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In 2014 a previously unrecorded sunken village was discovered on Inishlyon, an uninhabited island off the coast of Inishbofin, Co. Galway. Between 2015 and 2019 a collaboration between archaeologists, artists and students took place to excavate and record the site which consists of the eroding remains of four houses and three possible kelp kilns. This not for profit collaboration is The Inishlyon Project. In 2017 I exhibited with the group in the first Inishlyon Project group show ‘Ar Cholbha an Uisce/By the Water's Edge’. The piece I exhibited was ‘Saibhreas’, a mixed media work made up up of carrageen seaweed, gold paint, cardboard and wood.
I exhibited my piece ”Nostalgia” at an exhibition of the same name in 2017 at the UCD Student Centre alongside works by members of UCD DrawSoc. This portrait is acrylic on paper and set in a Victorian frame. The loose and fluid brushstrokes of the work starkly contrast with the rigidity and symmetry of the Victorian frame, which looks more suited to hold a dimly lit oil painting than a contemporary acrylic work. The contrast of old and new, fluid and rigid is intended to represent the contrast between our memories of events and how they actually unfolded.
Íobairt/Sacrifice was my first solo show, held at Clifden Arts Festival in 2016 with funding from Údarás na Gaeltachta. This mixed media exhibition was inspired by Irish bogs and Irish bog finds including bog bodies, manuscripts and items relating to kingship and human sacrifice. In this exhibition the natural qualities of bogs and bog pools, including the colour, texture and form are interpreted. The use of bogs as farmland, peat milling sites, tourist attractions and rubbish dumps is a subtle presence in the work. The media used is intended to reflect on the subject matter. It includes such diverse materials as natural sheep’s wool, leatherette, tissue paper and foam.The intention is to create art which is contemporary but which reflects a much more ancient tradition.
Boundaries and borders are central themes in the work as bogs form physical boundaries between ancient territories as well as spiritual boundaries.They were believed to be portals between this world and the other world. I chose the title “Íobairt” as many of the bog finds are believed to have been sacrifices to Sadhbh, the goddess of sovereignty. This title is also relevant to the modern dilemma of the exploitation of peat. As antiquity is revealed through the milling of peat, we also remove the sacred spaces which caused them to be deposited in the first place.
I am interested in how the bog immortalises artefacts and human remains which are placed in it, either accidentally, or for ritual purposes. In an ancient text from the Ulster Cycle ‘The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel’ and in folklore, the bog is personified as a person or goddess. This is a cause for contemplation, "Does the bog shape the personality of the people or do people shape the personality of the bog?"
This artwork won the 2020 Global Undergraduate Award for the Island of Ireland in the Visual Arts category. The installation, made up of 2,819 communion wafers aims to represent the scale and severity of human rights abuses which took place at St Joseph's Industrial School, Letterfrack; a notorious institution once attended by my great-grandfather Jack. Each piece of the installation represents a person sent to the institution. The deep red stains against the bright white of the wafers represent not just the physical scars and the long term emotional damage suffered by those who were sent to this institution and those like it, but also the lifelong stigma placed upon the boys sent to Letterfrack and the harm that this stigmatisation caused to them and their families.
In the Spring of 2019 my childhood home underwent major renovations which meant that I had to clean out everything in the house. I found many pieces of broken technology during this clear out. Once central to my life, these remote controls, circuit boards and cables now lay irrelevant and useless. During the renovations the fireplace of the house was removed as it was no longer needed. This cleanout and the subsequent renovations led me to wonder what can be construed as the soul of a house. In the past the fireplace was considered to be the most central element of a home. The Irish equivalent of “There’s no place like home is “ Níl aon tinteán mar do thínteán féin” meaning there is no hearth like your own hearth. In more recent decades people began to turn their seats away from storytelling by the fireside and focused their attention on the radio or television. As I held the remains of these electronic devices in a house that would soon have no fireplace I wondered what the new soul of the house would become or if houses can be said to have such a thing. I decided to make purpose built house guardians to replace the fireplace and electronic devices. By creating a physical home for the soul of the house to inhabit, it insures that the home will always be protected no matter what the current perception of what makes a house a home may be.
On a traffic island at the bottom of Kevin’s Street between the Fourth Corner bar and the Maldron Hotel lies an underground Victorian toilet block, out of use now for over twenty years despite being in relatively good condition. I was interested in this building as it features beautiful stonework, an unusual decorative ventilation shaft and shamrock inspired railings. It's only use today is by an unknown person who regularly deposits boxes of free items such as DVDs and books on the top of it . I wondered if the reason that the building lies abandoned and has not been repurposed, perhaps as a bar or gallery, could have something to do with our discomfort touching anything in a public bathroom, even if it has not been in use for years. The perception of these places as being dirty, dangerous hives of criminal activity and human waste remains long after they have been abandoned. To explore this idea, I installed a number of ghostly hands made from resin and placed them reaching out of various parts of the building. The intention behind the work is to draw attention to our aversion to engaging with such spaces in the hopes that eventually the negative association with buildings like this will pass and they will once again be used by the community.
Donut Touch is a collection of handmade felt jewellery inspired by the explosion in popularity of donut shops in Dublin circa 2017. The title comes from the signs which often accompany works on display in galleries which warn “DO NOT TOUCH”, sometimes a gallery may go as far as to erect ropes or wires around works to discourage people from handling or breathing on the art. This distances the viewer from the artwork and does not allow them to get a sense of the texture of a piece, thereby denying them a full sensory experience. With Donut Touch, I wanted to do the very opposite of this. I felt that the tactile nature of the works would be much better appreciated by the public if they were able to pick the pieces up, examine them and try them on before making a decision if they wanted to purchase them or not. Donut Touch ran at Flea for Choice at the Workmans Club (2018), The Workmans Market (2018), Meltdown Dublin (2018), Clifden Arts Festival (2018) and the National College of Art and Design Christmas Market (2019). Most of the donut shops I visited to research for this project no longer exist so this project serves as a unique snapshot of a once huge food trend in Dublin.