Landscape + Text Series

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Since my return from Berlin, I’ve been really struck by the Irish skies and change of light (perhaps something you don’t notice as much when you live here permanently). My eyes were drawn again and again by the sheer scale of the landscape and beauty and vastness of the sky. I began (rather obsessively) to document scenes and this has led on from creating miniature worlds and people while I lived in an urban landscape, to instead responding to the wider landscape around me when I moved to a more rural setting. You can read more about my current practice here.

1916 Sackville Street Project

Elena Duff_house 02_ 2400 x 3000px

Elena Duff_house 02_ 2400 x 3000px Elena Duff_house 03_ 2400 x 3000px

This is my  sculpture which was exhibited in April 2016 in the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin. It’s part of a wider exhibition called the 1916 Sackville Street Project, which aims, in this, the anniversary of the 1916 Rising, to commemorate the 262 civilians killed during the Easter Rising. All participating artists and other groups will create a house shaped piece of art to commemorate their particular civilian. I have continued my current focus of landscape, in this case, cityscape, and lettering, this time in three dimensions.

I was allocated a male civilian called John Fennell who was single and worked as a van driver. The house I made features scenes from Dublin, which he may have seen while working, driving through the city streets, which existed in his time, but not ours. I included the South Dublin Union, as either injured, or already dead, that was his final destination. Also depicted is the, now demolished, Theatre Royal and Liberty Hall (destroyed during the Rising). I used a pyrography tool on wood to give a sepia tone, but its use also hints at the burning of the city during the events of 1916. Thanks to Glasnevin Trust for providing further details about John Joseph Fennell.

You can find out more about the project here. The exhibition runs from the 8th to the 24th of April 2016.

And below is the piece in situ in the exhibition space in the National Botanic Gardens.

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Due to the theme of this exhibition, there was plenty of press coverage, including this interview with the organiser Ciara O’Keefe, on RTE. This photo, also from the RTE website, gives some idea of the scale of the exhibition, which does just as it should, surrounded by seemingly endless houses, you realise the extent of the civilian casualties that took place during the 1916 Rising.

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Miniature Figures Series of Paintings

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Following on from creating a miniature sculpted figures, I then used them as subject matter for a series of oil paintings.

Organic Semi Abstract Series

honey trap featured

I had been painting realistic images in a realist style, collaging images together to create one new image a pieces of art. This subsequent series began as a follow-on and retained the collage element, but instead of using realist imagery relied instead on entirely graphic elements built up in layer upon layer of acrylic paint until the completed image returned.

Over time these became more simplified and the colour palette featured a lot of white background in evidence. This more pared down, graphic-style continued on in my illustrative scenes in My Fairytale Life series.

The Head

water formed 2

‘The head’ has been a nightmare from beginning to end. Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong with ‘the head’.

I made version 01 of the head from air dry clay…but the clay was so wet that it just collapsed on me looking rather Wicked Witch of the West “I’m meeeelting”

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So, I let him dry out for a bit, stuffed him with newspapers and fixed the melted mess – below is the next stage images.

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After a lot more work I refined the face further down – an artist friend commented that he looked like he was modelled on “a young Ian Paisley”, which he wasn’t, but I could see the resemblance! At this point I was pretty happy with the head. All I needed to do was take the newspaper stuffed inside his head out and construct a neck and shoulders for him…

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But….as soon as I tried to take the newspaper out, his whole lower jaw literally shattered into dust, leaving only the top part of his head. Someone on my facebook page commented that it looked okay like this and perhaps to leave the head like this and I agreed, despite my bitter disappointment that after all my hard work on this piece that I was stymied in getting it to look exactly how I wanted.

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However, the art gods had something else in mind. No sooner than I’d come to terms with having a jawless head, someone gesticulated too closely to it and it too landed on the floor and shattered into a million pieces….the only bit recognisable was the nose. The rest was grey dust – this was because I used an air dry clay with no kind of fibres to help bond the clay particles together and give it any kind of strength. Lesson learned to never, ever use that clay ever again – unless of course I want the end result to turn to a cloud of dust.

Undeterred but with a heavy, heavy heart I resumed work and began a whole new piece, this time from terracotta clay. I preferred the expression on clay head #1, to head #2, but time was against me, as I wanted to get this piece completed and fired in a kiln so that I could then paint it and have it ready in time for an exhibition.

The head below is head #2 and is pictured resting on two briquettes to allow air to circulate inside the hollow form to help it dry out fully (briquettes being compressed peat that you burn in an open fire)

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Unfortunately…days after the above photo was taken, I went to lift the piece and move it and it cracked across the shoulder and then further stalagmites broke off…At that stage I cried. I have never, ever had such difficulty with any piece, even taking into account the fact that using clay on a larger piece like this is something I’m relatively new at. But, I was determined to have the piece I wanted and exhibit it as planned no matter what. Not after all the hard work I’d put into rescuing this piece from a number of disasters already.

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I researched and I asked advice about broken unfired clay and was told to try misting the broken areas with water and then adding slip, allowing to dry and (hopefully) bond together again and then fire in the kiln. I did this, but then the person who said they’d fire the piece for me said they now couldn’t. At this point I just gave up on the whole idea of ever being able to finish the piece completely.

However, in the end I decided, sod it, I’ll paint the unfired piece as is and at least exhibit it. And I’m now glad I didn’t leave the piece at home unshown and broken.

Today I installed him in the exhibition. Below is the finished piece, painted using acrylic paint and varnish and surrounded by real stones in order to embed him further into a more natural setting.

Now that the piece is painted it looks exactly like what I had in mind – that it was formed from centuries of dripping, mineral-saturated water – the piece is based on the Marble Arch Caves in Northern Ireland – made specifically for the Response to Beauty exhibition which is on tomorrow (27th Nov 2014)

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water formed

 

Of course…because he’s made from un-fired clay – which cracked again en route to the exhibition space, I have to make a decision what to do with this piece. I’m not sure if I can repair him without him cracking again, and am also unsure about whether firing a painted piece is good for the interior of a kiln or environmentally friendly.

At the end of this whole process I think I’ll take a silicone mould of the head and then cast him in some kind of durable material. I think too, that what all this has taught me is that perhaps making a clay sculpture and then taking a cast from it is perhaps the working method I should follow from now on, rather than trying to create ceramic sculptures that are to be fired.

 

 

Response to Beauty Exhibition

online invite

online invite

I have works in this upcoming exhibition which opens on the 27th of November 2014 in Trinity House, Thomas Ashe St. Cavan. The exhibition runs daily 12- 6pm, until the 7th of December.

This exhibition was curated and organised by poet Heather Brett following a series of talks and lectures up in the Cavan Burren and surrounding areas such as Dowra, the Marble Arch Caves and Lough Ouchter. I gave a talk myself at one of the events up in the Cavan Burren about the use of texture within art.

The exhibition will showcase some of the participants’ works, not limited to visual art but also including poetry and music.

There is a facebook page for the event: www.facebook.com/responsetobeauty

Me and My Shadow Solo Exhibition

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I have been a neglectful website updater – the reason being I’ve been very busy finalising all the stuff for my solo show. However, one shouldn’t forget to alert people that their solo show is in fact on at all.

Above is the beautifully designed invitation for the exhibition (design for Meath County Council by www.spudgun.net)

And here is the information about the exhibition:

The exhibition is presented by Meath County Council Arts Office. 

The opening night is on Tuesday 26th of August at 7pm in Ashbourne Library and Cultural Centre.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Me and My Shadow’ will be opened by award-winning author of The Herbalist Niamh Boyce.

The exhibition explores various emotions one experiences in solitude, with doll-like figures posing within their personal environments and evoking different emotions such as dreams, thoughts, hopes and fears.

The exhibition runs until the 23rd of September and is open during library hours.

Below is a piece publicising the show featured in the current edition of the Meath Chronicle.

Toradh Gallery Meath Chronicle article