-leader of MA Art in the Contemporary World at NCAD.


Curating After the Global: Roadmaps for the Present questions what it means “to be global or to be local in the context of artistic, curatorial and theoretical knowledge and practice.” Contained within this volume are contributions and conversations from an international and interdisciplinary group of artists, academics and curators, all of whom present unique perspectives on our current time of crisis, while also proposing possible solutions, wherein we might collectively rethink the conditions of this “historical present”. An opening introduction from Simon Sheikh addresses the now commonplace idea that contemporary art, while considered global in its production, reach and circulation, is also a “driver of globalisation itself, in both economic and cultural terms”. That contemporary art is complicit in fuelling and informing globalisation, whilst simultaneously reaping the benefits, is not a new concept. According to Sheikh, globalisation’s “political success and hegemony” has “allowed the art world to expand”. Over the decades, we have stood witness to a growing global art market, as evidenced by the vast increase in biennales, art fairs, residency programmes and the spread of art and discourse online. Working from the arguable premise that neoliberal globalisation has had its heyday, and that we are now approaching an era of “de-globalisation” – in which we are “witnessing a reaction to globalism in the form of rejection, xenophobia and anti-internationalism” – the question is raised as to how to curate ‘After the Global’, when faced with a hostile political climate that presents a direct threat to the distribution, production and sustainability of contemporary art and its values. As an artist based in Ireland – who, like many, is all too familiar with the impacts of an economy that encourages flexibility, adaptability and creativity in exchange for increasingly precarious labour and living conditions – I found it challenging to reflect positively upon a globalised art economy that, despite its reach and potential, persists in benefitting the few and not the many. The first section of the book, ‘Diagnoses of the Current Conjecture’, invites a range of international contributors to thematically consider “the current historical conjecture” through the framework of ‘After the Global’. Each contributor acknowledges the factors that have characterised the globalisation of capital. Vijay Prashad’s contribution, titled ‘In the Ruins of the Present’, considers “a political-economic counter reading of neoliberal globalisation”. We have observed the damage caused as a result of debt inflicted upon the global south and the subsequent rise of commodity, accelerated by the outsourcing of production and the harvesting of enormous profits by multinational corporations. Prashad states that in order to consider possible futures, we must let go of the idea that the present is eternal, proposing that solutions will come from people who “understand in their bones – that the social organisation of our society is inadequate to our hopes and dreams”. Against the backdrop of what she refers to as an

increasing ‘globaphobia’ from the West, Nkule Mabaso discusses The University of Cape Town and interrogates the entrenched racism and coloniality inherent in formal institutions. She presents us with the work of artists Mawande Ka Zenzile and Dineo Seshee Bopape, whose practices “share a resistant imagery that disrupts dominant social imagination and contests one-dimensional thinking”. In the second section, ‘Exhibition Histories’, we encounter several contributions which reflect on exhibitions and worldwide activities, “populating the indiscipline of Exhibition Histories as a field of endeavour”. Particularly interesting is the dialogue between Ntone Edjabe and David Morris, reflecting upon ‘FESTAC ’77’, the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, held in Lagos in 1977. Edjabe (founder of Chimurenga, a pan African platform of writing, art and politics) explores the idea of people as “knowledge and infrastructure” and discusses the processes of bringing together personal stories and memories “in the absence of official archives”. The second section is consistent in placing people at the centre of knowledge production and infrastructure, utilising moments in history to “flag the cultural interconnectedness and interdependence of disparate places in the world”, while also refusing to engage with “the global as driven by capitalist marketing, finance and data management”. In the third and final section, ‘Institutional Re-Positioning’, Paul O’Neill provides a succinct summary of the preceding chapters, discussing the plurality of global art, stating that it occupies “many times and places, it is local and global, here and there, then and now”. The essays that follow explore the many ways in which we can work collectively, “in ways that account for both specific local as well as global urgencies”. In Alison Green’s essay, ‘Why Practice?’, she demonstrates an interest in how ‘practice’ might “reflect or relate to long-term thinking”. She directs our attention towards the Welsh Government’s 2015 ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Act’, and towards artists Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Rabab Ghazoul, whose practices involve a rethinking of social relations, “shifting institutional practice in order to enact systematic change”. In the closing paragraph, Green references Ghazoul, who argues that in order to make systematic changes, you need to be able do what she calls “human work”. She also states that one has to be able to “imagine and believe in a future which is radically different”. Curating after the Global: Roadmaps to the Present contains a myriad of complexities but is a crucial resource – one that would be a welcome addition to art schools, incubation spaces with curriculums that champion Western schools of thought. One of the great merits of this book is the sheer volume of thought-provoking essays that it presents, all of which succeed in reflecting upon this period of crisis, while proposing practical and tangible possibilities for change. Astrid Newman is a visual artist and curator based in Dublin.

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Public Art


Derdimus Tower MICHELLE BYRNE DISCUSSES HER RECENT PUBLIC ARTWORK, DEVELOPED FOR KILKENNY COUNTY COUNCIL UNDER THE PER CENT FOR ART SCHEME. IN NOVEMBER 2018, I was awarded a Per Cent for Art commission by Kilkenny County Council, arising from the completion of the N76 Callan Road Realignment Scheme. The commission brief invited proposals for a permanent artwork, made from high-quality, durable materials that would respond to the cultural, natural or built heritage of Kilkenny. The proposed site for the artwork was the historical townland of Derdimus (or Doire-diomas, meaning ‘the oak grove’), one mile outside Kilkenny town. Taking this information as my starting point, I responded to the brief by proposing the creation of a four-metre-tall limestone sculpture, titled Derdimus Tower. Another meaning for Derdimus in Irish is ‘we derive’. This definition inspired my initial research, which investigated the rich history and geographical features of Kilkenny, imagining how the city may have looked hundreds of years ago. The site-specific sculpture I created for this commission takes inspiration from the oldest built structure in Kilkenny, St Canice’s Round Tower, and its 360-degree views over the surrounding landscape – a vantage point that prompted me to consider city’s historic topography. The dimensions of the sculpture are at a 1:10 ratio with the scale of St Canice’s Tower. Upon being awarded the commission, I met with the commissioning panel, which comprised: Shelly McDonnell (Communications and Advocacy Officer at Visual Artists Ireland); Mary Butler (Kilkenny Arts Officer); and Seamus Foley (Kilkenny County Council Chief Engineer). Discussions surrounding the technical details of the proposed sculpture resulted in an alteration to the siting of the work to a more level and accessible site, in order to simplify the installation process. The development and realisation of Derdimus Tower went smoothly, and fabrication commenced within a month. Also known as The Marble City, Kilkenny is characterised by medieval limestone buildings and pavements. I felt Kilkenny Limestone was an obvious choice of material, given that I have been primarily sculpting with it over the past few years. Three blocks of Kilkenny Limestone were sourced from a quarry at Treecastle, County Kilkenny, and delivered to McKeon’s Stone Yard in Stradbally, County Laois. I was fortunate to be able to work onsite at McKeon Stone for the duration of the project, which was beneficial to the overall progress of the work, based on the facilities and support offered by the company. McKeon Stone have welcomed sculptors from all over the world to work at the yard with their top-quality limestone. Managing Director, Niall Kavanagh, and all the team at McKeon Stone are incredibly generous with advice and hands-on support, making this and other similar large-scale projects possible. Generally, I would fully shape the stone using grinders, chisels and mallets; however, as this was a tapering column, I had to turn the stone first, using a large lathe. It was incredible to watch a two-tonne block of stone spinning and changing shape on the lathe. The stone was shaped in three sections to create a conical tapering tower and was then sanded with grinders and sandpaper to a high polish. The final measurements of the tower are 650mm, tapering to 450mm over a length of 4000mm, and the entire tower weighs approximately four tonnes. On the surface of the piece, there is a network of raised polished lines. The pattern for these lines is based on a detailed study of a 1830s Ordnance Survey map of Kilkenny, depicting the networks of fields, lanes, roads and the river surrounding the city. Though abstract in appearance, the map pattern is totally accurate and can still be read. We tend to perceive the countryside as a natural environment; however, nearly every square inch has been transformed in some manner by centuries of human interaction – from the patchworks of fields, to the networks of trails and roads. As an artist, I am interested in what these traces of habitation tell us about geology, topography and our relationship with the landscape. Many of my recent works have been influenced

Derdimus Tower being installed on-site on the N76 Callan Road, Kilkenny, by Gallen Crane Hire; photograph courtesy of the artist

by my ongoing interests around these concerns. Experimental investigation into materials and process is an inherent part of my practice. I have previously used a broad range of materials to create new work, including metals, plaster and found objects. I am drawn to undertake in-depth environmental or historical research, in relation to specific projects that I am working on. The three completed sections of the limestone tower were stacked together using a key system. Three 30mm holes were drilled into the base, to a depth of 300mm, allowing for the fixing of the sculpture with stainless steel pins to the concrete foundation. Having the assistance of engineer Seamus Foley was invaluable, as he looked over proposed systems for keying the stone together, as well as the foundation requirements. The installation of large works can often be quite stressful; however, Gallen Crane hire were outstanding during the installation of Derdimus Tower. Kevin from Gallen came to McKeon’s Stone Yard to do a dry run. Stacking the three stones effortlessly with a crane and straps allowed us to lower the stone one millimetre at a time, while lining up the intricate surface lines. We installed the work on the N76 Callen Road the following week on 24 August, where it now sits in front of a five-foot stone wall, backed by tall deciduous trees. The entire commission was mediated and administered by Shelly McDonnell on behalf of Visual Artists Ireland. She played an invaluable role in the project’s fruition, offering advice and support, while liaising between myself and the commissioning panel. In my experience, public commissions that have an arts representative acting as mediator for the duration of the project tend to run far more fluidly, positively impacting on timelines, progress and the overall management and realisation of the project. It’s my opinion that an awareness and clear understanding of public art commissioning policies prior to undertaking a project creates a more successful experience for both the commissioner and the artist.

Michelle Byrne, Derdimus Tower, 2019, installation view, N76 Callan Road, Kilkenny; photograph courtesy of the artist

Michelle Byrne is a sculptor living and working in the foothills of Mount Leinster, County Carlow. Her practice includes both public and private commissions. She has exhibited extensively, both nationally and internationally, with previous solo exhibitions at the Olivier Cornet Gallery and The Arts Council. Her work resides in collections of the OPW, Irish Management Institute and Delloitte, while previous awards include The Conor Moran Award for Sculpture (RHA) and the Stone Sculpture Award (RDS). This public art project was administered by Visual Artists Ireland, on behalf of Kilkenny County Council. Guidelines and support for procuring artwork for Per Cent for Art Commissions are available through Visual Artists Ireland.

Michelle Byrne working on the map pattern for Derdimus Tower at McKeon Stone; photograph courtesy of the artist


Public Art Roundup

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019


Welcome to Ballymena & One Small Step

Leamlara Art Trail

Leo Boyd, Welcome to Ballymena, 2019; photograph courtesy of the artist

Chloë Louise Lawrence, Drawn Back Steel, two rust-printed pleated fabric hangings mounted on wooden frames; photograph courtesy of Leamlara Art Trail

Artist name: Leo Boyd Work titles: Welcome to Ballymena and One Small Step Sites: Bryan Street, Ballymena and Royal Avenue, Belfast Commissioning body: Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Cathedral Quarter Workspaces Date advertised: August 2018 and May 2019 Dates sited: March 2019 and June 2019 Budgets: £5,000 and £600 Project partners: Project Partners Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Queens University, Belfast, Voluntary Arts Ireland and the Arts Council Northern Ireland & University of Atypical and Cathedral Quarter Trust

Artist names: Lea Harald den Breejen, Ciara Finnegan, Domhnall Na Gréine, Billy Kent, Tom Kok, Chloë Louise Lawrence, Sjoerd van Leeuwen, Lorraine Neeson, James Parkin and Siobhán Tattan Event title: ‘Leamlara Art Trail’ Dates carried out: 5 to 8 September 2019 Project partners: East Cork Municipal District Creative Communities Scheme; Handles and Hinges of Midleton; Cork and Sean Savage Crash Repair Centre, Midleton, Co. Cork

Description: Speaking of the ‘broken windows’ theory of antisocial behaviour (originally proposed by social scientists Jame Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982), Belfast-based street artist, Leo Boyd comments that: “graffiti, and by extension street art, are seen as symptoms of neighbourhoods in decline. Recent trends have turned this theory on its head and nowadays a well-placed piece of street art can change the face of a neighbourhood over night.” Boyd’s recent artworks, Welcome to Ballymena and One Small Step are both examples of this assertion. These two street artworks use long streetscapes of local buildings and combine them with fantastical elements to create images that tell new stories of their respective urban environments. Welcome to Ballymena was designed in part by local children and tells a surrealist story of the history of the town from the time of the dinosaurs to its heyday as a Victorian metropolis. One Small Step reimagines Belfast’s Royal Avenue as a stepping-stone to space, a place of exploration and wonder at the unknown. Both pieces are designed to celebrate the urban environment as a place for change and creativity, whilst simultaneously highlighting the built heritage that makes them unique.

Description: ‘Leamlara Art Trail’ was a contemporary art exhibition set in rural East Cork, showing a mix of local and international artists whose works reflected specifically on the rural setting and community in which they were presented. The aim of the project was to take contemporary visual arts out of their urban comfort zone, and reflect on the meanings of rural life today. The majority of artworks were made specifically for this exhibition. With perspectives from both local as well as international artists, these works share a thoughtful approach that allowed the viewer to see these surroundings in new and interesting ways. The project was structured around a scenic ring walk, where artworks were positioned along 6km of quiet boreen road. The trail was accessible by foot, as well as being traversable by bike or car. Free guided tours led by the organisers were held each day of the exhibition, from 5 to 8 September. ‘Leamlara Art Trail’ was an initiative by Siobhan Tattan and Harald den Breejen. Siobhan Tattan was previously Artist-in-Residence at Kings College London, Kunsthuis SYB, and De Ateliers, Netherlands. She has exhibited in Ireland, UK, Netherlands and USA. Harald den Breejen is co-director for the Centre for Philosophy and Visual Arts. Previously he was Artist-in-Residence at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. ‘Leamlara Art Trail’ was made possible through the support received from the local community in East Cork.

Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019

Public Art Roundup




Two postcards produced as part of DisPatch; courtesy of the artists

Kiera O’Toole, ‘WARNING’, day 3, chalk on disused waste pumping station, Art Walk Porty, Portobello, Scotland; photograph courtesy of the artist

Artist names: Ciara Roche, Astrid Newman & Becks Butler Work title: DisPatch Site: 11 Castle Street, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford Commissioning body: Per Cent for Art Dates carried out: 31 May – 3 June 2019 Budget: €20,000 Project partners: Wexford County Council, M11 Gorey to Enniscorthy PPP Scheme, Strawberry Festival 2019

Artist name: Kiera O’Toole Work title: ‘OPW Office of Public Wonder: WARNING’ Site: Portobello, Edinburgh, Scotland Commissioning body: Art Walk Porty Date sited: 4 to 11 September 2019 Project partners: Culture Ireland, Creative Scotland, City of Edinburgh Trust & Council, Robertson Culture & Fund Business Scotland

Description: DisPatch was a recent Per Cent for Art commission undertaken by an artist collective consisting of Ciara Roche, Astrid Newman and Becks Butler. DisPatch was a pop-up post office that was installed in Enniscorthy from 31 May to 3 June, from 11am – 6pm daily, to coincide with the annual Strawberry Festival. This public-facing art installation saw the collective work in close collaboration with Enniscorthy-based community groups and the local Men’s Shed in collecting objects, which were placed on a conveyor belt, and then photographed and printed onto postcards. Another part of the project saw stories complied into audio pieces that were also displayed in the ‘post office’. Visitors were invited to drop in, enjoy a ‘cuppa’, select a postcard, write on it and pop it into a post box, where it was sent for free anywhere in the world. The decision to develop a ‘pop-up post office’ was informed by an awareness of the important role post offices have played in rural life, often considered to be the beating heart of a community. DisPatch aimed to bring people together to take a moment to connect and to enjoy the simple act of writing and sending a postcard. Over 2,000 post cards were printed and distributed free of charge to the public over the weekend. Over 100 people attended the launch, which included music and dancing from local groups. Over the weekend over 1,000 locals and visitors to the festival attended the pop-up post office.

Description: ‘WARNING’ was a project developed by Irish artist and researcher Kiera O’Toole, which took place as part of Art Walk Porty 2019’s ‘LAND MARK’ project in Edinburgh, Scotland. ‘WARNING’ – which is part of O’Toole’s larger project ‘OPW Office for Public Wonder’ – centres on the relationship between humans and nature within the site-specific area of Portobello Beach, Edinburgh. Connecting with the natural landscape and Portobello’s post-industrial site, the work focuses on the locations of fragile ecology and environmental conditions. O’Toole did this by calling the viewer’s attention to what is visible, in order to reveal what is not. The ‘natural’ landscape of Portobello is physically marked by a disused waste pumping station, an old sewer pipe, groynes and is a heavily post-industrial site. Portobello has repeatedly received a low rating for bathing, being marked as ‘poor’ in 2019. The work focuses on the seven groyne warning structures (physical barriers that reduce sand erosion) located on the beach. The three-part work consist of a series of site-specific chalk drawings on the walls of the disused pumping station; three public warning signs; and a site-specific installation. ‘WARNING’ and all of the ‘OPW Office of Public Wonder’ projects query whether drawing, as a perceptual experience, can suspend the viewers attention in a temporary “holding space” of wonder, so that they may be awakened to the basic experience of the world and – as Max van Manen puts it – “hear the uncanny rumble of existence itself ”.



Visual Artists' News Sheet | November – December 2019


Open Calls








Deadline Monday 11 November, 5pm

The Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre celebrate their tenth anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, they are announcing a new public art opportunity under the Per Cent for Art scheme. The OPW (in collaboration with National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Mayo County Council Arts Office) are seeking proposals for a new artwork, with a maximum budget of €30,000. More information on this commission and The Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park can found on their website (see below). There is a two-stage application process. In Stage 1, artists are invited to submit expressions of interest containing: a textual description of the concept for the proposed artwork; draft costings and timescale for the proposal; an artist statement and CV. Shortlisted artists will be invited submit a more fully-realised proposal at Stage 2. They will also receive an honorarium fee of €550. A site visit of the selected location for the artwork will take place on Tuesday 19 November at 2pm. To take part in this site visit and to submit an expression of interest, email Aoife O’Toole (Mayo Arts Service).

Deadline Tuesday 12 November, 5pm


Deadline Monday 27 January 2020

Deadline Sunday 17 November 2019



Email Aoife O’Toole,



Tel +353 (0)1 473 6600






EMAP/EMARE 2020/2021

Horizons Arts et Nature en Sancy (13 June – 20 September 2020) is an open air ‘art in the environment’ festival, organised in rural national park areas of the Auvergne in central France. They are seeking proposals for site-specific temporary visual artworks. The project will involve the creation of 10 new artworks for the festival. The artworks are expected to be original and specifically created for the festival. The artworks should suggest close ties between art and nature, reflecting on the natural space in which the artwork will be installed. The artwork should be ephemeral, lasting for around 3.5 months and should also be environmentally friendly – it must not have a negative impact on the natural site in which it is installed. Each successful proposal will receive a budget of €8,000 (inc. VAT), which will include a €6,500 artist fee and €1,500 for rights of authors. This budget will be managed entirely by the artist and approved by the organiser. The budget must cover all expenses necessary to carry out the work. For more information, visit the website listed below.

Pallas Projects/Studios' Artist-Initiated Projects is an Arts Council funded, open-submission, annual gallery programme. Pallas are now seeking expressions of interest for their 2020 programme for up to 10 × 3-week exhibitions, between March and November 2020. Solo, two-person, collaborative and group exhibitions will all be considered. Pallas welcome projects/bodies of work that are completed/near completion, or work in progress with clearly expressed outcomes, across all contemporary visual art forms. Applicants are also asked to include in their proposal an outreach aspect which considers different audiences/communities of interest, such as but not limited to: events, workshops, talks, performances and accompanying texts. There is an artist fee/production budget of €500 for solo and two-person shows and €1,000 for group exhibitions. For further information on the application procedure, visit the Pallas Project/ Studios website. Deadline Wednesday 20 November, 5pm

The Artist in the Community Bursary Award 2019 is offered by Create Ireland in partnership with Dublin Fringe Festival and takes a focus on collaborative arts and theatre. The objective of the 2019 Bursary Award is to support individual professional theatre artists whose practice centres on collaboration with individuals or groups (non-arts professionals). The purpose of the award is to support and nurture professional arts practice; it is specifically aimed at an artist with a track record of working collaboratively with communities of place or interest. It is expected that the successful applicant will share the learning arising from the bursary with the wider theatre community and collaborative arts sector. Applicants must have track record in collaborative arts practice. They must be recognised as professional practicing artists and must be resident in the Republic of Ireland (exceptions apply). More information can be found on the Create Ireland website.

The Golden Fleece Award provides funding for artists working in all forms of visual, craft and applied arts. It is the largest prize open to both artists and makers in Ireland, and it aims to provide resources for creative practitioners to innovate and develop their work at critical points in their careers. The award is open to emerging, mid-career and established artists and makers who are resident in, or originally from, the island of Ireland. The prize fund fluctuates from year to year but is generally in the region of €20,000 overall, comprising one or more major awards and several smaller merit or special awards. How the fund is distributed varies annually at the Trustees’ discretion. Previous years winners of the award have included Marcel Vidal, Ursula Burke and Jennifer Trouton. Applicants must outline the reason why they need the award to advance their work/career over a short period of time. They must also demonstrate their specific financial need. For full information on how to apply, visit the Golden Fleece Award website.

Kildare County Council are seeking to commission a commemorative sculpture in Kildare Town, marking the historic occasion when Kildare where the first county to win the Sam Maguire trophy in the 1928 All Ireland Final. Their captain, Bill ‘Squires’ Gannon, led the team and is now remembered as a legendary figure in Kildare’s sporting history. Kildare County Council wish to commission a sculpture that remembers the county’s historic 1928 win and Bill ‘Squires’ Gannon. The total budget for the commission is €80,000. This budget is inclusive of all artworks, including a plinth, artist’s fees, documentation costs, travel, materials, design, fabrication, transport, machine-hire, insurance and all other costs associated with the creation, delivery and overseeing of the installation of the artwork. The commission has a two-stage application process. More information can be found on the eTenders website (RFT 158768 - Squires Gannon sculpture - ‘Squires Gannon’ commemorative sculpture commission). You must log in to eTenders to view this information. Submissions are to be made electronically through eTenders.

Joya: arte + ecología / AiR is an “off-grid” interdisciplinary residency rooted in the crossroads of art, ecology and sustainable living practice. It is located in the heart of the Parque Natural Sierra María, Los Vélez, in the north of the province of Almería, Andalucía. Joya: AiR offers time and space for residents to make, think, explore and learn from their surroundings. Joya: AiR supports a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, visual art, writing, music, dance, curatorial and film. Residents have access to studio space and 20 hectares of land. Accommodation (private room with attached bathroom) and meals are included, as is collection and return to the nearest public transport system. The length of the residency is for one or two weeks, with longer periods available. The residency has a subsidised fee of €325 per week + tax (10%). This covers the cost of accommodation, wood for heating and all meals. It also includes collection from the residency’s nearest transport hub, Vélez Rubio. Residencies are for the period 6 January to 29 March 2020.

The new European Media Art Platform offers residencies for media artists working in a range of different fields. Artists with an EU passport or based in an EU member state (regular taxpayers in one of the EU member states) can apply for a two-month residency in one of the two time frames (April to August 2020 or January to May 2021) at a number of different arts institutions throughout Europe. EMARE includes a grant of €3,000; a project budget of €4,000; free accommodation; travel expenses up to €500; free access to the technical facilities and media labs within the host institution; consulting with production and market experts; and a professional presentation, as well as the option to participate in exhibition tours at EMARE’s members’ festivals in 2020–2021. All selected artists for 2020 will be invited for a networking kick-off conference from 28 February to 2 March in Liverpool. All selected artists will be invited to participate in the final exhibition in Halle (Saale) Germany during June 2021.


Deadline Friday 29 November, 5pm



Deadline Friday 29 November, 5pm


Tel +353 (0)1 856 1404




Deadline Monday 2 December

lifelong learning Winter 2019

Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland Dublin City






Date/Time: 20 Nov. 13:00 – 14:00. Location: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Places/Cost: 50. FREE (VAI members) / €5 (Non-VAI members). ARTIST TALK: KADER ATTIA

Date/Time: 25 Nov. 18:00 – 20:00. Location: Project Arts Centre. Places/Cost: 50. FREE (VAI members / OAPs / Unemployed / Individuals in Direct Provision) / €5 (Non-VAI members).


with Brendan Fox Date/Time: 5 Nov. 11:30 – 17:00. Location: Gorey School of Art. Places/Cost: 14. €20 (Wexford-based artists) / €50 (Non-Wexford-based VAI members) / €100 (General). VISUAL ARTISTS CAFÉ

Date/Time: 7 Nov. 10:30 – 13:45. Location: Gorey School of Art. Places/Cost: 40. FREE / €10 (Non-VAI members).


Date/Time: 7 Nov. 13:00 – 16:30. Location: Ormston House. Places/Cost: 40. FREE / €10 (Non-VAI members).

ROI Bookings and Information To register a place or to find information on any of our upcoming Lifelong Learning events in the Republic of Ireland, visit: visualartists. ie/professional-development-_

Lifelong Learning Partners

with Sheena Malone Date/Time: 13 Nov. 10:30 – 17:00. Location: Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge. Places/Cost: 12. €20 (Kildare-based artists) / €50 (Non-Kildare-based VAI members) / €100 (General).


with Maeve Mulrennan Date/Time: 20 Nov. 10:30 – 17:00. Location: Tullamore Central Library. Places/Cost: 12. €20 (Offaly-based artists) / €50 (Non-Offaly-based VAI members) / €100 (General). HOW TO APPLY FOR FUNDING

with Neva Elliott Date/Time: 27 Nov. 10:00 – 16:00. Location: Tullamore Central Library. Places/Cost: 12. €20 (Offaly-based artists) / €50 (Non-Offaly-based VAI members) / €100 (General).


with Jennie Guy Date/Time: 27 Nov. 10:00 – 16:00. Location: Tullamore Central Library. Places/Cost: 12. €25 (Westmeath-based artists) / €50 (Non-Westmeath-based VAI members) / €100 (General).

Date/Time: 13 Nov, 11 Dec. 11:00 – 17:00. Location: VAI Belfast Office. Places/Cost: 7. £5 / £2.50 (VAI members). FINANCES & TAX FOR SELF-EMPLOYED ARTISTS

with Louise Gorman Date/Time: 11 Nov. 10:00 – 13:00. Location: Vault Artist Studios, Belfast. Places/Cost: 20. £20 / £10 (VAI members).


Date/Time: 21 Nov. 13:00 – 14:00. Location: Ulster Museum, Belfast. Places/Cost: 100. FREE. PEER CRITIQUE WITH TIM SHAW RA

Date/Time: 22 Nov. 13:00 – 17:00. Location: VAI Belfast Office. Places/Cost: 6. £20 / £10 (VAI members).

Planned for 2020 Visual Artists Helpdesks / Project Clinics Date/Time: 15 Jan, 12 Feb, 11 Mar, 15 Apr, 13 May, 10 Jun. 11:00 - 17:00. Location: VAI Belfast Office. Places/cost: 7. £5/£2.50 (VAI members).

Curator Programme Peer Critique and portfolio reviews. A aeries of 8 group sessions with visiting curators from across Europe. Places/cost: 12. £30/£15 (VAI members).

Workshops: • The Landscape of Opportunities • Communicating Your Practice • Working with Curators • Career review • How to photograph your art

Speed Curating Date: October. Location: Belfast Exposed. 10 Curators. £3 per appointment.

* Fully booked. Waiting list available (contact

NI Bookings and Information To register a place or to find information on any of our upcoming Lifelong Learning events in Northern Ireland, visit:

Fees VAI members receive preferential discount of 50% on fees for all VAI, training and professional development events.

Tell us about your training needs! If you are interested in training please do get in touch with us directly or forward an expression of interest in a topic/s through the Lifelong Learning web page. We often repeat workshops when there is a strong demand for a topic.

VAI Show & Tell Events VAI will schedule Show & Tell events during 2019 and invites interested artists, groups, venues or partners to get in touch if interested in hosting a Show & Tell. E:

Artist & Tutors Panel Visual Artists Ireland has an ongoing open submission process for artists and arts professionals interested in being part of an available panel of tutors contributing to the VAI Lifelong Learning Programme. For details go to our training registration page and click on Register for the Artists’ Panel.

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