Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Good Morning. How are you?

I've started work on a small, hand-made book project. Very simply, the books will be less than 10 pages , five of these pages being lino prints (two text, 3 images) and each book series in an edition of 10. Each series will be in a different language - starting with English, Irish and Spanish. The first & last prints in the book will be simple texts "Good Morning" and "How Are You?" The three other prints, separating the texts, will be simple images - a teapot, two mugs, a boiled egg. Existential breakfast. Here goes. Tools for printing.

Trusty wooden spoon technique rubbing the print into being.

The inked lino blocks after a series of test prints.

Lino-blocks and test prints.

I have decided the final books will be printed on heavy Strathmore paper and the cover will be corrugated cardboard. I will bind them simply, using the Japanese stab-binding technique, with a different coloured cotton thread for each language edition. Here are the test prints for the Strathmore paper. I have since been informed by trusty, Gaelgor (Irish-speaking) sources that I made spelling errors in the Irish text for "Good Morning" (should be "Maidgin Mhaigh") so I am cutting a new lino block today. But here are the Strathmore paper test prints drying.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Aughnanure Castle

My daughter was at summer college in the Connemara Gaeltacht, so while visiting on family day one Sunday in July, we had prepared a picnic and did the very scary drive from Lettermore to Oughterard. My trusty (though now out of print) Guide to National & Historic Monuments of Ireland, by Peter Harbison, had alerted me to the existence of Aughnanure Castle, 2 miles outside Oughterard. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful moat - the Drimneen river.

The original castle dates from the 13th century, but what stands there now is a 16th century tower house castle.

The sentry stairs are completely intact, but. for health & safety reasons I'm sure, there is a "no climbing" sign nearby. Authenticity is maintained without a safety hand rail.

One can enter the tower, walking up spiral stairs to several large rooms, but it is the out buildings and walls that are most interesting.

I almost missed the amazing carvings on the windows as they are only visible from one side of the wall.

Several windows had these intricate carvings on them, and one had to walk on what one would consider the exterior in order to see them.

In fact, the wall was not an exterior wall but an interior wall marking the banquet hall, which was no longer apparent.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016


In July I went to visit my daughter who was in the Gaeltacht of Connemara, but on the way there stopped at the relative half-way point at the sixth century monastic site, Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly. Situated at the crosspoint between an ancient land route running east-west, the Eiscir Riada (an esker), and the Shannon River running north-south, Clonmacnoise was a busy place in its ancient heyday, and therefore there were also lots of battles and sackings there. The tour guide admitted that the Vikings got a bad rap here, as most of the trouble that ever occurred historically had to do with squabbles between small Irish kingdoms and tribes.

The site is quite large, with lots of unusual features, including 2 round towers. Apparently a very tall round tower was hit by lightning in the twelfth century and the second tower was built using the stone debris from the top of the first tower.

One of the high crosses as seen from the portal of one of the seven churches on this site.

The high crosses on site are replicas, with the originals being preserved in the Visitor Centre museum.

The crosses marked an area of sanctuary, but one of the crosses may originally have been a pagan slab, as indicated by its carving of a non-Christian fertility god, Cernunnos (with a ram-like head).

The tour guide pointed out a new "pagan" tradition that had only started this year (2016) -- tourists were leaving money at the foot of this cross slab within one of the churches.

A view of the Shannon river from the side of the Pagan cross slab. The carving a cross-legged, ram-headed Cernunnos is apparent.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

IADT Grad Show

At the beginning of June I went (several times) to view the IADT Grad Show. I had had a chance to get to know the fourth year art students last November when I helped out with the "rollover" shows at Pallas Studios in Dublin. It was a double pleasure then to see the final works of these emerging artists and to see how their practices had developed in the intervening months.  

I had previously seen photos of Mary McClelland's mixed media photographic installations (or wall mounted photographic sculptures?) but didn't realise until I saw them in person that the delicate framing is layered waxed paper. This was the centre piece of an alter-like triptych.

The elongated rose form is again created from layers of waxed paper, not quite enclosing a piece of honeycomb, fresh and oozing. McClelland's work is elegant and evocative; at once spiritual and erotic. To see the other elements in this piece and more of McLelland's work click here.

Since I consider myself primarily a painter, I couldn't help but take an interest in the paintings on display. There were three large paintings by Mateusz Lubecki, two of which can be seen below.

I was intrigued that Lubecki's paintings are both naturalistic and abstract at the same time!

I was very attracted to the stylised and mysterious paintings of Jago Moulton. The loose brush work of the white and flesh tones played off and emphasised the flatness of the polka dot dress and the black hair and background.

To me this painting is like a photograph from a dream - holding a memory and meaning that you can't quite get at to understand fully. I love it!

The exhibition contained all art forms and I have only featured a few pieces here by three grads, but a more comprehensive look at works in the exhibition can be accessed here.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Postcard 1916

Postcard 1916 was an exhibition of postcards, curated by artist Eileen Ferguson, which took place in The Old Post Office, Clones. Individual blank postcards were provided to interested artists to create small works in response to a specific word in The Proclamation or The Proclamation itself. The exhibition was a response to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising.

The wall of postcards, though at first daunting in its diversity and jumbled nature, became intriguing for this very nature. The cards were all so different showing an incredible individuality of response to the same theme. 

There was also a great variey in the media used for expression: photography, print, collage, encaustic, paint, cloth

and any mixture of these materials.

Artists responded using the language of The Proclamation, or in their own words.

 Cards used naturalism, abstraction and symbolism...

I cannot comment on or show an image of every card in the display -

but one certainly gets an idea of the diversity in the exhibition.

The exhibition will be packed up and brought to France for further exhibition in La
Vielle Poste, Larroque in August of this year.

My own response (in situ below right) was a response to the word "children". I created a collage using ripped paper, an image of children collecting wood from the rubble of Sackville St (now O'Connell St, Dublin)  on a background of excerpts from my paternal grandfather's Witness Statement of his "military" activities leading to the foundation of the state.

 The postcard my husband, James Hayes, submitted (in situ, above centre left) is a lino print of the anniversary dates collaged onto a background of writing excerpted from The Proclamation.

There were so many interesting responses, it is impossible to showcase them all. The curator of the exhibition, Eileen Ferguson, was delighted with the response -- receiving postcards not just from Ireland, she also received cards from Canada and Germany. Ferguson also spoke of the range of work received and interest from both amateur and established artists, as well as enthusiastic responses from children and young people who had participated in some workshops.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Skipping Project - Postcard 1916

I have mentioned before that I often use card making (for birthdays, special occasions) as sketches to help me work out ideas. Since one of my themes for The Skipping Project deals with the transformation of trauma into children's games I decided to submit a piece when I heard about Postcard 1916. This exhibition, curated by Eileen Ferguson, is of postcards created in response to any word in The Proclamation or The Proclamation itself. I chose the word "children".

The image I have been working with is from a photograph of children collecting wood in the rubble heaps that was Dublin after the Easter Uprising in 1916. The relevant writing in the background of the collage is excerpted from my paternal grandfather's Witness Statement, made for the government in 1950, describing his involvement in the Uprising and other activities leading to the foundation of the state.

I repeated the theme for some recent cards I made.

The Postcard 1916 exhibition will be displayed again in La Vielle Poste, Larroque, France in August and  The General Post Office (GPO), Dublin - which was the HQ of the rebels in 1916 -is interested in acquiring digital images of the works for their archives.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Easiest Delicious Chocolate Cake!

A few years ago my daughter wanted a chocolate cake for her birthday and I had never made one before. An internet search for recipes made me anxious as I found that chocolate cake was a lot more complicated to make than I expected. Even with the addition of "simple" to my search the results were still not very promising. I found one, however, that seemed do-able and it is this faultless recipe that I have been using annually to great joy! Apologies to whomever originally posted this recipe for not getting full credit here, but at the time I did not realise I would be sharing it in this manner nor did I realise what a keeper it would turn out to be.

Moist Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Ingredients:       2 cups flour 
                        2/3 cup cocoa
                        1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
                        1/4 teaspoon baking powder
                        3 eggs
                        1 2/3 cups sugar (I use a mix of regular white granulated & brown sugar)
                        1 teaspoon vanilla
                        1 cup mayonnaise (do not use a substitute)
                        1 1/3 cups water

I like to get everything together and then put items away after use. You need two mixing bowls.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease and flour 2 - 9" round cake pans. 

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder. 

Mix well and set aside.

Beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl for 3 minutes, using the high speed of an electric mixer. Mixture should be smooth and creamy. 

Reduce speed to low and beat in mayonnaise until blended.

Add flour mixture in batches, alternating with water, in 4 equal additions (1/4 of the flour, then 1/4 of the water etc).

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans.

Pin a band of wet towelling around the cake tins to get a more evenly baked cake. I think I got this tip from one of my nieces and it really works well!

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake is clean when removed. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before frosting with your favorite frosting.

For birthday cake I make a simple butter icing with sugar, butter, a bit of vanilla and some boiling water. I have used a small amount of yellow food colouring for the initial icing in the cake sandwich and the base colour for the top.

I separated some of the icing into small bowls to add other colours, placed in small food bags and cut a corner in order to create a makeshift icing bag to squeeze out  loose designs and writing for cake decoration. This is a really moist and delicious chocolate cake!