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