Date(s) - 12/10/2019 - 11/11/2019
9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Waterways Ireland HQ
“The landscape of the west of Ireland is beautiful and brutal simultaneously. Ever changing light in the expansive sky reveals stories hidden amongst the rocks and ruins, a cathedral of stones. Within this my interest is in the story of humanity. I can only tell my own story hence the strong autobiographical tone of my work. Nests and eggs, the path of birds, their seasonal stay here marks the season’s change. Flowers, dolls, mirrors, statues, old pieces of china found in second hand shops are the props I use in my studio.
I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and grew up during what is known as ‘the troubles.’ In 2000 I re-located to the small village of Roundstone in Connemara, a far ﬂung ﬁshing village with a huge artistic heritage. Initially, I was enchanted by two factors, the beauty of the place and the life and work of the fellow Belfast artist Gerard Dillon who made his home in the nearby island of Inishlacken in 1951. Dillon was long gone, he died in 1971 aged 55, I was acutely aware that he may have had unﬁnished work in his head. My aim was then to not attempt to emulate his work but to continue his legacy of inviting artists to spend time on Inishlacken.
I established the Inishlacken Project Residency Programme in 2001 and since then over one hundred artists of all genres have worked there. It is a quiet unassuming retreat, a week long opportunity to experience life on an uninhabited unspoiled place. The island is locked in a past time without modern conveniences, the only stipulation for participants is there is no pressure to make any work. Over the years we have exhibited as a group in Ireland and internationally. the place itself has informed one of the major strands of work I pursue. Often I place myself as a central ﬁgure on the island beach, the pictures become a narrative of ﬁgures gathered almost in a theatrical stage setting. My stories, conscious or sub-conscious are delivered by these protagonists, I relinquish control of interpretation, the viewer can choose to make their own.
The island and village are a far ﬂung familiar from the redbrick city I was born in. In hindsight I believe I sought out a backdrop of beauty in Connemara. The village itself was founded by the engineer Alexander Nimmo in the 1840s who was charged to build harbours, roads and bridges throughout the west of Ireland. The sea had been the main form of transport before then, Nimmo linked communities and made safe haven for sailors. The construct of the place also acts like a theatrical set in daily life and in the visual interpretations made by hundreds of artists since its inception. It possibly is the most painted village in Ireland.
I steer naturally from the obvious depiction of Roundstone and Inishlacken, instead my curiosity leads me to seek out something less palpable. Holy wells, the intersection of ancient worship and gods colliding and merging with Christianity, the footprint of the past lives with the present are all themes in the work. I pursue the divine feminine in the midst of the fog of patriarchy, the beauty of the place has an edgy undercurrent. Life in a small village is exposed and raw but also warm and convivial, familiarity can breed all sorts of things but can also nurture friendships. Delighted to be exhibiting this body of work When the Tide Turned as part of Fermanagh Live Arts Festival.” – Rosie McGurran