Leather, wool, hand-blown glass. Size: approximately 80cm X 60cm 50cm. Weight 6.5 kg. Shown here with two images-full front and detail of materials.
Exhibited at Confluence: Tradition in Contemporary Art, George Segal Gallery, Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA. Exhibition dates: 10 October – 7 December 2019
The shifts and movements in our social cultures, even in our lifetimes, have seen an exodus leaving rural home sites and migrating to the cities, where work and urban lifestyles attract with economic allure. But what has been left behind in this demographic shift is something that lingers in our shared humanity: the deep understanding of our natural environment, the materials that can be adapted to immediate use for a myriad of purposes and the lived pace of life that is attuned to daylight and night time, weather, seasons, and lunar cycles. The farmers whose fields are ploughed by horses know the feel of soil in rain and in drought; the fisherman whose family lives by his daily catches knows the colour of the water when the fish are feeding. This is the knowledge that has become distant to so many people, but it is the wisdom of indigenous communities, the same knowledge that sees interconnectedness and patterns of ebb and flow. In a time of environmental crisis, this deep knowledge of life and close observation is needed urgently; the traditions of the past have many links to sustainable behaviours that must inform our current lives, from materials to food, to waste. And as artists, we see that there is also a need to move beyond despair, to celebrate beauty and to cherish the world we inhabit. We makers, we shapers of materials, we visual thinkers must see that the overlapping perceptions of then and now, here and there, are as linked as the generations of birds that feel the urge to test their wings and fly as the weather grows cold, having no names for this sense of urgency, but trusting that this desire is something to which we must attend, and do.
This work arises from long-standing research and investigations in traditional folk cultures, and previous residencies and a solo exhibition at the Isle of Man Manx National Heritage Museum, as well as the Ulster Folk Museum, and several others. Inspired by the noble workhorse, a central character in traditional farming, and the over-inscription of women's work in traditional folklife, equally demanding but often overlooked, a sort of elision occurred in a material homage to both.