In 2017, I had spent time at an art residency in Kilkenny, Ireland, exploring Irish folk stories and their ways of connecting people with ideas around caring for the land. This kind of indigenous story telling exists around the world, and I was drawn to it through my own family’s Irish heritage and my time living in Ireland. Kilkenny is known for its medieval magic and stories of faeries both good and bad providing messages and morals. Some of the work I produced at the residency in Shankill Castle included cyanotypes, sculpting with Irish peat turf, and indigo dyed fabric forming shadow circles, drawn from stories of the Seanchaí with long white hair which contains all the history of Ireland. Another of the stories was that of Oisin and Tir na nOg, and I took recordings of my daughter reading these stories. Cyanotypes were used for their elemental, alchemical properties but also in the trace of something - a shadow, a memory - camera-less photography of something that was previously present. Presenting allegory as a trace of magical happening was intended to make ecological ideas more accessible through wonder, rather than being instructive. An intention is that this also challenges the myth of infinite use of the environment for progress.
Working within a framework of alchemy highlights the concept of transcendental ideas emerging out of a sense of futility during uncertain times. My studio research has also revealed some of the cognitive dissonance that occurs when living within a capitalist society under the threat of an impending “terminal crisis”. So, my approach to these concerns is through art making while thinking about and researching indigo, alchemy, connections, labour, magic, the Anthropocene, ecology, entanglement, process and materiality.
Photos taken while at Shankill Castle, Ireland 2017.