Note: this body of work about the Irish Diaspora was shown at the Olivier Cornet Gallery, Dublin in 2015. It was also shown in various art spaces around Ireland during 2015 and 2016. In Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr on the Aran Islands and in An Gailearaí, Gaoth Dobhair, the exhibition was entitled: “Tinteáin”
To view a 5 minute clip of the Dublin exhibition on Imeall (TG4), click here
This new body of work is a reflection on Irish emigration in the 21st century. It is a series of paintings of abandoned fireplaces in derelict houses on the West coast of Ireland. It was inspired by a poem by Cathal Ó Searcaigh entitled: “Na Bailte Bánaithe”, a poem about how spirits haunt the land, long after the people who lived there have gone. I spent some time in the Donegal Gaeltacht during the last few years, searching for and exploring the old homesteads that were mentioned in the poem.
I was reminded of how central the fireplace was to the home, how people used to keep the fire going throughout the night and throughout the year, and how it really was the ‘hearth’ of the home. If people were moving home, they would take a lighting sod of turf with them from the old house to begin the fire in the new house, so as not to break the cycle. Seeing these abandoned fireplaces, each with its own distinctive personality, was quite distressing and I undertook the series of paintings as a sort of requiem for those who had gone, a commemoration of the diaspora.
But where had they gone or what had become of them? Had they perished or had they built a better life for themselves somewhere else? Whatever the case, this country is so much the poorer for their loss. The second series of paintings is of empty skies, symbolising for me the possibilities and promise of a new life.
Diaspora at The Hamilton Gallery, Sligo 2016
Read more from the Sligo event here
Tinteáin at An Gailearaí, Gaoth Dobhair, 2016
Note: this exhibition was curated by Úna Campbell of An Gailearaí and it was created in collaboration with the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh whose poem: “Na Bailte Bánaithe” was the inspiration for this series of paintings of old, abandoned fireplaces.
To view a one minute film of the exhibition, click here
Several of the paintings have appeared in more than one of the exhibitions but the two below were special to the Donegal exhibition. ie – No.19 is from Mín a’ Leá, near Ó Searcaigh’s home and No.22 is from the original home of Micí MacGabhann (author of “Rotha Mór an tSaoil”).
Tinteáin at Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, 2015
To view a 4 minute film of the exhibition, click here
Note: Several of the paintings have appeared in more than one exhibitions but I was working on the series of ‘Ceo’ paintings on Inis Oírr and these were shown in a separate room in Áras Éanna, as can be seen in the short film (see link above).
Dán leis an bhfile Cathal Ó Searcaigh a bhí mar spreagadh don saothar ealaíne seo, dán dár teideal: “Na Bailte Bánaithe”. Dán í seo a léiríonn cé mar a mhaireann spiorad daoine i gcuimhne áite fiú má tá said imithe ar shlí na fírinne. Chaith mé tréimhse cónaithe i nGaeltacht Thír Chonaill cúpla bliain ó shin agus thosnaigh mé ag cuartú na seantithe tréigthe a bhí luaite sa dán – ag iarraidh sórt eicint teagmháil a dhéanamh leo siúd i mbéal an uaignis. Is machnamh ar an imirce is mó a bhí i gceist agam. Tá dhá shraith pictiúirí ann – sraith amháin de thinteáin tréigthe agus sraith eile de spéartha ceobhránacha.
Read more from the Aran event here