Hamilton Gallery countdown to our St Brigid’s Day exhibition at 12 Star Gallery, Europe House London, is underway.
The exhibition will open to the public from January 23rd and run until February 1st, St Brigid’s Day.
In the run up to our opening night in London we will bring you a daily blog with a selection of the 90 works by Irish women artists that will be shown at the exhibition.
We will include interviews and insights from the artists involved as well as other news and developments relating to events at the 12 Star Gallery in London which will occur in compliment to the exhibition.
In today’s blog we show work by artists Cathy Carman, Marie Caulfield, and Nuala Clarke. We include the programme introduction for the exhibition, kindly written for us written by Leland Bardwell’s friend an colleague Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.
Leland Bardwell spent the last 25 years of her life living in north County Sligo. She died in 2016. Her poem St Brigid’s Day was circulated to the 90 women artists participating as the catalyst / theme for the exhibition.
tempera and gold leaf on oak
30 cm x 30 cm
St Brigid’s Day Exhibition Catalogue Foreword
by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
St Brigid’s day in Ireland is traditionally seen as the beginning of Spring. Foreigners stare disbelievingly, but there is some sense to our decision to ignore the weather. What is celebrated is the rebirth of the living earth; it was usual in some places to turn a sod of earth with the spade, the work of cultivation beginning again. Many customs, especially around food and cattle, are connected with the day, but the best known was the making of St Brigid’s crosses out of straw or rushes. And creative work too can be renewed now, as in the 19th century Gaelic poem by Raftery, where he looks forward to visiting his patrons as soon as Brigid’s day is past.
Folk custom, the four seasons, women’s lives and crafts, poetry, all intersect at this festival, and women’s political journey in the last century makes it right to choose the day for special celebration. These works of art by women are held in focus by their relation to a poem by Leland Bardwell, written about seeing women collecting reeds.
Her poem on St Brigid’s day shows the poet as observer, half outside the culture that she watches. And choosing the angle she sees it from, as a painter or a photographer chooses light, medium, perspective. She sees the women collecting rushes, bending 'like shoppers', from a particular distance, across ‘the decades that divide us’. But she decides to take part, so that she can celebrate Brigid, ‘her strength/ of fruitfulness and learning’.
The artists in this gathering have taken up many different hints in Bardwell’s poem: the theme of the older woman, who carries ‘the satchel of these years’ for future generations, themes of women’s work, woven and sewn, the image of the Saint herself and her various meanings. Some focus on the cross of rushes as made object, or as portent. It is a potent example of the way words unfold into images, as various as the minds that are reached by them.
Many of these works take the convention of landscape, and reinterpret it, using the presence of the human figures, and the reeds, from the poem, to question the convention of representation – the reeds are drawn from the natural world but are also drawn lines, criss-crossing the scene, asserting the artist’s power to cancel as well as create. Several of the female figures appear to be in impatient motion, some are stylised and still, but to me they all carry the message of presence: we’re here, we’re not here only to be looked at, but to tell you things.
Leland Bardwell was my beloved friend and colleague for almost fifty years, and a friend to artists in Ireland and abroad for more years than that. I rejoice to see the richness and variety that is exhibited here, to see skill, wit and an engagement with craft and experience, all opening out of Leland’s poem.
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, born in 1942, is married to Macdara Woods; they have a son, Niall. With Leland Bardwell and Pearse Hutchinson, they are founder editors of the literary review Cyphers. She has published six collections of poetry; her awards include the Patrick Kavanagh Prize. Educated in Cork and Oxford, she is a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, and a member of Aosdána.
acrylic on board
30 cm x 30 cm
St Brigid’s Day exhibition at 12 Star Gallery London. Organised by Hamilton Gallery, Sligo, Ireland, with the support of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish Embassy to Great Britain.