Until 16th October
Martina O’Brien & Christine Mackey
With the increasing frequency of destructive and rogue weather events, more of our attention is now on issues surrounding Climate Change. There is a growing public interest in exploring more deeply, the impacts our human actions (past, present and future) have on the planet; from our individual day-to-day decisions to larger global governmental and industrial policies.
Shul, (a Tibetan word for ‘track’, meaning “a mark that remains after that which made it has passed by”) is our 2021 residency project, supported by Arts Council of Ireland and sees artists Martina O’Brien and Christine Mackey respond specifically to sites/areas in Co. Tipperary where human activities have impacted the environment.
Martina O’Brien’s new body of work looks to explore the geological legacy of the county. Deemed to be Ireland’s most illustrious and prolific mineral locality, the artworks consider the site – specific chronologies of deep-time kept by its stone along with its complex histories of extractivism.
Mining took place intermittently at Silvermines for over 1000 years, from the 9th century until 1993 and evidence of this chequered past is still visible in the district including its 19th century engine houses and their close proximity to the remains of modern processing plants, waste heaps and open pits. Realised through film and installation, the artworks also look to examine the ubiquitous presence of rocks in Romantic poetry, and how these sublime descriptions of the earth’s material and early environmental discourse presented the earth in its otherness and its nonhuman aspect.
Christine Mackey’s temporary installation responds intuitively to various locations in South Tipperary for which she adopts a bricolage method of working – making up and utilising materials at hand to create an in-depth series of creative response that remain fluid and open.
Her initial research stemmed from an out of print publication ‘Areas of Scientific Interest in Ireland’ published by An Foras Forbartha, 1981. Reading through the various location descriptions for Tipperary, Mackey decided to journey in the foots-steps of the ecologists and plant recorders in an attempt to engage with the diverse descriptive habitats and outcrops as outlined in this publication. Taking time to decipher the hand drawn maps and notes led Mackey on foot to quarry’s, fields, hedgerows and brownfield sites with a number of these locations now restrictive to the public. The main focus were the plants In particular – Orchis Morris – green winged orchid; Erigeron acer – Blue fleabane and Groenlandia densa – Opposite leaved pondweed. These plants are now classed as rare, vulnerable and under threat, their diminishing communities perhaps indicators of climate change and environmental pollution on the land.
The gallery installation is held in situ with these plants drawing out their key biological characteristics and patterns. This visualisation process drew Mackey to work from an online herbarium where she sources the plants as dried virtual specimens that she prints out and draws from, creating a negative as such which is reprocessed again using an analogue process – cyanotype. Plant material not only becomes the source of exchange between the real and the virtual but also becomes the actual material from which the work embodies.
Also included is a 4 minute film work that Mackey developed using a process known as phytogram. This process allows direct contact with plant material to expired black and white film stock which is developed using house hold materials exposed to the sun. This work transferred to digital is overlaid with a sound recording in a query. Moving slowly on foot she’d never did locate or find either one of these plants. This work takes the viewer on a walk through the gallery guided by the plants which underpins there unique position in our complex world of plants to humans – an unceasing relationship that is in constant flux.
Martina O’Brien is a Visual Artist and UCD Parity Studio’s Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences Artist in Residence (2020/21). Her practice explores links between people, nature and technology, bound by an interest in the earth sciences and practices of divination. Recent solo exhibitions include Quotidian, Illuminations, NUI Maynooth (2019/20) and At Some Distance in the Direction Indicated, Butler Gallery (2018). Recent group shows include New Era, Solstice Arts Centre (2020); Datami Resonance Festival, Ispra, Italy and BOZAR, Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, (2019/20); and Tactical Magic, TULCA (2019). Recent awards include Arts Council Visual Arts Bursary awards (2021/19).
Christine Mackey develops long-term projects that attend to the complexity of plant matter and local habitats, which embody notions of care and cultivation through a range of scio-environmental contexts, collaborations and mediums. In 2018, She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship pursuing independent research across educational institutions and residency programmes. On-going projects include ‘The Potting Shed’ (2013 -) ArtLink, Donegal, which opened up a new social space inside a defunct military environment; addressing pressing environmental issues in relation to the geopolitical control of seeds was made evident in ‘Seed Matter’ (2010-) devised as a series of exhibitions and a publication, and ‘The Long Hedge’ (2018-) site-specific seed collection with future works currently in development funded by the Arts Council bursary award.
This residency and exhibition has been kindly supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and Tipperary County Council.
Please visit https://www.southtippartscentre.ie/events/martina-obrien-christine-mackey-shul to experience our virtual exhibition tour, listen to our Shul podcast episode and to view images.