Last year my currach depicting St Gobnait, based on images from the Harry Clarke window in the Honan Chapel in Cork, was exhibited as part of the Curacha Exhibition celebrating 21 years of Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr. The currach then spent time in Galway Cathedral and overall was seen by thousands of visitors. Since then it has visited the Church in Oughterard which has a Harry Clarke window and now in 2022 it will feature as part of Culture Night Celebrations in the Saint Gobnait’s Church, Bhaile Mhúirne, County Cork. We are delighted to bring the currach to Baile Mhúirne as this is the where Saint Gobnait founded her monastery after, as legend has it, an angel appeared to her and told her she would find the site of her resurrection where she saw nine white deer grazing, which she finally did in Baile Mhúirne.
The Currach and a hand printed and coloured Lino print depicting the saint, will be on display in the St Gobnait’s Church from 6 to 9.30pm on Culture Night, 23rd September 2022. There will be a short talk on the project at 7:15pm.
The Curacha Exhibition is in Galway until 9th October. They are on display at the Quad at NUI Galway. My currach is on show in the Galway Cathedral, my grandfather, Patrick Furey worked as a marble polisher on the Cathedral while it was being built so it’s nice to think he might have worked on the marble in the chapel that the currach is being shown in.
In this exhibition which takes place during the Clifden Arts Festival 2021, words and images derived from sketch books, newspaper reports, historical documents, poetry and song, are combined with printmaking and painting processes to produce mixed-media works. The hand-coloured lino prints and paintings on board are based on images drawn by my grandfather, Patrick Furey, in the late 1970’s/1980‘s. His drawings, created towards the end of his life, reflect his experiences and interests. The imagined landscapes deal with the idea of violence in a peaceful setting and how the landscape we inhabit today may have been the setting for violent acts at another time. The collage works are part of an ongoing series combining images and words with fragments of historical documents. The title of the exhibition “Side by Side,” are words taken from a newspaper article from 1920 which details an incident when my grandfather and his brother Michael were taken from their home at night during a raid by Auxiliary Forces. The exhibition aims to remember, celebrate and imagine through a new focus on existing and original visual and textual materials.
Earlier this summer I was invited to participate in the Curacha Exhibition – 21 currachs painted by 21 artists in celebration of the 21st Birthday of Áras Éanna, Europe’s most westerly Art Centre based on the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Oírr.
While researching artists who had visited Aran and Inis Oírr in particular, I learned that Harry Clarke had spent six summers on the island, honeymooned there with his wife, the artist Margaret Crilly, and that he felt a strong attachment to the landscape and people of Inis Oírr. He visited the island with Sean Keating whose painting ‘Thinking out Gobnet’ depicts Harry Clarke sitting among church ruins on the island. A theory is that he was inspired by the story of St Gobnait and her association with Inis Oírr, as around this time he submitted designs for a stained glass window depicting St Gobnait for the Honan Chapel in Cork.
My work for the project takes Harry Clarke’s stained glass image of St Gobnait and places it on the currach, returning her to the island which inspired the work. The saint is the patron saint of beekeeping and the original image shows her surrounded by bees and warding off the plague which seems relevant today. The currach also depicts marine images which were a favourite motif in Harry Clarke’s work.
The landscape we live in interests me. Recently there has been time to explore, to cycle and walk in the landscape, to experience sunrises and sunsets and imagine the lives of people who inhabited the land before us. The fields, hills and waterways we see today may have been the setting for unknowable acts and events at another time. My work for this exhibition references history, myth, memory and observation. It responds to personal research regarding our ancestors, our earliest flora and fauna and new research and theories put forward by archaeologist Bill Daly. The works are mixed media prints. They combine processes such as drypoint, collograph, monoprinting and chine collé.