Laois Arthouse Residency

Since SeptemberI have been in residence in the Arthouse as a recipient of the Laois Arthouse Award 2014.  As a visual artist working predominately in painting and drawing and also with communities, a variety of themes influence my work. Generally these themes are distilled into an over riding preoccupation with what lies beneath the surface of our everyday lives. During my three months residency, which is sadly nearing the end, I set myself the task of exploring the “wild” in County Laois. Asking myself questions whether the wild, metaphorically or in ecological terms still exists in the local places where we live, and whether the natural world still has influence over us.

Research Notes/November 2014

As a non-native discovering the rich natural environment of Stradbally and surrounding areas, I have been in a sense wandering in unfamiliar terrain.  The forests and hillsides and bogs I explored and photographed were in a sense lost landscapes to me, places without a name, or history.  Getting lost in the landscape perhaps was a fortunate experience as it allowed me to see places in an unfamiliar light.  In those moments when I first came upon these places, or rather they discovered me, I experienced them as living and wild landscapes, invunerable to any cultural values I may have attributed to them.  As I have gotten to know local people during my residency and have begun to see local landscapes from their perspective, the nature of how the landscape appears changes. Naming a place, being aware of its history, its ownership and its use partly diminishes its wildness and our perception of it as independent of us.  Instead, a different relationship develops. In knowing the unmarked tracks of a place, its history eventually becomes our unwritten history. Place becomes part of an outward and also an internal identity. The places near home especially are carried with us and become part of us.

“Place is at the heart not only of who we are, but also of the culture in which we find ourselves. As invested with cultural, ecological, and political ramifications, place does not simply designate a patch of land without value. As proof, humans tend not to be indifferent to the effect place has upon them. At the same time, the question of what constitutes place brings us into a realm in which the complexity of human values are secondary. Although we fundamentally shape our surroundings, ultimately place exists independently of human life in turn shaping us.”

Trigg, Dylan, The Memory of Place: a Phenomenology of the Uncanny,