BA Visual Art Graduate Exhibition

BA Visual Art Graduate Exhibition 

21 May to 15 June

You can download the gallery information here

Featuring painting, sculpture, photography, film, multi-media and digital work, sound, installation and performance, the graduate exhibition of the BA Visual Art Degree, Sherkin Island (BAVA) is the eighth BAVA graduate show hosted by West Cork Arts Centre. Thresholds highlights the deep engagement of the students with the island context over the course of the four-year programme, with much of the work concerned with the ecology, community and future sustainability of the island.

In recognition of the quality of the work presented in Thresholds, five of the graduating students, Dianne Curtin, Fiona Hayes, Svetlana Majerova, Niamh Ní Chearbhaill and Robert Sobura have been longlisted for the RDS Visual Art Awards, the most important platform for visual art graduates in Ireland.

BA (hons) in Visual Art is a community-based, four year, honours degree, visual art programme based on Sherkin Island. It is fully accredited, managed and delivered by the Dublin School of Creative Arts, Technological University Dublin (TU) in partnership with Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) and Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, and is part-funded by the Department of Community and Rural Development and Cork County Council.

Maria Archer
Dressing the Bríd Marie
Installation photographs by Tomasz Madajczak (#1 and #2) and Daniel Flynn (#3)

I am a maker. I take inspiration from experimenting with materials indigenous to my environment. The haptic experience of making sculpture and monoprints allows me to explore themes of reciprocity, animism and ecofeminist embodiment. My intention is to develop processes that allow unregarded materials to communicate, to have their own relevance and worth within the work.

The installation Dressing the Bríd Marie is a response to working in isolation and the concept of belonging. A homeplace exists as a heterotopic ideal, like a boat or an island of the mind. Bríd Marie is a wooden boat that was built in Hegarty’s Boatyard for a Sherkin islander when fishing was still a common occupation. Her working life is over and she has come home to her dock.

Entangled nets speak to the harvest of the sea- the Bríd Marie’s shroud of salmon nets is a caress which dignifies her working life. I wish to honour the fearless vulnerability of taking to sea, while questioning the cost, extractivist culture has on the environment and communities. My performance, addressing the vessel with Hemmingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, is an act of care, seeking to pay tribute to the boat, her catch and those who laboured.

Dianne Curtin
Modes of Escape (selection)

Beeswax, donated objects, concrete blocks, beehive box, documents

Dianne Curtin’s work explores domestic space and its complexity of understanding in relation to domestic abuse. She has a strong professional and personal interest in social justice, and this is realised in her socially engaged collaborative practice. She is currently liaising closely with the West Cork Women Against Violence Project, an agency which provides support and services for women who have lived with domestic abuse.

The sculptural aspect in Dianne’s work, which is exhibited here, comes directly from the experiences of abuse survivors. This agentic experience is embodied in their donated personal belongings, which Dianne has embedded in natural beeswax, a material with ancient associations to healing and ritual.

Her materials are carefully chosen for their conceptual translations, both in her sculptures and in her sound and moving image works. Dianne works with various types of personal use-recording technology, spanning from earliest days of home movie making with the Super 8 camera, to modern day video work with a mobile phone. This reflects a history of moving image connecting to the capture of memories, also echoing the monitoring of personal use technology in abusive control. Sound elements focus on spoken word taken from court documentation, probing inaccessibility of legal language and terminology, highlighting the struggle in understanding these documents and their complicated structure.

Official documentation has also been coated in beeswax, obliterating sections of the text, again emphasising the obscurity and inaccessibility of these texts. Viewers are invited to use the cotton gloves to remove and read the wax-coated documents which have been placed, like suspension files, in a beehive box.

Terry Farnell

Timber, MDF, paint, plastic piping, string, glass, sea-water

Terry Farnell is a lens-based artist with a background in Environmental Science and his projects are primarily related to environmental processes and landform development. He is particularly interested in the interface between the land and the sea and in exploring the variables associated with this active zone, the evolution of its landscape and the current problems caused by rising sea levels. Most of these processes are gradual, with an occasional catastrophic event, and this presents problems with the photographic representation of these processes.

The work Undercurrents consists of a temporary sculptural intervention on the bridge at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, featuring specific measuring devices often used in weather metrics. These have been repurposed by the artist to explore the cognitive rupture between the crisis of climate change and rising sea levels with how we might be able to perceive and imagine this shared future.

Tidal Clock - The idea of a tidal clock was inspired by the Doomsday Clock. By compressing time, the problem of rising global sea levels may be expressed through the duration of one tide.  The smallest indicator on the clock dial represents the present day and the rising tide moves the clock hand closer to midnight.

Sunshine Recorder - The sunshine recorder takes the form of a camera, where an image of the sun and the landscape is projected through a sea water lens onto a translucent screen. The landscape is viewed through sea water and if the sun is strong enough, it will burn a path across the image of the landscape.

Wind Recorder - This is based on a wind turbine, but the generator has been replaced with a Zoetrope.  The Zoetrope is an animation device and was invented at the height of the industrial revolution.  The animated sequence refers back to the powered inventions of the time, which may be considered as the origin of modern-day climatic problems.

Fiona Hayes
Digital Enclosure

Audio video installation

My practice evolves from the dynamic of everyday life within the confines of its capitalist structure and investigates humanity’s current modes of being. The stony ditch represents humanity’s original enclosure, that of the enclosing of the common land and the enclosing of its inhabitants. It sparked the beginning of the industrial revolution with the creation of a new workforce and is the basis of our current capitalist existence. In the history of humanity this is a relatively recent occurrence and only a few hundred years old. We are on the threshold of a new revolution, a new era, a digital era with lots of promise and positives, yet it is also a new form of enclosure, a digital enclosure, an enclosure of the intangible commons of the mind.

This work is a response to this encroaching enclosure and is an enquiry into the unseen and intangible nature of our daily digital interactions. Its intention is to better appreciate our hybrid future and solicit the viewer’s attention and thoughts towards a collective understanding of our digital encounters and our digital shadow. We are extending ourselves as a species by carrying computers in our pockets that act as second brains, brains that freely give spectral traces of ourselves to giant tech on a second-by-second basis, in the form of direct or residual data as the boundary between digital, body and mind becomes blurred.

My preferred manner of expression is mixed media using sound, sculpture and video combined with socially engaged practice. This work is expressed in a 6-minute video installation that explores the basic ingredients of our digital culture while attempting to make visible our digital shadow. It was originally combined with a short sonic walk comprising three 3.5 minute audio compilations of WhatsApp messages received from around the world via undersea fibreoptic cables in instant time, regarding the pros and cons of our digital culture. This sound went back out to the universe temporarily freed from its own digital enclosure at Farranacoush, Sherkin Island.

Svetlana Majerova
Inner Mercury (selection)

Textile, wood, paint, clay, snakeskin

Svetlana Majerova is a Slovak artist based in West Cork. During her studies on the BAVA course on Sherkin Island, she focused on investigating the subjects of the self and identity. She draws inspiration from Jungian concepts of the personal and collective unconscious, mythology, occult traditions such as alchemy, tarot, astrology, and her own experiences. Svetlana explores transitional, liminal spaces and states, in which a transformation of an individual may take place.

She utilises textile as a vulnerable and ordinary material in her work. Through the application of colour, geometrical shapes and stitches, Svetlana depicts the themes of separation and unification, fragmentation and healing, and the possibility of internal rebirth. 

Her work Inner Mercury depicts a path of an androgynous figure in the pursuit of a better understanding of its hidden nature and its attempt at psychological inspection and integration. It is inspired by the surrealist concepts of ‘the reconstitution of the primordial Androgyne’ (not in terms of gender or sexuality but in the context of the unification of opposing forces within an individual) and incorporating the mundane and the marvellous within everyday life.

Inner Mercury was displayed throughout several rooms and spaces of the Sherkin Friary, each part reflecting personal and transpersonal depictions of the androgyne’s journey. A selection of that work is exhibited here.

Cath McCarter
I Mbaol - In Danger

Installation photograph by Tomasz Madajczak

I am drawn innately towards ecofeminism - equality and balance are concepts that fuel my work. I am passionate about colour and the environment and intrigued by sound, voice, the spoken word and language and I tend to investigate the intersection of ecology, art and language, and the use of sound as sculpture.

The colours I selected for my painted billboards, referencing global warming and the environmental crisis we now find ourselves in, and also inclusivity. The rainbow symbol has a complicated and contested history, steeped in politics and theological thought, it was used as a symbol of faith and hope in the German Peasants’ War in 1525. More recently, it was used to symbolise movements of social change. In 1960s, it was found at Peace Marches, and in demonstrations against nuclear weapons. In 1970s, Gilbert Baker designed the Rainbow Flag for the wider LGBT community as a symbol of their pride. In South Africa, in 1990s, Archbishop Tutu coined the term, ‘Rainbow Nation’, a symbol of reconciliation and unity.

In I Mbaol - In Danger, I focus on birds in the locality which are on the Red/Endangered List. I hone in on the eggs of these endangered creatures - Curlew, Corncrake, Herring Gull, Barn Owl and Golden Plover, as they are the next generation - the egg is a fragile body and their very futures are fragile. All materials used in the making of the billboards, were recycled, reused, repurposed, apart from the fastenings.

I Mbaol – In Danger may still be viewed on the little islands off the Cuinne shoreline on Sherkin Island for the duration of this show at Uillinn, binoculars are suggested for those interested in viewing the local resident wildlife.

Niamh Ní Chearbhaill
Coming Back to the Table – Table No. 2

Found object, sound

In the past my work has been very abstract in nature and while abstraction still fascinates me, I have grown to love conceptual art practices and favour using a mix of abstraction, surrealism and expressionism to communicate my concept.

I am primarily interested in creating mixed media paintings, sculptural works and socially engaged art centred around the human condition, connections, and the environment. My recent works have been made from found objects, wood, and sound recordings. 

In Coming Back to the Table, I look at how Covid and technology have decreased the agency of our tables. Lockdowns, social distancing and working from home resulted in our tables being much more about supporting online communication than about in-person socialising. Occasional tables stayed nested, pub tables were stacked and abandoned, and the family dinner table became a filing system for school and work.

Coming Back to the Table of which Table No. 2 is exhibited here, is an exploration of the table as a reflection of our recent experiences as a society. My work encourages us to come back to the table in its capacity as social hub, mediator of conversations and facilitator of laughter and merriment.

Ann O’Leary

Acrylic on canvas

Ann O’Leary has been living in a coastal town in West Cork for the last thirty years and is very aware of the power of the sea. Through painting and mark making, she aims to show how abandoned industrial structures will inevitably start to deteriorate and breakdown. Evidence of this process can be seen in the lighthouse on Sherkin. This 19th century structure was built using large cast iron plates, which would have been considered almost invincible, even against the harsh conditions it was exposed to, such as high winds and saltwater rain. It is now rusting, and proof of its impermanence can be seen along the edges of where the iron plates were fitted together.

The artist is attempting to observe the tension in this process through the mediums of painting and drawing. This can be a progression towards a deconstruction of the original images, mirroring the deconstruction carried out by the forces of nature that are slowly reclaiming the raw materials that this structure was made from.

Through a series of five canvases, of which one is exhibited here, the artist’s use of paint produces loosely representational interpretations of the lighthouse and a more abstract iteration of the structure.

Kevin Rooney

Video: 5 mins 19 seconds
Drone footage by Colin Hickey

Kevin Rooney's work investigates the conversation between sound and environment to address the universe in response to the impact of climate change and breakdown of societal norms. His extensive experience of working in labour intensive environments, an interest in spirituality, and working with the plant-based medicine Ayahuasca play an essential role in his practice. Rooney also introduces his love for land art, meditation, Buddhism, and the healing properties of sound to the creative process.

Rooney’s work involves generative action painting, which serves as the foundation for the creation of Morse code messaging to the universe. These messages are realised visually via large scale land art drawings on the beach (Cow Strand, Sherkin Island), which rely on intensive and repetitive labour and the constant battle of incoming tides which wash the messages away every day. The act of working over many days and weeks to send these messages to the universe, induces a meditative state, with the layering of time and labour providing a liminal space for healing.

These messages have also been converted into a sound piece, for which Kevin collaborated with an experienced sound healer. Traditional instruments connected to the practice of sound healing are used to embed the morse code into a complex sound piece to accompany the artwork.  

Kevin’s work has been documented extensively over time, through the use of camera and drone footage, which he has complied into a short documentation film. This immersive experience aims to promote meditative states through the use of sound and the act of intensive labour, to create a sense of decompression and peace, through the repetitive action of making and sending a Morse Code message out to the Universe – The sky is not the limit. Beyond the Universe is.

Robert Sobura
Living Picture

Plywood, moss, easel

The phenomenon of life has fascinated me since early childhood. At the moment, we are on the threshold of the so-called fourth industrial revolution and therefore I think that we should take a closer look at the natural life around us, so that we as humans do not lose this gift in pursuit of the so-called ‘modernity’.

I use photography, videos, painting and drawing focused on landscape and different aspects of nature, and create art installations and sculptures using natural elements. I collect from nature and combine these elements with recycled objects belonging to our industrial consumerist society.

In my project, I want to show the beauty of nature and its power to constantly support life in its various forms. The materials I choose are drawn from nature itself, for example wood, which is one of the main elements for my art installations. I aim to present the theme of life and death in nature through elements such moss growing on a piece of plywood or a withered branch by contrasting this with technology such as a TV screen.

I initiated Living Picture in 2012, by placing a 120 x 80 cm plywood sheet outside, leaving the growth of moss in the hands of nature and exhibiting this work ten years later.


Image: Maria Archer photo by Tomasz Madajczak 


WCAC acknowledges the financial support of Arts Council Ireland and Cork County Council in making these exhibitions possible.


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