Off-site Research Residency - 1 July to 31 December 2021
Studio 2 - 10 January to 2 April
Sara Baume is a writer and artist from Cork who, for the past six years, has been based in the countryside beyond Skibbereen. In both her art and writing practices she is continually influenced by the quiet profundity of her immediate surrounds – from the magnificent coastal landscape to the mundane domestic surfaces of her rented house.
Her most recent book, handiwork, explores the insistence she has always felt to work with her hands, alongside a brief consideration of the theory of amateur craft. Baume is fascinated by miniatures, and by the uniquely human tendency to create miniaturised utopias – both as a form of play and a means of exercising control over the reality of a world that is unfathomably huge and increasingly unpredictable.
While on residency in the Uillinn she will continue this line of research and, in collaboration with Regan Hutchins, develop a piece for radio that is focused on the community of model boat makers.
And in the studio, she will continue work on her own series of miniature ships. These are not ‘models’ in the true sense – each is a stylised interpretation of a container ship in plaster and wood, adorned with elaborate textile sails. In appearance, they are both toy-like and futuristic.
In Baume’s art practice she tends to favour the tools and materials of hobby shops and DIY stores. She works very slowly, producing tens or hundreds of individually handmade pieces to be exhibited as collections or modest installations. She is interested in ritual and sacred objects, and in the observances we invent for ourselves in the course of daily life outside the context of organised religion, and with the potential force of small objects made with commitment and solicitude.
Research Outline (July to December 2021)
Four hundred years ago, the south west coast of Cork was an important base for pirate activity. In recent weeks I’ve been studying a book called The Alliance of Pirates: Ireland and Atlantic Piracy in the Early Seventeenth Century by archaeologist Connie Kelleher. It came to my attention because for several years I have been interested in merchant ships, model ships and Cork harbour. I also regularly walk the sea cliffs that surround my home in the countryside outside Skibbereen, and in her book, Kelleher explores the physical evidence of pirates and their illicit activities around these coastlines, such as 'rock-cut steps and platforms, sea caves, careening places'. These landmarks – possibly no more than a pock or shelf; often inacessible or invisible – immediately caught my imagination.
In my artwork I routinely pursue, in some form or another, alternative means of commemoration, attempting to redesign souvenirs, memorial sites and religious rituals. In 2022, I will undertake a residency at WCAC, but in the latter half of 2021, I intend to begin a phase of exploration, research and writing in preparation.
Next year I'll be thinking mainly about merchant ships and models. I'm instantly keen on the idea of creating some kind of a commemoration, but more recently I find a project takes a few different forms. If I build something, I inevitably write something, and radio is also a medium I love. I have a good friend, Regan Hutchins, who is both from Skibbereen and a radio producer. There are possibilities there, as there are with a conversation with Pat Collins around his film Henry Glassie.
Sara Baume is the author of two novels which have received multiple awards and been widely translated. Her first book of non-fiction, handiwork, was shortlisted for the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize, and her third novel, Seven Steeples, will be published in spring 2022. She works also as a visual artist and her first solo exhibition took place in 2018 in the Morley Gallery in central London with the support of Culture Ireland. In 2020 her neon text-work, so sick and tired, made in collaboration with the National Sculpture Factory, was acquired by the Crawford Art Gallery as part of their National Collection. In 2021 her artwork, Talismans, was included as part of the group exhibition Home: Being and Belonging in Contemporary Ireland in the Glucksman Gallery in University College Cork.
WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council in making these residencies possible