This series of paintings, fabric pieces and prints is a development of the ideas and techniques from The Sewing Room, Down the Line and Further Down the Line series.
This work was inspired by The History House, a book of poetry by Kieran Furey, which embraces the childhood landscape that inspired me and also raises forgotten questions about the Great Irish Famine. The poems are informed by the Famine Museum, located in Strokestown, Co Roscommon, near to where we both grew up. I was very moved by Kieran's poetry and realised that we were both working intensely from a shared history. Creating this series became a deeply personal and cathartic experience, dealing with both personal and shared issues from my Irish heritage.
The imagery drifts between reality and abstraction and is influenced by the Irish landscape and English seascape. The work was made in a studio in Hastings, on the south coast of England and was influenced by the view of the sea from there.
I see these paintings as both internal and external landscapes. Over many years of re-visiting and being inspired by this childhood place, various questions have arisen. Kieran’s poem I am the Land ignited strong personal feelings and visiting that place again became a much deeper personal experience.
The period of the Great Famine in Ireland is haunting for us all, but even the stark reality of facts and figures in the Famine Museum at Strokestown had somehow remained at a safe distance. It was the poetic voice in Kieran’s work that enabled the unheard and the unspoken. This was the first time I had understood my own silent legacy. It was the first time I understood the silence of the land itself. I began to feel my own “handed down” absence of knowledge. The exception was a single fact I remember from my grandmother: “One day on the side of the mountain 100 families were evicted.”
The nature of the bogland is such that it is low lying and silent. It lives on its surface with references to its past underneath. It builds up in layers. It is not like clay – it does not regenerate – once the top layer is removed it destroys the whole layered ecosystem below. Bogland is excellent at preserving life – 1000 year old oak trees and 100 year old butter have both been found preserved in bog. I began to feel that memory had similarly been stored. When I saw Bord na Mona working on the bogs I likened this skimming of the layers to the erasing of memories.
These paintings are my response to this awakening and uncovering of memories held in this bogland landscape. In this series of work I aspires to address a particularly dark part of my shared Irish history, to embody rather than explain what is happening and to re-imagine, re-honour and release a traumatic silence.