This is my first blog in a series through which I'll be telling you a little more about my solo exhibition, Land and Lore, and some of the artworks exhibited within the show.
L-R: Rhythm of the Wood, Autumn Brackens, Woodland Floor, Beneath - wall hangings on Irish Linen with ash wood hangers.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that taking on a solo exhibition is a pretty intensive process! There's the researching, planning, logistics, and of course the actual making. There are plenty of challenges along the way.... failed artworks and obstacles balanced with moments of elation and motivation. Its definitely a rollercoaster of emotions! For me, in my tiny studio, its also been a juggle of space and logistics. My house has pretty much been a make-shift gallery, with artworks hanging everywhere, for the past few months! However, it has been an amazing experience. I am hugely grateful to the Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre in Armagh for selecting my work and for supporting me as this exhibition has come to fruition. This is not my first solo exhibition, but it is probably the one that I have challenged myself most with in terms of subject matter, process and the development of my own practice.
Land and Lore opens on the 28th January and runs until the 5th March at The Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Birch Canopy on Irish Linen
The underlying subject matter, which acts as a through-line connecting all the works and processes, is Irish Woodlands. The exhibition combines printmaking with new (to me) processes that I experimented with as part of my exploration of the exhibition's theme, including Eco-printing and Natural Dyeing, which I united with my material of choice- Irish Linen. I consider Irish Linen to be synonymous with, and integral to, my work so it was a given that it would feature prominently within the pieces created for this exhibition. You can read more about why I choose Irish Linen in one of previous blogs here.
Land and Lore brings together visual explorations of the relationship between woodland landscapes, folklore, and a range of creative processes that rely on the use of organic plant material. I have aimed to explore how this union of process, material and history/heritage have shaped, and continue to shape, understanding and responses to the natural world.
The pieces in Land and Lore reference long-standing beliefs and symbolism connected to woodlands and varieties of native-to-Ireland trees. The artworks have been created to draw upon and reference the historic uses, meanings and lore of our woodlands, and to reflect on how woodlands have shaped, and continue to shape, how we see the world around us. Well known writings on woodlands from Irish history, such as medieval Irish tale of Suibhne mac Colmáin/Suibhne Buile have also been referenced and provided inspiration.
Woodland Constellation, Irish Linen and Willow installation
The exhibition is comprised of a range of artworks, including textile hangings, framed works and handmade books. Works have been created using nature printing, eco-printing and natural dyeing processes, which involve working directly with natural plant materials such as leaves and tree bark, which have been gathered from walks in local woodland. All the artworks have been made using foliage and bark, responsibly gathered, and native to the island of Ireland. Plant material has been chosen for the symbolism and lore it is imbued with. The processes of using plant material for mark making and extracting colour are historical ones, which have been used for centuries by artists, botanists, scientists and storytellers to document, structure, and interpret the natural world and shape our society. Using historical processes in a contemporary way, I have sought to tap into the history of these processes but align them with contemporary concerns about the future of our woodland habitats.
Journey through the Wood, Handmade Book in three parts
Woodland conservation, preservation and recreation has been a priority in the last decade and renewed interest has grown locally and nationally in our native woodlands, which once (many hundreds of years ago) densely populated the island of Ireland. Initiatives have focused on planting native broadleaf species and in using native seed to try and recreate the woodlands that would have once been characteristic. Extensive mapping exercises and research has also been undertaken to create a picture of the existing areas of ancient and long-standing woodland so that these can be protected and monitored. See the Woodland Trust's Ancient Tree Inventory for more details of this in Northern Ireland. These developments in woodland conservation/recreation, coupled with an increasing understanding of the benefits of spending time in nature for our wellbeing, has seen a renewed interest in our relationship and our historic connection to woodlands. In this sense Land and Lore touches upon and aims to prompt the viewer to consider these current issues and our contemporary relationship to woodlands.
Thanks so much for reading!
I will be adding more blogs focusing on some of the focal pieces from the exhibition, dyeing with tree bark, my first adventures in eco printing and tree folklore.