On Saturday evening I attended the launch of the NINE exhibition in the Galway Arts Centre. It was originally installed in The LAB Gallery in Foley Street, Dublin last summer, and this was its début in the West of Ireland.
The artists’ brief for the exhibition was to reflect in their artwork something about how it feels to be nine years old. The brochure says:
At nine, children are seeking out independence, expanding their ideas about the world and becoming autonomous human beings who still need lots of security and reassurance from their family group. It is a unique point in a human being’s life: moving from being one number to two, making the transition from child to young person. It is fraught with confusion and anxiety,but also filled with excitement and epiphanies.
I was there primarily to see the work by Maeve Clancy, who is a friend and a gifted artist (in a variety of media, including comics). Her section of the exhibition is called ‘Paper Crannóg’, and reflects a project her family embarked on when she was a child: to build a replica of a Crannóg in their back garden.
To pay tribute to this Maeve has crafted a Crannóg out of paper, along with three falling curtains of coloured leaves. Inside the Crannóg is a graphic narrative telling the story of that long-ago construction.
The effect of walking into the room and through the curtains of leaves to find the Crannóg is enchantment. It evokes that magical childhood mindset where everything can become play.
The Crannóg itself is wonderful, a space that is separate yet also transparent to others.
Standing inside the Paper Crannóg is wonderful. And Maeve’s comic book story of her family’s project is drawn with her trademark clear and evocative style. The panels for the drawings were integrated into the cut-out construction.
The story, and this physical representation of childhood memory, are married together in a cohesive and satisfying fashion.
Then there’s also the interplay of light and shadow with the cut out pieces.
It adds another dimension to the project.
Maeve didn’t want me to take her photo, but I captured her shadow, and the shadow of her art, instead.
To get a full appreciation for this piece, watch this short video, shot by Kilian Waters of Shoot to Kill productions, which shows Maeve creating the Paper Crannóg last summer.
There were two other striking installations as part of the exhibition.
This piece is by Alan Butler is an eerie rendition of how politician’s faces loom large in our childhood – perhaps not making a lot of sense to us, but definitely important to the adults around us.
This is a small section from a collage of light, cardboard, and projected animations by artist Aideen Barry. It’s a delightful, and weird, replica of the jumble in a child’s mind. It captures, the humour, strangeness, and anxieties that bubble up at that age (and all ages).
The exhibition will be at the Galway Arts Centre until the 29th March, so there is plenty of time to drop by and see it for yourself.
Well done to the LAB’s curator Sheena Barrett, and educators Liz Coman and Lynn McGrane, for putting together such a diverse range of artists and work.