Today marks the beginning of one of my favorite months of the year. In February, the first signs of spring begin to come through, even though the crisp winter air remains. The sun emerges earlier and remains longer into the evening. With each day, more daylight comes and sprouts of growth make their way through the ground to greet the earth. It’s such a delight to witness the winter fading into a new season. On the back road behind the college, a line of daffodils sprang up this week. They’ve been a wonderful greeting on my morning runs...such vibrant yellow!
Yesterday, the group of Irish Emerging Artists who completed a month-long residency at the college last fall returned to open their show, Interplay. It will be on display in BCA’s gallery until next month when it moves to Gallery 126 in Galway. Conor Coady, Phoebe McDonogh, Matthew Mitchell, and Olivia Normile were selected from a pool of talented applicants to serve as the 2018 Irish Emerging Artist group. Through the experience, they received a 600 euro bursary, free accommodation and studio space for a month, and an opportunity to give a presentation about their work and lead workshops with the students at the Burren College of Art. In concluding their experience, they organized this traveling group show.
The opening of Interplay was an exciting way to end the month of January. Despite the chilly weather, there was a decent turnout for the event. It was wonderful to see each of the artists’ unique work play off each other within the space. Phoebe McDonogh’s installation piece, Waiting, Patient, Silent, acts as a centerpiece of the show. Slow drips of used engine oil flow from the vessel structure she’s created. The drips fall into a pool of water, creating a beautiful abstract image through the juxtaposition of the deep black oil and clear water. McDonogh considered both the anticipated changes brought by industry and development within the Burren landscape and the process of an artist’s practice in the creation of this piece.
Olivia Normile’s work quietly sits near the walls of the perimeter of the gallery. They are mostly small, unassuming sculptures constructed from accessible materials like wire and clay. She also included a 9-frame hand-drawn animation piece. Her work feels playful. According to her bio, she uses materials that “hold their own individualities,” despite her instruction. They definitely seem to have characters of their own.
Matthew Mitchell’s paintings are aesthetically simplistic but incredibly interesting as they have been created through his unique process. Mitchell makes his gesso from combining ground up stone from the environments that surround him. The paintings he presented in Interplay include limestone from the Burren, Fanore, and Liscannor. He uses the gesso he’s created to cover boards, making the 2D object appear stone-like. On most of his paintings, he adds an eye-catching varnish. He is influenced by the present and past and how we perceive our world differently with the introduction of the digital landscape we’re surrounded by on a daily basis.
In addition to the visually-engaging multimedia work within the gallery, Conor Coady made a performance piece at the opening. This piece was in collaboration with artist, Grace McEvoy, who provided the sound piece along with the work. When we arrived for the event at 6 PM, it took a while for us to notice that Conor was present but hidden beneath a rich sheet of blue fabric. After our Dean, Conor McGrady, gave an opening talk to introduce the exhibition, Coady began the performance. Here are some images of him in action.
The performance's title was Echtrae and it was a 30-minute long presentation where Conor engaged his blue-stained body with the room and path of rocks he and Grace brought into the space. According to the List of Works, the piece “ethereally explores the human body upon the Luna landscape of the Burren...a colorful cognitive experience with surrealist and semi abstract tones and qualities at play.”
Having each of the artists around last fall was a wonderful experience. In addition to being talented and inspiring individuals, they are also genuinely good people. It was wonderful getting the chance to welcome them back as they continue working in various parts of the country.
As January has drawn to a close, I’ve started making my intentions for February. This month, I am making a point of writing down one thing I love each day. I stole this idea from my friends at Optimal Living Daily. If you are interested in joining me, here’s the link to a printable list! Today, I wrote that I love sunshine. Sending warm thoughts around the world today, especially as friends in the midwest are dealing with the arctic temperatures. I hope for warm places and good people to spend time with over the chilly weekend.