Des Kenny talks to Jason Deans Artist in Residence at Draiocht

January 28, 2016

28 January - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny chats to Jason Deans ...  

Jason Deans is the new Artist in Residence in Draíocht for the next six months (January-June 2016).

The Artist Studio looks out onto the bustling shopping centre and the artist works behind a transparent wall of glass in full view of the passing shoppers. This open insight to how an artist works in their studio can prove to be a mutually beneficial experience for the artist and the public. The sense of isolation an artist’s life embraces dissipates as they communicate directly with society, bridging the gap of exclusivitythat contemporary art invokes within the general populace.

On the glass windows Jason gives a mission statement declaring his intention to make art that explores the evolution of the Irish state from 1916 to the present day. Drawings depicting Irish volunteers defending positions behind makeshift barricades in the 1916 Rebellion hang on the window, instantly catching the eye of passing shoppers. Reminding all unequivocally, that this was how the Irish state emerged. The artist has begun a dialogue and a fugitive relationship with a transitory audience that he hopes may evoke questions about our nations struggling birth and today’s national identity.

On entering the studio the scent of elder tree sap clings to the air. Branches of the elder tree are scattered across the studio floor and are the base material for various sculptures the artist is working on. He explains the wood from the elder tree has no practical utilitarian purpose, too soft to make furniture and useless to burn as firewood. The material was in plentiful supply in his garden so he decided to make sculptures with it. Transforming a base material into art, recalls alchemists attempt to convert lead into gold. The artist becomes an alchemist seeing the potential hidden in a worthless substance, transporting its arrested possibility into something that has relevance.

Standing resolutely in a corner is the ribbed structure of an electric pylon made from elder branches. The struts tied with string hold the structure together but lack the strength to hold electric pylons. Artifice and practicality are not, of necessity, realistic companions but if a medium is transmuted beyond its natural reference into an object granted meaning by the artist, it becomes a work of art and it cannot be judged by its lack of functionality. The artist explains how research is part of his artistic practice and he got the plans for these pylons from the ESB. We also spoke about the ephemeral nature of his work and the inevitable lack of commercial prospects for these works. Who will buy a work which will disintegrate over a short time? It’s a problem the artist accepts if he wishes to make art which is pertinent to his art practice and convey his ideas without constraints of commercial demands.

My attention was caught by a series of photographs of sand pillars in an exhibition space. The artist explained it was a piece he entered in the Tulca show in Galway. It consisted of a number of pillars made from sand without any coagulant to hold the sand together - naturally the pillars deteriorated and collapsed over the duration of the exhibition. Installation of the piece proved hazardous as each pillar needed to be constructed away from the exhibition area since the vibration in their construction would cause all the other pillars to fall. Of course there is a connection to the property bubble and the collapse of the property market which disastrously afflicted the Irish economy. Artistic and economic reality can mirror each other as he recalled how during his MA show in 2009 he tried to fashion the Central Bank in sand and how the construction was impossible as it constantly crumbled and fell apart. There is an element of performance in his work and the choreographed dissolution of a piece over time can resemble the gestures and movement of actors on a stage.

The skeleton of a currach made from elder branches is taking shape in the centre of the Studio. The Currach has a distinctly Irish identity in visual culture and artists like Jack Yeats, Paul Henry and Dorothy Cross have used it as a symbol to explore Irish consciousness. While understanding the Currachs visual history, Jason wishes to find a new way to define its Irish heritage in contemporary society. As I left Draíocht I noticed the blinds in the Studio were drawn, no doubt indicating the artist had left. The Studio becomes a theatre and the artist performs daily for those with a curious eye ...


Read more about Jason on his website ... 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.

Leave a comment / 0 Comments

By Draíocht. Tags: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Jason Deans,

Penny Adventures - Draiocht’s Largest Education Project To Date

January 10, 2016

1 Month
31 Schools
107 Classes

2590 pupils

Penny Adventures 1916 Literature Project
With Author Brian Gallagher and Illustrator Alan Nolan

NOVEMBER 2015 – APRIL 2016

Poets and writers featured strongly amongst the leaders of the Rising, so it seems fitting that literature play a prominent part in Draíocht’s commemoration event for 2016.

Our commemoration project began with an epic tour of all Dublin 15 Schools, both 6th class pupils in the Primary Schools and 1st year students in the Secondary Schools, by local historical fiction author Brian Gallagher, starting in November 2015. Over the month of November, Brian visited 31 schools and talked to more than 2,500 pupils about what it’s like to be an author, how to research and write a book and then he read excerpts from his thrilling novel ‘Friend or Foe’, a thought provoking, fast-moving tale that captures the atmosphere of revolutionary Dublin and the misery and chaos of war.

From those 31 schools, three 6th classes have been selected and using themes from Brian’s book and hints from his talk, they will engage in a 10 week literature and visual arts project, learning about the 1916 experience in an innovative and challenging way. Working with writer, illustrator and cartoonist Alan Nolan, classes will experience a mix of hands-on workshops, tours and talks learning about story writing and cartooning, all building towards creating a full length cartoon book. The project also includes a 1916 Dublin City Tour and a visit from historians from Collins Barracks.

The 3 schools are:
Scoil Thomais Laurel Lodge, Castleknock

Scoil Nais Mhuire, Blakestown, Mullhuddart
Mary Mother Of Hope Senior National School Littlepace, Castaheany

By March 2016 the finished cartoon strips will be professionally edited and the project will culminate in an opening celebration and exhibition of the children’s work in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery, running from April-May 2016. The work the children produce will also be published in a comic book, along with a short film documentary which will be screened at the exhibition opening.

This project has been made possible by additional generous funding by Fingal County Council Arts Office.

For further information about Penny Adventures, please contact Sarah Beirne, Children & Youth Arts Officer, tel 01-8098029 or email

Brian Gallagher and pupils from Scoil Thomais, Nov 2015

Brian Gallagher and students from Riversdale, Nov 2015

MORE ... 

Leave a comment / 0 Comments

By Draíocht. Tags: Youth Arts, Brian Gallagher,

Draiocht Studio Residency - Call for Fingal Artists

January 9, 2016

Draíocht Blanchardstown - Artist’s Studio - July to December 2016

Draíocht is seeking applications from Artists from or based in Fingal for a Studio Residency from July 4th to December 30th 2016. The purpose of the residency is primarily to provide time and space for an artist to develop their practice in a comfortable, practical and supportive environment.

Draíocht is committted to facilitating engagement between artist and the public and so on occasion, may request that the Artist meet same  (e.g. school groups, workshop groups, visitors to the Arts Centre).   These meetings would be requested in advance and facilitated by a member of Draíocht’s Staff. 

This Residency consists of the use of Draíocht's Visual Artist’s Studio for the period above, rent free with an additional payment of €500. The Studio is integral to  Draíocht’s infrastructure and the Residency is integral to our programme. As such, Artists are expected to make full-time use of the Space. If an artist is not in a position to use the Studio on a full-time basis, this should be made known to Draíocht at application stage outlining the proposed usage.

The Studio is available for use 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday (except Bank Holidays). In addition to this, extended use is available when there are evening performances/workshops taking place.

What to include in your application?
To apply for the Residency, please forward a covering letter and up to date CV. A statement outlining how a Residency in Draíocht would benefit your practice at this point as well as an indication of how you plan to use the time/space would be helpful.  You should also include between 8 and 16 good quality images of  work.  If sending by post, please mark the images clearly.

Where to send the application?
Emer McGowan, Director, Draiocht, The Blanchardstown Centre, Blanchardstown Dublin 15.
Email: / Phone: 01 809 8027

Applications will be accepted by post or by email.  If sending by post and you would like your submission returned, please enclose a stamped addressed envelope with your application.

Submission Deadline Date: 6pm, Friday 5th February 2016

Selection Panel to meet:  Week beginning  8th February 2016

Draíocht is generously funded by Fingal County Council with additional funding provided by The Arts Council.

MORE ... Full list of Draiocht's Resident Artists 2001 to date

MORE ... See a Virtual Tour of Draiocht's Artists Studio

Leave a comment / 0 Comments

By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts,

Des Kenny Reviews Amharc Fhine Gall X - Transhistorial Terrain

January 8, 2016

Ella DeBurca, Ruth Clinton & Niamh Moriarty / Curated by Linda Shevlin
WED 09 DEC 2015 - SAT 13 FEB 2016 
Ground & First Floor Galleries, Draiocht Blanchardstown


14 December 2015 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny Reviews Amharc Fhine Gall X - Transhistorial Terrain ...  

Amharc Fhine Gall is an annual exhibition for emerging visual artists based in county Fingal and occupies the Ground & First Floor Galleries in Draíocht. Fingal Arts Office, moving with the current contemporary art trends, has employed a curator to pick the artists for this exhibition. The curator in today’s art world must have great knowledge of the forever changing landscape of contemporary art practice and be adept at generating projects which keep pace with new interpretations of modern visual aesthetics. The curator also brings intellectual rigour to an exhibition while creating a platform for artists to express themselves. The artist and curator working model is an inclusive relationship that charters two diverse artistic disciplines towards a common vision. A symbiotic dialogue between both partners with a shared vision can raise the profiles of artist and curator to achieve a more extensive visual arts audience.

The curator Linda Shevlin is very interested in how artists interpret local history and how re-evaluating the topical hinterland of our buried past can affect present and future social history. The curator searched through the visual archive of Fingal Arts Office and decided on fifteen artists whose work had an affinity with the curator’s preoccupation with social history. Linda then made fifteen studio visits over three days which culminated in picking three artists for the Amharc Fhine Gall Exhibition. The curator decided to include a number of Fingal artists who did not make the exhibition shortlist in other projects she is currently engaged with and future art programmes awaiting realisation. The dynamic relationship between artist and curator will continue long after this exhibition has finished.

Linda Shevlin has titled the show “Transhistorical Terrain” which hints at her interest in the environment of indigenous social history and renders a cohesive system for debate between artists and a regional audience. The curator does not overtly influence the artists on how to display the works but does offer suggestions to maximise the choreography of presentation.

The Ground Floor Gallery features the work of two artists Ruth Clinton and Niamh Moriarty
who work collaboratively together. The show consists of photographs, a video and various banners. The artists received permission to make work in and around the estate of Glenmaroon House which was formally owned by the Guinness family and latterly by the Daughters of Charity. The estate has fallen into disrepair and now stands vacant, clasped in the grip of the withering elements of Irish weather. As the artists worked in the house over weekends they discovered traces of a film crew working on a film about the 1916 Rising. Scattered pages of script denoting scenes and directions for actors were discovered throughout the house. The artists decided to use these found pages as an additional motif in their exploration of the houses history. Artifice and fact melded accidently and the discovered actor’s lines were embedded into a newly constructed plot. A fabricated record of events was construed to be true and a storyline was fashioned around this fiction. On a wall in the gallery a line of photographs are displayed showing various aspects of the house. Stairs seem to always pull the viewer upwards by design to an inaccessible location, a long corridor glazed in darkness might have two shadowy silhouettes and doors open searchingly as in a barren dream, stir an atmosphere of unease. Interspersed throughout these photographs are the pages of dialogue between a male and female volunteer who are trying to defend the building from the advancing British Army. There is bristling tension as ammunition runs low and the volunteers decide to retreat. In one scene a British soldier raises his rifle to shoot a volunteer in a basement but is shot by Frances and dies. The scripted word invigorates the photographs with additional significance. Are these the stairs and corridors the volunteers fled through? Is that blood or red paint on the stairs? The formal barrier between reality and fiction erodes and the vacuum is filled by the viewer’s imagination.

A short video with an insistent music score plunges the spectator into another fictional history of the house and perhaps suggests a murder may have occurred there. The opening sequence reveals trees disappearing into clinging mist and milk white steps lost in fog. History seems to drape itself in obscuring mist before unveiling its truths. The windows of the house fog up as if a passerby breathed upon them before leaving. Doors open and close without us seeing the protagonist. Dead flies and butterflies that accumulated on window sills are arranged into a black shaped directional arrow which points towards an unseen revelation. A hand is held over a hot oven and perhaps the same hand holds a torn page describing the safe use of knives. If this advice was followed a terrible act would not have occurred. The video ends with an aerial shot of the house as if taken by a news crew seeking the only access to a crime scene for the morbid viewing of an insatiable TV audience. Left uncertain if this reading of the video is correct, alters ones sense of critical judgement and undermines its fatal certainty.

In the centre of the gallery is a large grey banner stretched between two poles. The gauze like material has a translucent quality and seems to refer to an excerpt of a Kafka novel which describes the action of male servants attempting to raise grey linen sheets in the air so they could manufacture the atmosphere of a misty morning for the benefit of the lady in the great house. There is also a connection to this banner in the video on Glenmaroon House. This banner is raised in front of a window to give a misty morning effect as in Kafka’s novel. It brings into question the opening sequence in the video showing mist covered trees and fog covered steps, may not be a natural event but something conjured up by the artists. This is a multi-layered exhibition were fact and fiction are threaded together to fabricate a poetic realm were the imagination can reside. 

In the First Floor Gallery, 
Ella De Burca’s temperate piece in the Amharc Fhine Gall exhibition is made of a video projected on a large homemade kite. The kite is tilted at an angle as if caught in the turbulent wind, aching to break free of its restraints. Upon the kites clear plastic surface is displayed a short video. Ella spent time researching the history of St Ita’s Hospital in Portrane. The hospital cared for long term psychiatric patients. The institution opened in 1900 and at one time housed 1600 patients who were looked after by 300 staff. Most of the staff lived on the site. The hospital grew its own food and small industries occupied the patients. It was conceived as the ideal method to treat the mentally ill at the time. By the 1940’s due to poor financial support it fell into disrepair and its services for the patients became limited.

Against this historical backdrop the artist has conceived a work which tries to commemorate the patients who are buried in unmarked graves in the hospital grounds. When the veiled social history of an institution like St Ita’s is unearthed, a remnant of the tangled distraught memories of its history clings like a residue to the researcher. This is alluded to in a booklet printed by Fingal Arts Office where the artist chronicles a conversation overheard on a train while travelling to Brussels. An artistic couple discuss the documentation of a performance work, were a residue of the performed piece still remains after the event. Perhaps this was not fully understood until the artist became involved with this emotionally unsettling project. Sometimes this resonance of clinging history cries out for someone to bear witness to the suffering of the grieving past. During her research the artist discovered weekly screenings of films were shown to raise the spirits of the interred patients. She decided to screen a video over the patient’s graveyard to commemorate the memory of those weekly films and also aspire to exact repentance and acknowledge their padlocked suffering.

The artist flew a large kite up into the darkening winds of a star filled sky. On this blustering kite she projected a dancer skipping and tapping across a stage to the sound of an Irish ceili tune. The imagery hints at De Valera’s desire that all citizens would find happiness if they danced on every crossroads throughout Ireland to the rhythmic beat of Irish music. This ideal way of life was not granted to the patients of St Ita’s whose smothered torment was hidden from a blinkered society. The incessant tapping of the Irish dancer appears frenetic as he tries to remain in shot of the video projection caught on the rippling surface of the flying kite. Briefly the word SORRY mingles with the Irish dancer on the kites surface as if their choreographed interaction seeks redemption for past injustice. Then the music and dancer fade and the word SORRY holds the forgiven air above the graveyard of the forgotten. The artist silhouette is seen now and then as she struggles to control the kite wishing to take wing up into the splintered night sky. Although a short video it seems to grip tenaciously to the viewer like an afterimage on the back of the eye. It remains there like a residue snagged in the shadow of consciousness long after one has left the show.

Read more about the show ... 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.

Leave a comment / 0 Comments

By Draíocht. Tags: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Desmond Kenny, Ella DeBurca, Linda Shevlin, Niamh Moriarty, Ruth Clinton,

Draiocht and 1916 - Workshops for Secondary School Students

January 7, 2016

Focus On ... 1916 Letters, Drawing On The Past
Draiocht & Secondary Schools

MON 25 - WED 27 JAN 2016 Draiocht Workshop Room // €45 per class


10AM-11.30AM OR 12PM-1.30PM

10AM-11.30AM OR 12PM-1.30PM

These innovative drawing and writing workshops look at creative ways to engage with original 1916 letters as primary source materials. The aim of “Letters of 1916” is to give an intimate sense of what it was like to live in Ireland during one of the most significant years in modern Irish history. By engaging with original primary documents, students will find a wide range of experiences and learn that the history of 1916 was complex and fascinating. Facilitated by artist Genevieve Harden, participants will explore a selection of letters, they will create and illustrate handwritten letters in response to the excitement and turmoil expressed through the thoughts and feelings and words of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events.

Workshop Notes:
Limited to 1 class per school but other classes are welcome to be part of a waiting list.
Cost per class €45. Please get in touch with Sarah Beirne 01-8098029 if cost is an issue for your school.

Booking is essential: Contact box office on 01-885 2622.

Leave a comment / 0 Comments

By Draíocht. Tags: Youth Arts, Genevieve Harden,

 1 2 >