This project concerns Ireland’s move away from fossil fuels to an eco-friendlier source of heating, power and energy. Turf from the bogs of Ireland has served us well in industry and in the domestic setting over the past 80 years or more. Saving turf for household heating and cooking has been a tradition in many rural families for centuries.
We now understand, however, that fossil fuels damage the environment and are detrimental to our health. Many houses have open fireplaces that burn wood, coal and peat products. Smoky coal has been banned in cities of more than 10,000 citizens. The effect of this action has been transformative. We no longer endure long smoggy winters. People with health problems such as respiratory illnesses feel the benefit most.
The peat briquette is being phased out. This is a much-loved form of fuel. It is very popular among both urban and rural householders. People who live in old draughty houses will miss the peat briquette. Their houses are poorly insulated and difficult to heat. Real incentives are needed in the form of the affordable retrofitting of houses to facilitate this change, and to help householders take action to decrease carbon emissions.
This project witnesses the important new departure that is now taking place in our domestic economic and social history. It focuses on a behavioural change that is required by law on the part of householders and that many of whom are reluctant to adhere to.
This change, however, marks an advance in maturity and responsibility on behalf of the Irish people towards our health and our environment, and demonstrates our concern for the earth. The transition to a healthier behaviour around energy will not be without discomfort but will help deliver essential changes needed to save our planet.
Now that the bogs have been given back over to nature, they have become havens for wildlife and fauna and they are glorious places to walk and visit. Lough Boora in Co. Offaly and Girley Bog in the Boyne Valley in Co. Meath are examples.
Consumption, a series of paintings, is concerned with the ways in which we are consuming
the earth. We extract raw materials and change them into something else. We exhaust and
We discard. We abandon obsolete machinery and the paraphernalia of corporate, economic,
and commercial enterprise in the landscape. These shrines to consumerism pollute the earth.
They leak oil and chemicals into waterways. Left to decay and rot, they become grotesque.
Some mimic Monoliths and age-old geological structures. They appear benign. Others
mutate. They play host to organisms that alter their form and function.
A strange beauty of corrosive greens and iron reds is born. The earth struggles to repair itself.
Poisonous tailing ponds, radioactive acres and deforestation are deeper wounds. They render
lands uninhabitable. Mutant species emerge, grow and flourish.
Certain rooms remind us of people, places, and events. In this series of paintings, I reimagine
rooms that trigger memories, personal or literary associations, or that delight my senses
through their light, colour, and décor.
The Interior Space is the private space traditionally allotted to women. Enclosure has been
vital to our survival as a species. Of course, there is the knock-on effect of containment.
Nowadays the home is increasingly a gender-neutral space with the blurring of male/female
roles and with larger numbers of people working from home.
The private house or home hosts myriad human emotions. Many important events, large and
small, take place there. My paintings range from the quiet and contemplative to the busy and
patterned. They point to the diversity of our experience within the home. I agree with the
French Philosopher Alan de Botton’s idea that ‘we are inconveniently vulnerable to the
colour of our wallpaper’. Colour and pattern promote an atmosphere in a room to which we
are susceptible even if we are unaware of it.
Below is the link to a video produced by Dr. Maebh O’Regan during my fellowship at the
Ballinglen Arts Foundation, where I talk about the home as interior.
Personal Effects: A Family Story
I have always found fascination in family history and in how the past and its motivations shapes our present lives. Recently certain photos and other artefacts relating to my family background were uncovered in my father’s old family home in inner city Dublin. These objects seem to me a time capsule from the past, a quiet testament to how people lived during the early part of the 20th century. Much remains lost, gapped or hidden. What comes across to us as unwonted secrecy or reticence was perhaps prudent or wise from the perspective of the people living through those times. In one sense, perhaps, the ‘unknowableness’ of ‘back then’ is where imagination plays and art begins.
This project, Personal Effects: A Family Story, receives its inspiration from the dust and must of these long-forgotten items. It imagines the effects and impact of Church, Work, Leisure and War – on working class people in Dublin during the tumultuous times of the foundation of the state, the Civil War, the Eucharistic Congress of 1932, and the First World War.