It makes sense to begin at the root, something I thought about a lot during the making of (R)OARS. It's a common practice these days, in audio meditations for example, for folks to be encouraged to visualise red roots growing from their body into the core of the earth, to anchor and nourish them. This brings up many things relating to foundations, origins, ancestors even. For one of my performances I made a red 'grounding' board to stand on. It had a shaky, unstable foundation which I attempted to rebalance with my body and other tools. For another project, working with participants of the 2021 Joseph Beuys Summer School at Dublin City Gallery - The Hugh Lane, the first exercise was to go outside and stand barefoot on the ground for a bit of 'earthing' before making felt cut-outs of feet and drawing red roots. These practices relate to the first chakra, represented by the colour red and concerning all matters relating to our foundations and where we come from. Today I'm feeling a bit untethered and unrooted. As I write this I'm noticing all the red objects in my surroundings, including a red scarf that belonged to my maternal great-grandmother. Sitting on top of it is a red lighter – the last one that belonged to my father before he died. Another thing catching my eye is a glass jar with red apples on it, not unlike an illustration that might accompany the first letter of the alphabet, when we first learn our letters and how to write our own words. Drawing roots has been a real pleasure for me, allowing my hand to move in new ways as I make marks intuitively and experimentally, sometimes smooth, sometimes scratchy. REAL ROOTS was made during INFRASTRUCTURE with Fingal Public Arts Office, a project working with women in a residential addiction recovery programme. I learned about the practices of their community and one thing that stood out was their daily morning practice, reciting together ~ “in this earth we each take root and grow”.
1. REAL ROOTS
2. 'Eastern Body Western Mind' by Anodea Judith, pg. 61
3. Ancestral Material
4. Red Apples Alphabet
5. Roots Sketch i.)
6. Roots Sketch ii.)
7. Roots Assemblage (Joseph Beuys Summer School 2021)
8. May the clay dance, a stain of ocean
10. Root i.)
'Graceland' is a large-scale drawing – something I'd wanted to try for a while. The cue came from 'Tarot Reading October 1994' – the STRENGTH card in the bottom left-hand corner caught my eye. The human figure in the image caresses the mouth of the lion who represents difficult emotions and experiences. The figure is a person who has arrived at a place where they can honour and tend to these experiences with tenderness and compassion. They don't reject, repress or shame themselves in doing so. It channels the Rider Waite tarot illustration, with some changes. The figure wears a garland and belt of forget~me~nots, often a memorial for someone who has passed away. Here, they also represent not forgetting the self. When making this work I lived near the Phoenix Park and could hear the lions roaring at night. There were several pleasures and joys in making this work including colouring the large area of yellow – until the pastel ran out! I contacted my Mam about the emergency and asked if she could consult her pastel stash and gather all the pieces of yellow she could find. She did and it saved the day! I transported the WIP to finish it in the gallery and tuned into a workshop called 'Art Incantation Celebration' hosted by Renee Sills with artist Edgar Fabián Frías presenting divination practices they use in their own work. It was a timely workshop, generous and generative, the perfect community to make this work alongside. It was a Saturday evening, I stepped out for some dinner. When I came back some theatre audience members were standing looking in the gallery window which was really nice to witness. Included here also are works inspired by belly fires, something I enjoy drawing in repeat patterns. The infinity symbol in 'Graceland' also needs a mention, my current favourite shape to draw over and over and over. I have a note in my diary for this Friday's event – “dance infinity shapes with our hands and arms and our forever energy”.
2. Tarot Reading October 1994 (image credit: RTÉ Archives)
4. WIP – skirting board pastel dust delight
6. Fire i.)
7. Sacral Solar
8. Fire ii.)
9. Yellow Pastel Favour
10. Yellow Pastel Saviour
Today's post is about anti-perfectionism, a term I see used a lot at the moment, by @jerico.mandybur & many others. The first line I drew for 'Mo Ghrá Geal' was very wonky. I LOL'd, rubbed out part of it & kept going. I knew I had to embrace an anti-perfectionist approach if I was going to enjoy making it. I used big body movements to draw the lines, & came away with tender bruised spots on my fingers from gripping the pastels to draw so many lines side by side. There are links between the smaller drawings of SWEEP & other works in the show. In 'Mo Ghrá Geal', loosely translating to 'my bright love', the lines of 'brushed cotton comfort zone' have turned & become brighter, prouder. They bring to mind the diagonal line pattern around the windows on Ryanair planes, & the central shape is like a window too. A companion piece to 'Graceland', lyrics from the song by Paul Simon were running through my head - “losing love is like a window in your heart, everybody sees you're blown apart”. This piece is about the relationship between grief, love & the messiness of the heart. The central pattern links to 'Heart ii.) (terrazzo smithereens)' an ode of sorts to broken-heartedness, linking to the heart chakra through the colour green associated with it. In the video 'SOAR' there's reference to helping people step out of their comfort zones, while a drawing like 'brushed cotton comfort zone' refers to finding rest & safety in comfort zones. SWEEP is made up of 40 drawings that I never expected to exhibit publicly. At different times they were referred to as a 'thrill' or 'quilt' or 'suite' and I see the installation as an exercise in anti-perfection. I also came across this idea on an improvised quilt-making course with @marleegrace. Before it began I was being very precious about the fabric in front of me. By the end of class I was snipping & ripping fabric with abandon & worked through the night on my quilt top, leaving the mistakes & misshapen pieces, embracing the liberating anti-perfectionist process it aims to be.
1.Mo Ghrá Geal
2.brushed cotton comfort zone
3.Heart ii.) (terrazzo smithereens)
8.Oh, Had I a Golden Thread
From early on, what would become the installation 'ROAR', has felt like community. Something shared, collaborative and collective in ways that are perhaps not very obvious, but include: conversations, queries, possibilities, realisations, disappointments, turns in new directions and everything working out in the end. I first spoke about my ideas with a friend when I was thinking about 'oars'. The idea that they're purposeful objects that keep things moving and keep things afloat, while also thinking of them as symbolic gestures pointing towards the many ways in which humans keep themselves going. The first interruption to my thinking came when my friend, and researcher Sarah Quigley, texted me later that day - “is it 'oars' or is it 'paddles'?”. My initial response was that it was oars, it had to be oars, and it all hit me right in the perfectionist zone. But when I got access to a pile of broken paddles, whose life working the River Liffey had come to an end, from Jonathan of Dublin City Kayaking, something clicked and it all made sense. During another conversation with Sarah she pointed out that an 'oar' is always an 'oar' but that many things can be a 'paddle'. Like, if you're really stuck, you could use a big branch for example. In theory, in conversation, these ideas widened some (abstract) parameters of accessibility. The broken paddles of 'ROAR' have been bathed in blue, transformed and reconfigured to create this installation – a physical and visual imagining of a ROAR. Its shape resembles the area of the body through which sound emerges. Its colour refers to the throat chakra, mentioned a number of times in the video 'SOAR', with the speaker talking about authentic expression and the many things in life that can hinder that process. At times I've thought of the whole exhibition as a life cycle of a roar but, of course, it's not a straightforward diagram. Prior to their transformation, the paddles were used performatively to explore both playful solutions, and tricky, burdensome struggles for the videos 'paddles i.)' and 'paddles ii.)'.
2. ROAR WIP
3. broken paddles
4. paddles ii.) video still
6. Throat ii.)
8. Pools i.)
9. Boulder i.)
All week I've been writing through the chakra system or referencing it in some way, through colour or otherwise. The opening to the video 'SOAR' lists each chakra and their associated colours: root ~ red, sacral ~ orange, solar plexus ~ yellow, heart ~ green or pink, throat ~ blue, brow ~ indigo, crown ~ white or violet. Now we come to the upper levels of the chakra system, which looks at bringing things into being (manifesting) and a connection to the divine. This last idea is spoken about by Julia Cameron in her book 'The Artist's Way'. I haven't worked this book completely (yet) but I've done online workshops where excerpts from it have been presented. Cameron speaks about a kind of divine connection in relation to creativity ~ “the heart of creativity is an experience of mystical union, the heart of mystical union is an experience of creativity” (pg. 2). I'm not going to write much more than that about mystical things today. As it's Culture Night this evening that side of things is looking after itself, through a collective bounty of creative abundance across the country ~ a super vibe for the autumn equinox! Tonight, on the final evening of '(R)OARS', I'll be hosting an event in Draíocht Gallery. I'll speak about the work in the show and then lead a series of drawing exercises with participants, to celebrate the autumn equinox and mark the changing of the season. Alongside that Róisín Bohan will be providing short tarot readings to interested participants.
Thanks to Draíocht for hosting my artist takeover! It's been a great way to share more about the work for the last week of '(R)OARS'.
I'll leave you with two quotes from the work in the exhibition ~
“I always feel I'm being directed. As I said, I'm just the conduit...I feel like someone is directing me in the dance”
gather sow kiss 1 touch kiss 2 turnaround gather gather harvest from here you have your arms and your hands sow the seeds nice and slowly little swoop lift up open to the side
1. Guides (Amethyst)
2. The Hermit
4. things to nibble and rubber banding them
5. Candles ii.)
7. Quaint hooks (mystification)
8. The Potential of Rosemary