Woven Willow Deer with Martin Brockman, Tommy Casby, Lyndsey McConnell and Workshop participants.
A dramatic few days here in Ballycroy. Due to the long spell of dry weather and wind conditions there have been some extensive gorse fires in area including the national park. Fire units have been working around the clock to keep the fires under control, with helicopters scooping water from the nearby rivers and lakes to quell the flames and allow the firefighters close. Last night, however, a large fire was scorching deep red lines down a nearby hill towards the studio where Dan is working on his audible force sound structures so dinner was left on standby as multiple arms and legs sped over and cleared out the gear for the night.
From a distance without the noise it is hard to see even the movement of the flames, the visuals have striking similarities to lines of lava meandering a mountain however only a couple of kilometers closer and the flames could stand 10ft tall or more. Much credit must go to the firefighters who work extremely long shifts in efforts to keep wild fires contained.
Meanwhile, work is continuing. Martin Brockman has been combining small workshops and artists to continue his sculptures of woven willow animals, we almost have a herd forming at this stage! Martin will be giving workshops over the 2 days of the event as well as many other workshops that will be happening including kite-making and Dennis Strong, the Deputy Regional Manager for the National Park and wildlife services gave a brilliant talk on the local stories and myths of the area on Thursday, I'm sure these will provide plenty of imagery to feed into the last week. To have a look at how the project is going make sure to look into the gallery page on the the website www.icouldreadthesky.com/gallery
After 2 days spent in the stunning surroundings that is Ballycroy, all the more beautiful by the spring sun that flooded dusty eyes and warmed tired limbs, we all got a chance to catch up after the long weekend.
There is no amount of technology that can truly depict what it is like to be driving around Northwest Mayo when the sun shines. And I mean blue skies out of a film set and those purple hills that are now so clearer in the paintings of Paul Henry. Driving from Castlebar, I think AA Roadwatch should have a warning for such conditions as it is likely you will put your car in a ditch for the siren-like sparkles off the Atlantic sea. Then, just after Mulranny, a right turn takes you away from the coast and and towards the striking yet foreboding onset of remote mountains where dwellings become fewer, and the land becomes flatter, the emerging of small forests being obvious man made imports and seem to be begrudgingly accepted by the natural ochre of the extending peatlands.
A number of factors are becoming clear that are are shaping this type of project although for once we can say it is not the weather! The number of artists involved, in combination with the available workspaces in a place as remote as Ballycroy can make the initial development of work feel a little disconnected. It is mainly as a result of the necessity for different artists to work where is appropriate be it the squash court, the visitors centre, back in ArtSquad or at home. And so it was great on Wednesday when most of the artists brought their work in progress to Ballycroy and we could all catch up over more of the most delicious hot soup provided by the very friendly and warm staff at the Ballycroy Community hall.
Post gobble, John Fox held an informal meeting whilst we fought over the chocolate biscuits which brought everyone up to speed with how the overall development of the site planning of the works was developing. It was an eye opener to look at the overall walking map of the walking trail of the national park and the amount and variety of art works that are scheduled. It is all too easy to get absorbed in one's own work and forget the overall picture and so to get everyone together, step back and see the whole event coming together was a welcome half hour, gathering momentum of the event in hand.
A few more artists I got to catch up with was Naomi Edwards and Hannah Fox from the Dead Good Guides who were stitching and hemming great colourful flags that will determine a sort of visual palette as the walk journeys through the different visual turns and experiences of the final event. Hannah will also be creating paper-cut dioramas that look at the idea of dwelling, home and the place of people in a landscape that can appear so initially inaccessible yet have so many stories to tell.
Breda Murphy is grappling great swathes of fabric to recreate the clothing of Daithi Ban, a mythical giant who would journey down from the mountains to the lowlands for a refreshing clean. Speaking of refreshing, I have still to catch up with Vanessa Daws who makes no qualms about jumping into an icy bog hole or winter lake. She has already completed a few swims in the local waters, documenting the viewpoint from a head camera and hydrophone which will be shown as a film or series of films.
This finally brings me on to 'The Rambling House' An evening of music, dance, wear your party gear, previews of some of the work such as Vanessa's 'chilling' footage and a general get together...all welcome, Ballycroy community hall, Wednesday 10 April. I currently have not got the exact times but will post them tomorrow when they are decided.
Naturally, the daily commute for many of the artists bites into valuable time, petrol and momentum so many thanks to the Mayo Arts office for providing accommodation for those who can avail. My bags are packed for the next 5 days and fingers crossed the sun keeps shining!
Time is racing on with the first week already over. Following the first day of introductions and brain storming, some of the artists spread their wings to research, source materials, flatter local mechanics for spare parts and generally start putting ideas into action.
Plenty happening over the week at the workshops in ArtSquad where Aidan Crotty was making great progress with his Camera Obscura and there was a sneak preview of the zoetrope prototype Paul O' Driscoll is working on.
The local flora and fauna native to Ballycroy is inspiring some curious experiments with Lindsay McConnell and Nichole Francis busy researching natural dyes to make from collected plants meanwhile Collette Howley was exploring paper making techniques using locally sourced natural materials. No doubt there will be an interesting collection of pots and pans simmering over the coming days.
Meanwhile back on site in Ballycroy, Tommy Casby and Martin Brockman have started work on sculptures at the entrance of the visitors centre and Bríd Kivneen has set up her silk paintings in the educational room of the centre. Down the road at the workshop Jamie Proud is using local birds as a starting point for a collection of spinning installations whilst Dan Fox is working on some interesting looking wind sculptures that create unique sound effects. Dan's experience with wiring up car batteries has also been a great help for Louisa Sloan who has been sourcing a slightly strange shopping list of car parts for her auto shelter.
Ballycroy really showed her true colours when the sun came out thursday evening painting an intense spectrum of light and dark over the vast landscape. The mountains looked spectacular with their purple hues set against a sharp blue sky and the Atlantic glistened beneath the dramatic skyline of Achill in the distance. A real treat for the drive home!
Looking forward to getting back on site tomorrow to catch up with the rest of the crew and see how all the other works are progressing.