Artist – Ealaíontóir
Téarnamh is an installation by Deirdre McKenna at An Díseart, Dingle, Co Kerry, exhibited as part of Féile na Bealtaine 2022. The installation brings together over 1300 flags collected as part of Deirdre’s community arts project Ar Scáth a Chéile in 2021.
Féile na Bealtaine springs to life each year on the Dingle Peninsula as a celebration of art, ideas, words, music, theatre, performance and the shared creativity of the human spirit. The festival is community-led and brings together creative practitioners and audiences from the local area, with connections reaching around the globe through its participants. Féile na Bealtaine is also a springboard for local cultural practitioners to present their work to audiences for the first time, often returning each year to share developments in their practice, new ideas, performances and exhibitions with a supportive and open community brought together by a love of creativity.
Deirdre McKenna initiated Ar Scáth a Chéile as a way to bring the community together for Féile na Bealtaine in 2021 despite the pandemic restrictions, for people to feel a connection to each other and participate in the festival which is so important to her and the other artists and volunteers who make it happen each year.
Ar Scáth a Chéile comes from the Irish proverb: ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine, which can be translated as it is in each other’s shadows people live. This fitting term acknowledges how we have had to stay apart to keep each other safe, and how we need each other’s shelter for survival.
Deirdre invited members of the local community, past festival participants and audiences near and far, to make a flag to contribute to outdoor installations of bunting around the Dingle peninsula. While each flag has its own message, appearance and meaning, when displayed together the flags become a riot of colour and a signal to passers-by that the community and Féile na Bealtaine is still strong and connected to one another. Deirdre’s intention was to “give community back to people who didn’t have it” and to instil a sense of togetherness and joy through pockets of bunting. She states how bunting gives “an instant feeling of festival, celebration. We fly bunting to celebrate, we hoist flags to symbolise achievement and identity. The prayer flags of Tibet are said to carry good intentions, positivity and spirituality on the wind to spread throughout the land”. While the bunting became a burst of colour and happiness around the Dingle Peninsula, the work is far from festive decoration. Each contributor made their flag with intention, with very personal touches, making a piece of art that they knew would be part of a larger project.
Deirdre asked people to make a flag that “celebrates your hopes and joys”, sharing tips and instructions online. There were lots of locations to drop off the completed flags so people didn’t have to travel outside of their 5-kilometre radius, with options to post them for those living far away. The instructions were simple and materials accessible to anyone at home, such as repurposed sheets, clothes or fabric.
Contributions were from very diverse communities and individuals. The idea was picked up by school teachers and parents, who encouraged their children to share messages of hope or commemorate something important to them. Poetry is printed, words of hope transcribed through Ogham, and messages to loved ones no longer with us are commemorated in the adorned fabric. Poignantly, in some flags the material’s former use is still evident, whether it is a baby grow, bedsheets, an old hi-vis jacket or pair of jeans. Fungie the dolphin inspires some submissions, as do farmyard animals and pets. Craft has its own showcase, with beautiful crochet, knitting, felting, embroidery, appliqué and quilting. People’s love for Munster, Kerry, and more specifically Dingle, is expressed through county and club colours. Allegiances to peoples’ country (Ireland, Switzerland and the USA) or their organisation (Sacred Heart University, Connecticut and Camphill) is stated proudly.
We get a glimpse into what is important to people when asked to share a message of hope in their flag: for some it is their favourite footballers or famous jockeys Rachel Blackmore and Jack Kennedy, for others it is a piece of poetry which gently describes how “I went down in the afternoon to the sea, which held me until I grew easy”, or hopeful quotes “Like rushes in a field, we will grow stronger again”, or the familiar words of comfort, Sonas, Sláinte, Dóchas, Grá. It is a joy to see the flags from Aigedlige Clique from Basel, who are regular visitors to Féile na Bealtaine. Their skill at making vibrant costumes has been lovingly incorporated into the small triangle shapes and even though they couldn’t be in Dingle, they made themselves very present through their flags.
As the submissions came in, Deirdre gathered the flags at a temporary studio in a large room in An Díseart, a cultural centre and research institute in the old Presentation Convent – a world-renowned institute for the academic study of Celtic Spirituality famous for its Harry Clarke stained-glass windows. During the process of gathering all the flags together, Deirdre hemmed the flags to protect against fraying in the Dingle weather and photographed each one. The flags were then strung together as bunting in preparation for their placement around the peninsula. While doing this, Deirdre observed how significant it was to have all the flags together in one place, and the idea was sown that she would revisit the project as a full installation.
That gave rise to Téarnamh – meaning recovery, survival or to come through an illness.
The flags have travelled around the Dingle Peninsula for last year’s Féile na Bealtaine, installed in carefully curated clusters in locations that people could see during their 5km walks or drives: An Díseart, Dingle, Lispole, Annascaul, Ventry, Cloghane, Ballyferriter, Dúnchaoin, Castlegregory and Teach Siamsa na Carraige. The flags have fared well after a year, considering their exposure to the elements during last year’s festival when they were hung up in their outdoor settings. Deirdre states that fraying or weathering shows “the passage of time and wear and tear of life”.
For Téarnamh, the world has changed once again and people can come together in once place. We can now find ourselves at a moment of reflection on what people have come out of after the past two years, be it illness, social restrictions, not being able to see our family and friends, not being able to come together to celebrate life events, or commemorate people who are no longer here. The flags for Ar Scáth a Chéile capture a very unique moment in time, in an extremely personal way. This is not just one artist’s work, it is the sewing together of more than 1300 individual messages, an outpouring of inspiration made during the height of uncertainty, confusion and fear. It is very clear from the messages in the artwork that there is a huge sense of resilience, hope and creativity in the communities and individuals that contributed. As an installation, Téarnamh allows for a moment to stop and reflect, to gather and celebrate and to consider the power of collective creativity as a symbol of recovery.
For Deirdre, Féile na Bealtaine has been crucial to her practice as an artist, offering a platform for her first exhibitions after she graduated from college, to later becoming a testing ground for experimentation, collaboration, or an opportunity to showcase her many talents as a painter, printmaker and contemporary practitioner spanning other artforms. Ar Scáth a Chéile in particular presents Deirdre’s capacity for working collaboratively with a huge community, which can often be the most challenging way to work as an artist. Her closeness to local Dingle and involvement with Féile na Bealtaine gives her a unique viewpoint into her own community, and how fortunate that community are to have an artist of her calibre and a festival that celebrates creativity, renewing itself each year and offering joy to all involved to mark the approaching summer.
Aideen Quirke, April 2022
Aideen Quirke is a freelance arts worker from Co. Tipperary. She currently works as Associate Programme Curator at Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh Co. Cork and has previously worked as Director of Cork Printmakers, Artistic Director at Sample-Studios and as part of curatorial teams at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, VISUAL Carlow and at galleries and museums across Ireland.
Ar Imbolg an 1ú Feabhra 2021 beidh COGAR II á láinseáil.
Beidh bailiúcháin péinteálacha agus focail, rap nua le Súil Amháin agus Bantum agus íomhánna as leabhar teoranta COGAR atá clóite ag Ponc Press le feiscint ar líne. Coimeád súil ar Other Voices ar Facebook, Twitter agus Instagram.
On Imbolg the 1st of February 2021 we will be launching COGAR II.
There will be a collection of words and painted artworks, a new rap by Súil Amháin and produced by Bantum and a selection of monotone images from a limited book that has been printed by Ponc Press entitled COGAR.
“Bailiúchán liricí, rapanna agus dánta is ea COGAR a chuirtear i láthair i gcomhar le Other Voices.
Tá an taispeántas ar líne seo ag leanúint ó shraith fhíseán ceoil a cuireadh ar fáil don gcéad uair mar chuid de Other Voices, An Daingean, 2020. Cuimsíonn an taispeántas dánta agus liricí atá lámhscríofa agus priontáilte le litirphreas Ponc Press. Taispeánann sé, leis, na saothair ealaíne i bhfoirm léaráidí monatón chomh maith le híomhánna péinteáilte a tháinig ar an bhfód mar thoradh ar na saothair lámhscríofa agus phriontáilte seo.
Tá an bailiúchán ilteangach seo fréamhaithe don gcuid is mó sa Ghaeilge, le roinnt aistriúchán as Béarla, agus le hamhrán amháin i mBreatnais.
Beidh eagrán teoranta den leabhar clóite le cur in áirithint roimh ré ag Ponc Press agus rachaidh caoga fán gcéad don airgead go dtí Clann Shíomóin agus Pieta House. “
“COGAR is a collection of lyrics, raps and poems, presented in collaboration with Other Voices. Following on from a series of music video premieres as part of Other Voices Dingle 2020, this online exhibition encompasses poems and lyrics that are both printed with Ponc Press letterpress and handwritten. The collection showcases the artworks in the form of mono-tone illustrations and painted images that arose in response to these printed and handwritten works.
This multilingual collection of artworks is rooted mostly in Irish, with some translations in English, and features a song in Welsh.
There will be a limited edition of the printed book available to pre-order directly from Ponc Press, with fifty per cent of proceeds going to the Simon Community and Pieta House.”
Maoinithe ag Ealaín na Gaeltachta, Údarás na Gaeltachta, An Chomhairle Ealaíon agus Éire Ildánach le tacaíocht ó South Wind Blows.
This is the first year that Cork Printmakers are taking part and I am delighted to be among the 12 artists representing the studio. We decided to make a special limited edition box set for VUE with each artist editioning a new piece for the collection. It is a fantastic collection of new work by some of Cork Printmakers top artists.
Beidh mo shaothar priontála le feiscint ag VUE i mBaile Átha Cliath an deireadh seachtaine beag seo ag an RHA. Tá píosa nua déanta agam do bhailiúcháin speisialta atá curtha in eagar ag Cork Printmakers. Anseo thíos tá an eitseáil atá déanta agamsa don bhosca.
Here is the etching I made for the box set.
There is a wonderful exhibition of etchings on at the moment in the National Gallery of Ireland – Making Their Mark: Irish Painter Etchers & The Etching Revival. To celebrate this show and to showcase what is going on in contemporary etching in Ireland at the moment The Graphic Studio Gallery in Dublin along with curators Anne Hodge, National Gallery of Ireland and Dr. Angela Griffith, Trinity College Dublin selected 16 etchers from around the country. I was delighted to be selected to be part of this group of talented people.
Below is an essay by Dr. Angela griffith about the exhibition.
The New State: contemporary etching in Ireland
Over the history of art, the medium of etching has been recognised as being among the most artistic of printmaking methods. While other techniques such as metal engraving, relief printing, lithography, screen-printmaking and digital processes have all been employed to serve commercial interests, etching has been primarily identified with the fine arts. Employed traditionally, it is seen to preserve the ‘hand’ of the artist, as the image is drawn freely on the prepared plate. The plate, less cumbersome than a stone surface, less physically demanding than a wooden matrix, has been treated by artists in a variety of ways, like the page of a sketchbook or like the proverbial blank canvas. As an etcher, the artist is free to record, to respond to, to experiment with abandon or, conversely, to create in a precise considered manner.
Today, (when artists have more readily access to a photocopier or digital printer than a printing press) printmaking discussions often focus on tradition versus innovation. Yet despite this, it is reassuring to see the numbers of contemporary artists that continue to explore time-honoured methods as an essential part of their practice. The artists on display in this exhibition demonstrate a range of approaches in etching; from the creation of finely-drawn introspective works, to richly coloured painterly compositions, to explorations of memory through photographic means. Each of these artists was invited to work on a relatively large scale, signifying their ambitious intent for both the process and content of their work.
This exhibition has been curated as a response to an historical survey of Irish etching currently being held in the National Gallery of Ireland, entitled Making their Mark; Irish painter-etchers 1880-1930. Many of the artists included in the NGI exhibition lived abroad, as it was there that they found training, facilities, market and public appreciation for their printmaking. Those that lived in Ireland worked independently, such as Estella Solomons who was compelled to import her own printing press. And by way of a full cultural circle moment, Solomons’s press eventually found a place on the floor of the Graphic Studio Dublin.
The emergence of the Graphic Studio Dublin in the early 1960s marked an important milestone in Irish art. The establishment of the first workshop devoted to printmaking provided artists with the wherewithal to allow print to become an essential part of their creative practice. The studio provided training, facilities and, as printmaking is largely a collaborative activity, the creative support of a community with a shared purpose. To mark this legacy, a select display of etchings by former Graphic Studio Dublin directors Pat Hickey and Mary Farl Powers is presented as an addendum to exhibition. Both made an immeasurable contribution to the development of Irish contemporary etching, as makers, teachers and advocates.
The role of the print studio in Ireland over the last 60 years allowed printmaking to become a primary means of expression for many artists and later other print studios would emerge, including the Black Church Print Studio (1982), Cork Printmakers (1991) and the Leinster Print Studio (1998). The New State includes works by artists from each of these organisations.
The New State: contemporary etching in Ireland provides a platform for early career printmakers – each of the artists involved have come to medium within the last five years. A range of approaches is visible in terms of content, presentation and finish. A number of artists have looked to urban themes. Vaida Varnagiene’s stark and monumental images of Dublin architectural landmarks are presented as belonging to an anonymous international metropolis. These are in contrast with the shadowed descriptive treatment of the city’s suburbs by Ned McLoughlin. The rhythmic graphic beauty of the industrial space, presented in a multifaceted and fractured from by Ria Czerniak-Lebov diverges from Julie Ann Haines painterly and sweeping treatment of Dublin’s coast line which is dominated by chimney stacks at the Poolbeg Generating Station. Eimhin Farrell’s linear study of the historic Hope Castle Gates in Castleblaney comprises a series of states, navigating the viewer through the artist’s process of constructing a composition.
As in history, the landscape continues to engage Irish artists. For some they relish in its details, Josie McMorrin describes a West of Ireland view through a myriad of finely etched lines. Hilary Kinahan essentialises forms within the landscape, combing abstracted elements with calligraphic mark-making and a subjective colour. Angela Gilmour in her series of black white photo-etched images of the sea shore at Baile an Sceilg evoke memoires of sensory experiences, sight, sound, touch, smell. Deirdre McKenna, abandoning the reassurance of dry land, focuses solely on the mesmeric rhythms of the rise and fall of the sea surface.
The world of whimsy and fantasy is conjured in the illustrative work of Melissa Ellis; they are unapologetically decorative, appealing to forgotten childhood imaginations. Drawing from her collection of personal photographs, Miriam Hurley’s image of a child lost in its own world, obvious to the viewer’s gaze, is both emotive and challenging. In almost aggressive contrast Richard Lawlor’s theatrical spotlighted figure, is equally challenging as the viewer considers its dehumanised form. Fiona Kelly’s work also has an illustrative quality, her delicate, sparse images of finely observed flora juxtaposed with mechanical forms narrate the fractured, yet aspiring, relationship between the man-made and nature. The relationship between nature and humanity is also explored by Cará Donaghey. The almost obsessive, compulsive character of her undulating drawn lines from which natural forms emerge signifies how humankind grapples to find its place within its environments, both physical and emotional. The work of Dominic Fee and Sarah Roseingrave, challenges how prints are made, from the electronical to the handcrafted, and how they are presented, departing from the two dimensional to the three-dimensional.
The New State: contemporary etching in Ireland – which is jointly curated by Angela Griffith of Trinity College Dublin, Anne Hodge, National Gallery of Ireland, and Peter Brennan, Graphic Studio Gallery – celebrates a new generation of artists, and acknowledges their place within, and the importance of their contribution, to the legacy and future of printmaking.
Dr Angela Griffith, Trinity College Dublin
I’ve started a series of miniature etchings of lighthouses around the coast of Ireland. It may take some time but I plan on doing all of them! Because they are so small it is very easy to send them out to anyone interested in buying them! Simply get in touch through the contact page.
Tá tús curtha agam ar sraith mion-phriontaí, tithe solais na hÉireann atá idir lámha agam. Tógfaidh sé tamall ach tá sé i gceist agam iad go léir a dhéanamh! Beidh sé sodhéanta iad a chur sa phost má tá dúil agat iontu, toisc iad a bheith chomh beag. Cuir scéal chugham más sea anseo.
Here’s what I’ve got so far / Seo an méid atá agam go dtí seo