Carlow arts centre hosts ‘Encountering the Land’ exhibition

How does rural life inspire us? What are the challenges facing farmers today? Do people know where their food comes from and how it’s produced?

These are among the questions posed in engaging and creative ways by the artists selected for Artworks 2018 ‘Encountering the Land’ – an exhibition that has just opened at the ‘VISUAL’ arts centre, Carlow, presented by Carlow Arts Festival and VISUAL.

Curator Emma Lucy O’Brien grew up on a sheep and tillage farm in Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

Our summer season at VISUAL is all about our relationship with the land and how it sustains us. Alongside the exhibitions are a host of activities.

The large group show features the work of 32 artists and includes works for the Arts Council collection. Some of the artists are farming and using their land as inspiration for their artistic practice.

Others are farmers’ daughters using their heritage as a starting point for their work.

In an exhibition that includes photography, painting, film and performance, the romance and the rough of rural life are considered. Ideas relating to our agrarian history, the rural as a sanctuary and the land as provider, are presented.

The works in the group exhibition were selected by: artist and farmer, Orla Barry; Sean Kissane, curator of the Irish Museum of Modern Art; and Emma Lucy O’Brien, curator at VISUAL, Carlow.

The Hotron Artworks award was presented to Maria McKinney for her film work ‘Double Muscle’.

Judges Orla Barry and Sean Kissane said: “In this work there is a love for the animals and the farmers who care for them. Yet, inherent there is a criticism; these animals are ‘terminal sires’ breeding to produce muscle and meat for a demanding market.

Combined with the imagery of these heaving bulky animals are delicate sculptures made from the straws used to artificially inseminate cows.

“McKinney has woven and sculpted these into dramatic and sometimes abstract forms. The collision between the earthiness of the farmyard and the artificiality of these sculptures creates a dramatic and visual tension that sensitively reflects on this year’s Artworks theme of agriculture and art.”

Lisa Fingleton looked at food production and sustainability. Laura Fitzgerald returned to her farm in Co. Kerry to encounter a changing agrarian landscape.

In other exhibitions at VISUAL, artist Deirdre O’Mahony presented a poetic understanding of the potato’s cultural and economic role in our history with her film ‘The Persistent Return’.

‘BalehomeBalehome’ by Katie Watchorn from Bilboa, Co. Carlow, involves work inspired by her family farm’s herringbone milking parlour as well as diaries and notes kept by her grandmother over the years.

“Bale home, bale home” is her father’s cattle call. He uses it every morning and evening to bring the cows in.

The exhibition, which is attracting individual farmers as well as groups, can be seen from 11:00am to 5:30pm Tuesday to Saturday and from 2:00pm to 5:00pm on Sunday. Admission is free. See: www.visualcarlow for more details.