Des Kenny talks to Kathy Herbert, Artist in Residence at Draíocht

November 19, 2013

18 November 2013

Kathy Herbert is the current Artist in Residence and has use of the Draíocht’s Artist Studio for six months. Kathy’s practice entails mapping, cataloguing and documenting her encounters with the natural environment in the immediate vicinity of Draíocht. Festooned around the studio walls are large and small drawings, all jostling for attention. Two tables are integrated to form a large work top, strewn with painting materials and pieces of cut paper, awaiting the artist’s creative intervention. Against a pillar, inert rocks and a feather repose, reluctant to reveal their secret. Thin wire sculpture of animated insects, populate the far side of the pillar, clumped together, craving freedom. On a table secluded in a corner lies a dormant laptop and open notebooks denote where sparkling scribbled conversations have found a home. The centre of the large studio is uncluttered, allowing measured access to all the projects on the studios periphery. Objects that occupy the edge of an artist’s vision blur and form unintended structures which can enliven an artist’s imagination. The mysterious pulse of the creative act is energised by the studios orientation and every artist’s format is different.

In a series of drawings, insects and birds are captured in an intense calligraphic urgency of mark making. Movement through space is granted superiority over descriptive form. Spectral crows tangle the croaking air with serrated wings, a bulbous bee hovers hesitantly and clustered long legged insects gyrate in an aerial dance. While making these drawings, the artist would engage with people out shopping and record in notebooks what was said to her. People will ask”what are you doing”, “is it finished yet” and “do you make money”. This discourse finds its way into her work. Drawings of denuded trees, accept these words in place of displaced leaves, language replacing the rustling sound of nature. We laugh together at the phrase “do you make money”. We share in the belief that art and its practice cannot find true value in comparison with monetary evaluation. Truth and beauty are the standards artists use to define their work and these commodities are not noted on the stock exchange. They are found in the priceless heritage of dreams which bind a people.

Our shared laughter eases the tension as the artist displays and talks about her practice. It’s difficult to expose works, unfinished to the critical eye. A misguided remark may destroy the embryonic development of a work of art. Our mutual passion for art overcomes the tense atmosphere that exists between artist and critic. This permits a deeper review of her project charting natural occurrences surrounding Draíocht. She photographs fallen leaves and numbers their position with chalk.

At times only a stain marks its fall, a ghostly semblance of natures passing. She bears witness to the forgotten lament of fallen leaves resurging essence lost on unforgiving tarmac. Recording these small natural events amidst the ravenous consuming bustle of a shopping centre may appear ludicrous to some, yet the artist insists these revelatory experiences of nature, open up that silent centre in our humanity where calm and peace abide.

The pursuit of consumerism inhibits quiet reflection. There is a map of the shopping centre were the artist traces her movements on daily forays into the natural environs around Draíocht. As a sculptor, she’s interested in how urban space controls our lives and confines our reaction to nature. In a previous project of drawings, she displayed GPS co-ordinates of trees and using this information, the street location of each tree was established. The artist becomes a pathfinder, leading the way over old ground, showing how to see it anew.

The artist has displayed drawings of swirling leaves in the studio windows for the observance of passing shoppers. As I pass, pausing to wonder uncertainly if leaves have dreams, I’m assured natures streaming consciousness has found a champion in the dreaming hands of Kathy Herbert.

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.


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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Kathy Herbert,

Des Kenny Reviews Nicole Tilley

October 15, 2013

Nicole Tilley
When all the Riches That We Boast Consists in Scraps of Paper and Balloons
11 October – 23 November 2013  FIRST FLOOR GALLERY

Nicole Tilley’s work incorporates the primal forces of dreams, personal myths and children’s stories with the staged forms of pictorial melodramas that help unravel secrets of the furtive elements that preside over our interior life. The artist employs the Victorian technique of cutting paper silhouettes to produce tales of enhancing illumination and infringing darkness with diverting simplicity. Nicole eschews complex details which would interfere and muddle the viewer’s analysis of the storyline.

‘One Fine Morning’

A good example of this minimal approach is found in ‘One Fine Morning’, where a figure caught in a fishing hook is trying to free itself from an unfathomable burden in the shape of a silver trinket. This simplicity of means, using just two fishing hooks, a piece of fishing line, a cut out figure and silver pendant, delivers instantly the unbearable message that sometimes we cannot free ourselves from the tragic consequences of consuming destructive impulses.

‘One Fine Evening’

In a similar stark fashion ‘One Fine Evening’ is constructed with fishing line, cut out figure, foxes tooth, small desiccated rose and a silver charm. The figure poised above these hanging items has a fetish dream like aura that may help ward off the temporal evils of careering reality.

‘Dear Companion’

Another aspect of Nicole’s work is the use of shadows to render a sense of movement within a silent static environment. The figures are fixed with the use of pins above a white background and the angled lights of the gallery produce numerous shadows which animate the white mounting board. A poignant application of shadows is found in ‘Dear Companion’ where two complimentary figures reach out to each other but do not connect. Pinned down like butterflies in a glass vitrine, unable to move, desire impeded by reality, yet their shadows escape their restraints and briefly touch. In the shadow land of dreams we can overcome our bonds and then begin to transcend the limits of material existence.

'When all the Riches that we Boast Consists in Scraps of Paper and Balloons'

In many works the use of light and shadow grants a fantastical characteristic to inert figures, by which they seem to take flight. A balloon appears to lift a grounded child, the tangled hair of a delighted girl seems to catch the wind and hoist her above the earth. The blissful gaiety of a child’s imagination is released by the tension evoked by shadows trying to elude their makers.

Notebook detail

In a number of works, notebooks are utilised to create a background for the cut-out figures. It is, as if, the written word has left the page to create stories in a pictorial format, prose invades the three dimensional realm. A macabre interpretation of the aphorism ”do not lose your head by allowing your heart govern” is realised in the work ‘Between the Trains’ were a headless bereft figure, tangled in ribbon, hovers above a train track.

Centred in the gallery space is a glass receptacle which contains an old jewellery box. A small horse is positioned beneath an open lid, festooned in ribbon, jewels and fly fishing hooks. On close examination a small cut-out figure of a girl on a bike seems to be whirling out of the boxes stuffy demesne. The work exudes an atmospheric feeling of loss for a past full of childhood’s magical certainty and an entranced engagement with the world. The doubting adult and resolute child can gain sustenance together from this show and celebrate delight in the shared domain of the imagination.

Nicole TilleyWhen all the Riches That We Boast Consists in Scraps of Paper and Balloons
11 October – 23 November 2013  
Read more … here 

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.


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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Nicole Tilley,

Des Kenny Reviews Patrick Horan - Present State

June 20, 2013

The figures in Patrick Horan’s paintings do not fall from the sky like Icarus but seem to float in the ether between heaven and earth. In Pieter Brueghel’s (1525 - 1569) famous painting of Icarus falling from the sky to his doom, we encounter the moment he crashes into the sea where only the bottom half of his torso is seen. Around the catastrophic event life carries on, a man ploughs his field, a Sheppard tends his flock, and a ship passes by, not intervening to aid the fallen Icarus. The happening goes unnoticed but intervention would not have saved Icarus from his fate. Patrick Horan’s figures in these paintings are unable to change their fates and like Icarus in Brueghel’s painting we only see the lower region of the body. The expressive quality of the upper body is removed from the scenario and the figures are forlorn without the ability to communicate fully on the unearthly nature of their existence. They float aimlessly without any perceived goal but are subject to forces beyond their control and are unable to influence historical events.

The darkening skies in some paintings hint with foreboding the vulnerable nature of naked flesh and its inability to defend itself against the coming onslaught. In this vacuum, exposed flesh is helpless against onrushing chaos and entwine closer, searching for comfort and protection. A foot tries to cling to the inside of a thigh; a knee tries to embed itself beneath a foot. They clasp and tumble into one another hoping to prevent non-existence.

Searching for a way to decipher these paintings is difficult. On one hand they are beautifully crafted paintings of human flesh and yet suggest on another level a deeper meaning which the artist does not reveal. It is the search for a greater understanding of these works that the rest of this review explores.

Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863) stated something along the lines,”if you cannot draw a falling man from a fourth story window to the ground you will never be able to go for the big stuff”. Patrick no doubt knows his art history and would recognise this quote. Patrick has the skill to accomplish the test set by Delacroix but what about the “big stuff”. My train of thought brought me to Theodore Gericault’s (1791 – 1824) painting “raft of the Medusa”. The painting is based on a sea faring tragedy. A French ship ran aground on a sand bank and to lighten its load and refloat, the captain placed its rich travellers in boats and the poor were dispatched onto a make shift raft and left to their fate. 147 souls were placed on this raft but only 10 survived. The captain and his crew survived unscathed. Later it was discovered the captain had not sailed in twenty years and did not know the waters around the African coast. Delacroix posed naked for one of the figures in Gericault’s painting and Gericault’s extensive research led him to make drawings of amputated limbs, which in a tenuous fashion indentifies a relationship to Patrick Horan’s disembodied figures.

I am wondering are these works by Patrick Horan a reference symbolically to a recent contemporary Irish tragedy. The aftermath and consequences at the demise of the Celtic tiger are still felt by Irish people since 2008. The ship of state had poor leadership, strayed into unchartered waters and ran aground. The Irish people did not rise up in revolt, no banks were burnt or windows shattered. Unable to control and alter events we entered into a numb like state similar to the dream like figures in Patrick Horan’s paintings. Are these paintings a psychological portrait of a traumatised nation, shell shocked, surrendering to a dream world? We are a gentle people and perhaps the only safe haven open to us, was to retreat into the floating realm of dreams. Yet Patrick’s paintings remain enigmatic and appear ready to accept any rendition visited upon them and grant no final interpretation, but engage with the “big Stuff” with quiet restraint and emotional intensity.


Patrick Horan
Present State
Read more … here

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Patrick Horan,

Des Kenny Reviews Aisling Conroy - Ocular Reverberations

June 19, 2013

Aisling Conroy has almost finished as Artist in Residence at Draíocht for the last six months (January-June 2013). Aisling took advantage of Draíocht’s Artist Studio to produce the body of work situated on the Ground Floor Gallery space.

Placed in the centre of the gallery is a sculpture called Foundation, constructed from discarded frames. These frames may have held family photos, prints or paintings but now are empty. This void is filled by a chanting or humming sound emanating from two speakers placed at the base of the sculpture. The sound appears to resonate with memories of lost images that are still retained in the vacant frames like ghosts. The frames are haunted by their past. The sculpture tilts at an awkward angle and just about defies gravity and might topple over at any time. The artist is playing with the notion of discovering a tilted frame on a wall - we have an innate desire to rectify this imbalance and straighten the frame. When the frames are removed from their recognised formal function and operate in a different capacity, this eagerness to correct slanting frames, dissipates and our inaction is filled by the chanting humming music of the sculpture. Desire patiently emerges dressed in emptiness.

Four large circular lambda prints are found on one gallery wall. They are abstract in form and each print is dominated by one colour i.e. red, yellow, blue and green. The lighter colour found at the periphery recedes towards a dark centre. Each print has a unique musical recording which is heard through ear phones. The colour of the prints and musical chants entwine and release images from the recesses of our mind and imagination. The yellow print with the sound of children heard in the accompanied musical piece produces a feeling of joy and inescapable calm. The green print and chant evokes emerald forests, the scent of rain on green leaves and fern covered caves, gateways to mysteries not discovered. The blue print associates with images of distant Blue Mountains, cloud free skies and a yearning for something just beyond understanding. The red print bubbles with passionate desires that surface uncontrollably from depths of wildness we assumed were buried and forgotten. These works help transport the viewer into a daydream reverie where the unconscious thought stream encounters daily concerns. At times this is unnerving, since there is no control over the sensations and feelings that are unleashed. The artist allows such outpouring of imagery overcome our natural guarded exterior self and opens pathways to our interior life.

Around the rest of the gallery walls hang coloured pieces made from discarded corrugated boxes. Various sizes of card board are glued and are placed on top of each other. In one piece called Alber’s Ritual II, the artist makes reference to Josef Albers (1888- 1976) the artist who made paintings of coloured squares. Generally Albers created paintings with three coloured squares, each square smaller than the previous one. Using this restrictive formula he explored the effects colours had on their neighbouring colours. Whether they receded or moved forward when observed with the naked eye. Aisling re-examines this territory and finds a new theme by allowing the colours escape the picture plane of Albers illusory vocabulary and projects colour into the architectural space of the gallery. Artists are in constant dialogue with past masters and art history is a living entity and not a dust covered shelf full of books with tattered facts. These works extend a conversation with the past and take wing on changing winds of living history.

Aisling Conroy
Ocular Reverberations
Read more ... here ... 

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Aisling Conroy, Desmond Kenny,

Artist Interview - Vincent Sheridan

April 26, 2013

Artist Interview - Vincent Sheridan

Vincent Sheridan's exhibition, 'Animation to Murmuration' is running in Draíocht's Ground & First Floor Galleries, from 15 March to 25 May 2013. We asked Vincent to tell us a bit more about his life, experience and inspirations.

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Cloudburst, etching


Q1: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from and where you live?

I grew up on a farm near Kilcock, County Kildare. I lived there with my parents and commuted to my then place of work on City Quay Dublin. In summer, weather permitting, I made this round trip journey by bike. At this time I was doing a lot of competitive cycling with the Kildare Cycling Team. This daily exercise was part of my weekly training schedule. I moved to Donnybrook, Dublin in the mid seventies and remained in the city until emigrating to Canada in 1989. I returned in 1998 and now live in Drumcondra.

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Evening Dance, etching

Q2: When you were small, what did you want to be when you grew up? Were there any clues in your childhood that you would follow an artistic path later?

As a boy, I had no clear ideas about a career path, but being in the countryside I developed a keen interest in all aspects of natural history in the local area. I joined in the usual 'boyish' activities of catching pinkeens, stealing honey from wild bee nests/hives and making catapults and sling shots to hunt rabbits and other animals and birds which were often referred to as vermin.

Nonetheless, through these activities I was often very close to nature and therefore able to observe animals behave in their natural surroundings. These field excursions, usually at dawn, around the local fields were most rewarding and sparked a life long interest in animal behaviour. Gradually I realized the errors of my 'hunter gatherer' behaviour and replaced the urges to capture and collect specimens with field observations and communications with the local wildlife. After listening to and learning the calls of birds and animals, I was able to ply my skills in imitating and 'calling in' some birds and animals in the area. I had most success and fun each spring with the cuckoo.

This was the time when I remember attempting some pencil sketches of birds, usually copies from illustrations in my first bird book, The Observers Book of Birds.

My interest in art continued through the early school years, when regular studies were often neglected in favour of doodling with pencil and watercolours.

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Glimpse of Starlings I & II, etchings

Q3: How long have you been an artist and why choose an arty profession over a more conventional career, like being an accountant, or working in an office for instance?

During the mid-seventies I embarked on a two year course of intensive studies  (evenings) at the National College of Art in Kildare. After this I joined the Graphic Studio Dublin to study all aspects of Printmaking. In 1980 I got married to Brid Laffan from Co. Kilkenny. At that time we both agreed that we would combine incomes and from then on I would devote myself to full time art. Brid was an avid enthusiast and supporter of the arts, particularly literature, music and painting. She was a talented singer and was a founding member of the RTE Philharmonic Choir. My artistic endeavors always had her wholehearted support in good times and bad, even when she didn't particularly appreciate some of the themes and variations in the work. Sadly, Brid passed away in April 2006. 

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Murmuration I, etching

Q4. Perhaps you also have a conventional day job to supplement your income as an artist and if yes does this interfere with your creativity and focus?

To supplement my income I have in the past worked as a part time art teacher at  Second Level, both here and in Canada. Also, I occasionally teach courses on Greener Etching methods at Black Church Print Studio. I really enjoy some teaching but find that the demands of preparation and application certainly leave little room -head space-for ones own creativity. Some artists can manage this mix and are very well adapted when it comes to multi-tasking.

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Murmuration II, etching

Q5: When did you create your first artwork and what was your subject matter?

My earliest memory of a 'First Art Work' was a watercolour, copied from a book on birds of prey. It was a small falcon called a Hobby -This was painted when I was age 15 or so when I had begun a life long fascination with birds of prey. This was followed by a very ambitious painting in oils, an exact? copy of Constable's 'The Haywain'. It was a very fine fake, if I may say so!

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Ritual Dance, etching

Q6: Has your style changed over the years and what might have influenced this change if yes?

Yes, my style has changed a great deal over the years from the early watercolours already referred to, to the more recent abstract impressions of bird flocks (murmuration series) to the works based on photography and animated video images - works on plastic - based in the cut away bogs in the midlands. (See First Floor Gallery in Draiocht)

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Tempest, etching

Q7: Have you ever tried other art forms like sculpting, making music, or dancing for instance?

I have only dabbled a tiny bit in sculpture during the Multimedia studies in DIT. I am interested in exploring a work combining some aspect of music/sound, perhaps in the next year or so. I usually leave the dancing until after the speeches at weddings!


Q8: What other artists or people have influenced or inspired you, and in what ways?

I greatly admire the works of Hieronymus Bosch, Cezan, vanGogh, Toulouse-Leutrec, Twonbley, Nora McGuinness. I am inspired by the works of Jackson Pollock, Brigid Reilly, Patrick Scott, and more recently Ai wa Wa, Jackie Invine, Joy Gerrard, Mark Garry and Anthony Little.

Some of the above artists inspire by their ability to work with multiples, i.e. employing a wide variety of materials and methods of mark making, using a repetition of lines and dots to build an image, sometimes in a minimal way, and conversely, on a monumental scale as in the works of Anselm Keefer and Ai Waiwai.

Q9: What is the thing you most enjoy about your work?

I mostly enjoy the element of surprise in my work. Although disappointment is sometimes the end product of a imagined idea. Each piece is like a planned journey with an imagined ending or destination. Sometimes the would be destination is never reached as the journey may veer off down a side road and end at a much more satisfactory destination.

I pay particular attention to peoples responses to my work. Often a given print, painting or video piece will reawaken and unlock a flood of stories and images from past encounters and experiences, mostly relating to the natural world. The stories are a mixture of the real and imaginary. The responses are often a wonderful blending of folklore, myth and memory. It would be nice to think my work is sometimes connecting the viewer to past memories, while at the same drawing attention to other ways of perceiving and connecting with the richness of our natural environment.

Vincent Sheridan

Q10: How do you keep motivated if you’re having a bad day?

It is always difficult to navigate through a 'bad day' given that such days usually arrive out of the blue and totally unannounced. My own strategy is to step back from the problem and try to regroup. This can best be achieved by maybe taking a break, making a cuppa and contemplating the problem. A kind of staring at the proverbial canvas. It is often a good idea to take a walk around the block, get some fresh air which can be good therapy for relieving any mental blockages and refocusing on the task at hand.


Q11: How have you handled the business side of being an artist, promoting yourself and getting exposure, selling your work etc?

Handling the business side of being an artist is usually the 'Beecher's Brook' for many colleagues I talk to. We just want to put our heads in the sand and get on with creativity. Having an friendly advisor/support system with a good listening ear is very worthwhile. Ideally, this can be your supportive partner/spouse/friend or family member. For me it is essential to have an accountant who will take care of the annual headache of making returns. This helps to free up your 'head space' and allows you to get on with your work. Also, join an arts organisation such as Visual Arts Ireland who offer a wide variety of support systems and programmes geared specifically to the requirements of being an Artist.

Keep a keen eye on Gallery Open Call Notices and similar opportunities from Arts associations and the like. Get going by submitting to open competitions, group shows both local and international. Remember the motto' the people who show up run the world'.

Q12: Could you tell us a little more about your current exhibition in Draíocht? How long have you been preparing for it?

This current exhibition is based on an ongoing project based on the minimalist pattern of birds in flight. The aim is to catch the 'brushstroke' patters of flight in a minimalistic way. This imagery was colourfully described by the poet Brendan Kennelly who likened such spontaneous murmurations to 'a fistful of black dust flung in the air'. The other dimension to this show is a result of experiments using a mixture of synthetic materials which are painted on and manipulated by sunlight and landscape as backdrop, then photographed in order to create distortions and illusions in the subject matter. This work was undertaken over the past three years or so.

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Murmuration Video, Still 1

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Murmuration Video, Still 2

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan, Murmuration Video, Still 3

MORE ... Enjoy snippets from the video piece Murmuration ... here and here ... 

Q13: Have you any future exhibitions planned?

Some group shows planned. Also, some works in the annual RHA Exhibition


Q14: Do you have any advice you could give to an artist just starting out?

The main object of an artist starting out is to believe in what you are doing and be motivated and enthusiastic about your subject. Keep an open mind any don't be afraid to ask questions, share ideas and experiment with different ways of expressing yourself. This process should lead you down the path of identifying and 'finding your voice'. Once you are fired up and committed to what you want to achieve, then believe in it and forge ahead. In other words, having found your voice you now have to be heard, so perform, 'sing up' and put it out in the public domain.
Be patient, as this could take some time to achieve.

Q15: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I cannot predict the future but my wish would be that ten years from now I would retain the urge to be creative and to continue to express new ideas and ways of  communicating my interpretations of aspects of the natural world.


Q16: What are your interests and hobbies outside of your artwork?

I continue to derive great satisfaction from the natural world, whether exploring in the Arctic regions, Irish and European mountain landscapes, or just being in the garden! I have always been involved in fitness through sport, particularly cycle racing, tennis and hill walking. I enjoy music, classical, traditional and some blues. I am a former member of The Guinness Choir. And of course relaxing with a book and a glass of Gigondas.

More information about Vincent's current exhibition in Draíocht can be found here ... 
Draíocht's Galleries are open Monday to Saturday, 10am-6pm and admission is Free.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Vincent Sheridan,

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