Illuminations – An Inspirational New Exhibition

Every artist knows that to kick-start the creative process there’s nothing better than to spend some time with an art form that is different from the one you practice. The Departments of English and Media Studies at Maynooth University have a wonderful exhibition space in the Iontas building entitled Illuminations and their latest exhibition Form Ever Follows Function opened last week and runs until March 8, 2019.

Form Ever Follows Function cover

Curated by Patrick Chapman, Christodoulos Makris and Dimitra Xidous, it’s a multimedia collaboration between editors of and contributors to the innovative journals Gorse and The Pickled Body.  Form Ever Follows Function – a question so many of us struggle with – is the ‘story’ in the form it needs to breathe? Or should it be a novel? or a poem? Or, for this narrative, do we need to begin with form, a photograph, a poem, a recital….

I am always fascinated by the process of visual artists and the video Etching in Memoriam by Ria Czerniak-LeBov and Fiona Brennan was spectacular. Exploring the act of film making, etching, memory and how information is found, as well as ‘showing’ the viewer some of the techniques and processes involved in etching on copper, the Q&A at the launch only confirmed my multi-layered experience of watching the video. Highly recommended.20190206_185425

I’m always interested in the in-between so the Scottish poet Clare Archibald’s installation Memories of Contort really spoke to me.Sean Hayes & Michael Naghten Shanks’s The Art of Friendship and Imogen Reid’s from text to textile gave lots of pause for thought. Pictured below Patrick Chapman of The Pickled Body and writer Sara Mullen in front of Kimberly Campanello’s poetry audio track which was really moving.

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Below: Red ribbon from The Pickled Body and a selection of their covers. 20190206_175822

For more information see

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Writers with Artists 1: Annemiek Hamelink from Two Trees, The Netherlands

Today I publish my first post in my Writers with Artists series. I return to a piece about one of my collaboration with Dutch artist Annemiek Hamelink. The post was originally published in October 2013, this time around I have included the chapter from Happiness Comes from Nowhere. 

As part of my writing practice I often look to other art forms and talk to other artists about their practice. Annemiek Hamelink’s story bowls have often provided inspiration and she has gleaned ideas from my fiction. We have tried to blog about our back-and-forth collaborations on our real time blog “Story Crafters”. But that’s the trouble with real time and life  – they don’t move as smoothly as the pretty pictures of published collaborations!

Annemiek visited me at the end of August 2013 and arrived with a story bowl she had created based on an early version of the chapter “Possessions” from my novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere (see below – it’s a short chapter).

Annemiek had blogged about this collaboration, and talked about the difficult subject the chapter tackles. So I’d previously seen pictures of the bowl she had created but seeing it in real life – the size and the fragility of it – literally left me speechless. Here you can see an aerial view of the bowl – the porcelain delicate but strong, the curtain concealing, the dove escaping….

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Below we see a dove escaping the curtain – a bid for freedom.

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And the full effect of the piece in operation …. the red lights of hope stark against the whiteness of the fragile porcelain.

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But I think what struck me most was how people take different meanings from the words we write – and, indeed, things we create – and how the meanings others take are often the most powerful. Perhaps meanings we had not thought of or intended. And how hope is always there, even if it’s a faint glimmer.

And that, for me, is really the gift that readers bring to writing, that the viewer brings to art.

Possessions:  extract from Happiness Comes from Nowhere (Ward Wood: London, 2012)  (c) Shauna Gilligan

Possessions

The Ward Sister waved the crucifix at him like a loaded gun. It swung on an overly-long silver chain, glinting with the little sunlight that radiated through old and worn beige blinds. Her voice was harsh, croaky.

“Look what you’ve done to yourself! Is this how you thank your parents for bringing you into this world? Try to leave it? It’s a sin, you know, a mortal sin.”

Time after time it was the anger that came first. Anger at the messiness and downright un-necessary-ness of it all.

She could tell he wanted to say something, to make a sound, an objection of sorts. He tried to move but the drips attached to his right arm stopped him and instead of words, groans came from his mouth. He began to heave.

“Mother of God, there’s no hope. Just look at him.”

She blessed herself, wiping away her disgust. She wiggled her toes inside their 50-denier flesh coloured tights and picked up the notes from the locker. A self-admittance with his mother at twenty past twelve in the afternoon. She shook her head. It was probably the mother he was trying to get away from. She sighed. Another professional: a librarian from a nice part of town. One Dirk Horn. The Gardaí had come and gone: the mother in tears, the son unconscious. She’d signed to say it was a mistake, he hadn’t wanted to, he couldn’t have wanted to kill himself. They nodded, embarrassed at the legal intrusion, saying they’d be back in the morning to talk to him. If he lived, that was.

His possessions sat in a transparent plastic bag to be taken to the psychiatric ward when he was stabilised. They were listed in a row. Probably penned by one of the aides, judging by the neat handwriting:

one pair of blue jeans

one navy heavy cotton hooded jumper

one white tee-shirt

one pair of grey underpants

one pair of white socks

one right and one left of black runners

one wrist-watch with a worn tan leather strap

no valuables on person

At moments like this she found the movements of Sunday morning A&E depressing. But still, she stayed. Still, there was hope to be found in between the drunken people screaming abuse at staff, shouts for doctors and the sound of the trolleys racing bringing bodies to beds, wards, slots in the morgue. She stared at a fifty-something year old woman gyrating against a soft drinks machine yeah baby she screamed, laughing loudly oblivious to the dried blood on her face, escaped from a blow to the head. Curtains opened and closed, cries of fears and anger rose above the clang of equipment. But still, there were rosters to be organised, wards to be filled, beds to be emptied.  And soon Dirk would open his eyes to the realisation that it was still 1992, still the same weekend that he’d tried to leave behind. Continue reading “Writers with Artists 1: Annemiek Hamelink from Two Trees, The Netherlands”