Wednesday 30 November 2022

archive from the rooftop!

A few weeks ago I remembered having done a drawing of Macha running with horses (something she was forced to do while pregnant and so cursed the men of Ulster to be severely debilitated in time of greatest need) when I lived in Kerry. I was sure the drawing must be in one of the portfolio or flat storage boxes that have been relegated to the attic roof for the past few decades. I was determined to, at the very least, do an inventory of the work in these portfolios while looking for the drawing and perhaps purge a few things on the way. First up was a flat box portfolio that I recall being made to house a submission of drawings to Canada's Artbank in the early 1990s, prior to my big move to Ireland. 

My work wasn't bought (I don't even remember what I submitted) but the durable portfolio has proved itself very useful for unframed work.

The work inside was a nice surprise too and I began an inventory. Photographs and measurements were taken of all works, and then I began separating work into piles to keep or to purge.

I'm glad I kept the two self-portraits from the early 1980s and they went into the pile to still keep.

When I worked in the Records, Archives & Museum Dept. of the Toronto Board of Education, a clean-up/clear-out of perceived junk was being done. I was offered a huge, double-handled porfolio and gladly took it off the TBE's hands! All kinds of things were inside it that I didn't expect to see. I had been searching for years (in the wrong places, obviously!) for my copy of a Day in the LIFE of a Bull Dyke magazine by Canadian artists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan. There was a photocopy of a memorial to my Dad that appeared in The Bray People in 1995. There was a large, handmade calendar page from my busy final month in Toronto in 1993 giving a daily account of my doings (packing, garage sales, meetings with friends, gigs, literary readings. I was also surprised to see some fine drawings that I did for a Community Employment Scheme in which I participated in 1990: my task was to create drawings of historic sites and sites of interest around Wicklow for possible use in tourist walks brochures. The brochures were never made, so nothing came of it, but it was nice to see these illustrations again.

That large portfolio also contained art postcards and invitations from friends' exhibitions that were mounted in acetate so that I could hang them on the walls of my apt for inspiration. The relevance of some of the press clippings I found wasn't apparent to me - I guess I liked the pictures! There were also some experiments with media for specific projects; these items I know can be discarded once I have pictures and measurements.

In another portfolio there were smaller bodies of work, idea sketches and work belonging to my husband. 

It was interesting to see some of this work again, much of which I had entirely forgotten about. I never found the Macha drawing, but at least I have organised the works that I am keeping. I only returned TWO portfolios to the roof for storage!

There was also a large rectangular box that contained unwieldy plates of glass and some oversize pictures. The last portfolio I went through was a makeshift wooden portfolio that I was sure hadn't been opened since the late 1980s. So I cut the tape! I was wrong, there were some things from the early 1990s, mostly life drawings from various sessions -- all of which have been purged (again, after they were photographed and measured). After nearly four decades as a professional artist, I finally don't feel that I have to prove I am able to draw! Of more interest to me in this portfolio were several posters - one from the play Boss Grady's Boys by Sebastian Barry and another of an exhibition of paintings in Dublin, Local Colour by Pat Moran (RIP). I had met both Sebastian and Pat at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre in the spring of 1989. Pat gave me the poster from his exhibition the previous year and I attended the premiere of Sebastian's play at The Peacock Theatre in Dublin that summer.

Friday 25 November 2022


From Oct 24 to Nov 6, I took part in the Meitheal exhibition at Signal Arts Centre. Meitheal is an Irish term to describe the coming together of neighbours to assist each other, especially with reference to saving crops or helping out with agricultural tasks. In the context of the arts centre it refers to this group show of staff artists, who have a variety of skills and artistic styles, coming together to create a coherent exhibition. Each artist was invited to exhibit a maximum of five pieces.

I chose to submit the maximum! Two framed pieces from the summer of 2020 when I took part in the combined Aos Dara-Umha Aois symposium and exhibition. I blogged about that here, here and here.

Saplings, acrylic collage, framed size: 58 cm x 44 cm, 2020

Lightning Tree, graphite, framed size: 58 cm x 44 cm, 2020

The exhibition was lovingly hung by two staff members to give each piece its own space and to allow the different works to be in dialogue with each other.

The show consisted of drawing, painting, ceramics and printmaking.

The artists involved were Don Rourke, Lorraine Whelan, Iseult McCormack, Deirdre Maher Ridgway, Dylan Clucas, Dan Laffan, Santa Selina, Lorna Lennon and Kelly Hood.

My contribution to the show also included three blind-embossed prints that I had previously shown in the spring of this year at Rathfarnham Castle. I give a virtual tour of Memory Is My Homeland here, here and here. For further information on works as they progressed, do a search on this blog for the exhibition title, which is the title of the body of work.

Ghost I, blind-embossed print on Fabriano paper, framed size: 30 cm x 29 cm, 2019

Ghost II, blind-embossed print on Fabriano paper, framed size: 30 cm x 29 cm, 2019

Ghost III, blind-embossed print on Fabriano paper, framed size: 30 cm x 29 cm, 2019

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Mokuhanga workshop!

Towards the end of the third week of October, I took a two day mokuhanga printmaking workshop at the Clones Art Studios, located in the historic Old Post Office. The building is in "The Diamond" across from the town's central high cross. I had excitedly booked the course as soon as I saw it advertised last August. Kate MacDonagh is an expert in this Japanese woodblock printmaking technique and I have  admired her work since coming across it in zoom artist talks over lockdown last year (through both Graphic Studio Dublin and DĂșn Laoghaire-Rathdown Arts Office).

While Kate gave demonstrations throughout the two days, the first day was primarily concerned with carving our own blocks with our simplified images and with especial care to measuring and getting the registration marks correct.

 I only thought later that I should have taken a photo of the space as it was set up for the workshop before the work began but the studios provided a spacious work area and demonstration area, that allowed concentration and focus to permeate the atmosphere.

Kate had stressed the importance of simple images for carving and I thought my obsession with chimneys provided an ideal image with which to work.

The stress Kate had put on the importance of registration made huge sense when it was realised that the blocks we were carving would work in tandem with uncarved woodblocks that could provide a variety of backgrounds. 

We each prepared a number of pre-cut Japanese papers for printing on the second day and with these papers we could use a number of techniques to create gradated or solid backgrounds for our images. One of the beauties of mokuhanga printing is that it is environmentally sound, using watercolour and nori paste (made from rice flour and water) to create a water soluble ink that, in combination with the fibrous Japanese paper, is incredibly durable and robust.

The workshop was about experimentation with a technique that produces varied and rich results. At the end of the two days everyone involved chose one print only as a sample of our work. The workshop was fantastic and we were all so grateful to Kate for being so generous in sharing her time and expertise with us.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Bones in the Attic

I made an excursion into Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery before the end of October in order to see the group exhibition “Bones in the Attic”.This was a fabulous exhibition, curated by Victoria Evans, showcasing  works by women artists in the permanent collection in feminist dialogue with recent work by invited women artists. 

The first piece visible to the viewer (after reading Evans's wall didactic exhibition statement) was what appeared to be a mohair couch. Closer inspection of Sofa, the 1997 artwork by Rita Duffy, showed that in fact the couch was upholstered with hair pins. In this upholstery setting the common, feminine item rendered the couch uncomfortable and combined with the blood colour could only be seen as a threat. Definitely not an invitation to sit and relax...

I was drawn into the next work by the sound and what seemed, at first, to be a playful sculptural installation. The forms were mostly painted colourfully but there was also something ominous. While some forms were colourful and almost whimsical, they seemed to writhe in a way I found disturbing and the dark piece that hovered in the background (centre of this photograph) seemed a threat of some sort. The seemingly haphazard placement of painted sheets on clotheslines said something about domesticity gone awry. Learning to smell the smoke by Eleanor McCaughey is full of foreboding and angst and I could feel the tenseness inherent in this work without foreknowledge of her personal situation.  In later reading of her biography I could understand and appreciate that she was able to imbue her work with personal suffering while making it appear playful. 

It is always a delight to see the work of Jesse Jones, and visit again her 2017 work Tremble, Tremble through the various objects associated with this multi-media work that are in the Hugh Lane collection.
I wrote about that exhibition here and an associated artist conversation/event here. I wrote about her most recent work, The Towerhere.

Sarah Jayne Booth's (for) All Our Grievous Doings, 2022 is an installation response to misogyny and the historic demonisation of women. What has a whimsical appearance packs quite the punch when deconstructed - a living room where each item carries a variety of meanings.

Ruby Wallis's large photographs, A Woman Walks Alone at Night, With a Camera, is an ongoing performative work reclaiming traditionally male times in urban spaces (ie, the night).

I was happy to see Kathy Prendergast's work, Waiting 1980, taken out of storage for this exhibition. I remember it being displayed in the foyer of Hugh Lane for many years and noticed when suddenly it wasn't there.

Over the past few years of the pandemic I have become aware of the collective Na Cailleacha so was was glad of the chance to see some of their work in person (as opposed to online). The "witches" are a group of aging women artists, some of whom I had been aware of already as individual artists.

The collective still work individually but engage with more force as a group. The group consists of Helen Comerford, Barbara Freeman, Patricia Hurl, Catherine Marshall, Carole Nelson, Rachel Perry, Gerda Teljeur and Therry Rudin. Most of these women are visual artists but Marshall is a writer/curator and Nelson is a musician and composer. I imagine this group has fabulous conversations about art, life, women's issues and just about anything -- I would love to be a fly on the wall at one of their get togethers!

Other artists whose work is included in this exhibition, which I have not had a chance to discuss here, are Amanda Doran, Myrid Carten, Dorothy Cross and Alice Maher. All of the work is deserving of further dialogue, which to me was the point of this fabulous exhibition!

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Happy Hallowe'en!

Hallowe'en seems to have come around very quickly! Over the past couple of months I realised there was still a few bags of pumpkin mush in the freezer that I needed to use up before creating new mush for the next year of pumpkin pies and pumpkin muffins. Too late I also realised I had never posted pictures or my recipe for pumpkin pie -- I'll try to remember to document the next time I am baking (it is very delicious!). In the meantime, the pumpkins were carved the day before Hallowe'en while listening to spooky music and that meant the biproduct of carving - seeds - needed roasting. In case you are not aware of how delicious these seeds are to snack on, follow the link here for my post from 2016. 

These are the two pumpkins that were carved in my house! They'll be turned into mush for the freezer in a couple of days. I gave full details of that process in a post from 2020 here.

Meanwhile, many houses are decorated for this spooky season. I was walking around one of the neighbourhoods locally and saw a few houses decked out quite well.

Cobwebs on bushes, spiders, ghosts, witches and pumpkins are all part of the fun.

Oh yes, and lots of scary skulls! By the way, the pumpkin muffins are good for other occasions too -xmas, Valentine's Day, Paddy's Day or even as a birthday cake - it's all in the decoration. Here is this very versatile recipe. Happy Hallowe'en!