Monday, 1 August 2016

What are your thoughts on the memories our Irish Landscape holds for us

Irish Landscape and the secrets held within based on Our History and interaction with the land, both physical and in our thoughts...

Irish Landscapes of the mind, history, experience, emotions.

Footprints on our landscape, memories left on the Irish Landscape.

Invitation to everyone to please leave a comment on the notion that we leave a solid memory on our Landscape, this can be done by our physical interaction with the landscape, it can even be achieved by our genuine thoughts on a place. I therefore ask you to leave your ideas on this statement and idea. What do you think of the Irish landscape, do you believe it holds memories, and our interactions with the landscape. I pose the question: can your own ideas and feelings towards the Irish landscape have an impact on the landscape in a physicoligical manner or a physical way? I am Researching the idea of the impact of our thoughts and memories on the Irish Landscape. The landscape has a memory and I am investigating this relationship with the landscape in particular the Irish Landscape.
I am using Brian McNeill as a personification of these ideas.
This is a link to a documentary on Brian MacNeill and his death in County Sligo,

The below image is of footprints that can be seen on Valentia Island, County Kerry, Ireland.

Footprints found in 1993 on Valentia Island, County Kerry

The reason I am showing you this image is to stir your thoughts on the notion of leaving a mark on our landscape. Can you think of other ways we leave a mark on our landscape, not only a physical mark as in the image above, I would like you to also think about the impact of your thoughts and views on the Irish Landscape. I will give a brief description on the above image: the image shows footprints that are left permenantly on the Irish Landscape in a remote place in County Kerry. The footprints are forever etched on our landscape. They are Ancient footprints preserved in stone that are estimated to be over 485 million years old. They were discovered in 1993 by an undergraduate geology student on the north-east side of the island.
They are one of the oldest sets of footprints found in the northern hemisphere (oldest found in Australia) and were made by a four legged creature called a Tetrapod.
A Tetrapod was one of the first known four limbed vertebrates to walk the planet. It was roughly the size of a large domesticated cat.
The ancient track-way is of international importance as it provides some of the oldest evidence of one of the first water dwelling creatures to make a transition from water to land?
Not easy to find but well worth discovering these tracks when you visit the island.
It's mind blowing to contemplate the fact that when these tracks were made by this Tetrapod, this part of the world was south of the equator and joined to north America! Our Landscape captured this moment in time and has kept it as a memory to share with us, can you think of other memories etched into our Irish landscape, there memories can be moments that have not necessarily left a physical reminder, for example a war, a battle, can leave a dark memory that our landscape minds, can you share your thoughts with me on that type of memory? Do you think it is possible for our landscape to hold on to our human experiences and interactions and keep thoes as a memory sealed into the land?

I am writing about this as it reminds me in a concrete way the idea of us leaving a mark on the landscape and when I say "us" I mean any living thing. I will continue to find more images of "footprints" I know people have found footprints of humans walking over the land that are also achieve, I will source the pics and post, again food for thought for all the artists following this blog and my ideas, The ideas I publish to keep you inspired and interested in this movement in the Art
 world which depicts the effects the landscape has had from our history, rather than the traditional way Artists used to capture the landscape and give us their visual interpretation, this movement seeks to visualise our impact on our landscape, this movement recognises that the landscape is a part of us and we it, and we explore that relationship.

Caves to canvases the Irish Experience

I found the Title for my upcoming work, watch this space, the actual art work will not been shown or the written proposals/articulated ideas behind the work till the end/showing. That is where the true uniqueness of the artist and work Resides!  It is not enough( for me)
to take pictures and put on a gallery wall or present a video installation without also including artwork that I have created, along with the afore mentioned. I would also like to rely on my skills as a visual artist painter and sculptor and create a visual solution for this project( Caves as refuge for 1916 revolunitaries, the people of the Irish civil war 1922 and our ancestors who sought refuge in our landscape, the impact this history has had and continues to have on our landscape((see previous posts)(it is only then that the viewer will have an answer, actually I will have an answer to the question; of the impact our history has on our landscape and the memory that our landscape holds/ the secrets our landscape holds. The solution is something to view that takes the viewer on the emotional journey that is held by our landscape, I want to unravel her secrets and spread them on a surface. I need to give the viewer in addition to pictures and videos of something that they can see, and presenting the video and still images in a gallery alone does not give it any meaning to me. The viewer can stand infront of the landscape and see exactly what is in the pic. I propose to go beyond that, to put an emotional dimension to the images of the landscape, thereby freeing the imotional impact of our Irish history ... That history which has scarred the landscape in a physiological way.
I will update this as I refine my ideas, the artwork will only viewed before being shown on this blog.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Irish Landscape and the impact of betrayal, death and bitterness and more on this Landscape: focus on Benbulben Counry Sligo and Brian McNeil during the Irish Civil War and the Irish War of Independence.

The Noble Six, and Brian McNeill 

Benbulben, County Sligo

Benbulben Mountain, Co. Sligo. 

Preparing for a research and working trip to County Sligo in July 2016.  

Benbulben, County Sligo
I have been sketching quite a bit, challenging my observation, and rendering skills in preparation for a research and working(sketching and painting) trip to Benbulben Mountain in County Sligo.

I have become preoccupied with giving a voice to the noble six, and in particular Brian McNeil, (website that gives a fantastic history on the life of Brian McNeill and the Noble Six)  son of Eoin McNeil. Brian McNeil died on the Mountain Benbulben while on the run. This link gives more information about the story of Brian MacNeill as told by his gran nephew Michael McDowell former Minster for Justice, the story is so tragic as Brian MacNeill was shot down on Benbulben and the men who shot him were on the same side as Brian's Father Eoin MacNeill.
I am not so interested in the political aspect of this tragic story, although the political aspect of this story resulted in the death of Brian McNeil at a very young age, he was essentially killed by men who supported his own father Eoin McNeil's political views. This was at the time of the Irish war of Independence, a civil war, and Brian found himself on the opposite side to his Father. My focus is on the tragedy of this story and its physiological impact on our Landscape throughout Ireland at this time. I want to create Art that will tell this story and brings together some themes I have been eager to explore in my Art work.

On Benbulben, County Sligo

On Benbulben, County Sligo

On Benbulben, County Sligo

On the way up Benbulben,
County Sligo.

Iam very interested effect violence, betrayal, bitterness, has on our landscape. I believe these emotions and the experiences that cause them are remembered by our landscape, The Artist Willie Doherty (updated on July 31st 2016) had a show which focused on "The legacy the 1916 rising had on our landscape" he focused on Donegal and Dublin, he used Photography and video installation to visualise his idea. His show was part of the Earagail Arts Festival for 2016, and will show in Kerlin Gallery Dublin, and Matt,s Gallery, London.
Before he died Brian McNeill and his men hid a cave in Benbulbin, the fled up the mountain and initially avoided capture ... In the end they were spotted and gunned down.
My previous work has explored the symbiotic relationship between people and the landscape how we come from the land are nurtured by the land and return to the land, I was influenced by the landscape in a formal way, the outlines etched in my mind and I would render these etchings on a surface.
Another theme of my work is giving the victim a voice, the other, the betrayed, the left behind, the idealistic. I again look to the landscape as a way to help create or make tangible my themes and ideas.
I want to follow and gain instruction from the following artists:
Nancy Spero I relate to her use of Artaud and how she gave him a voice, Brian McNeil is My Artaud if you will.
I want to rely on Louise Bourgeois giving the other a voice, he focus on violence the bully, and her style of work.
Richard Serra, his use of space and sculpture.
Update July 31 2016, Because of the similarity in ideas, I will take a look at the work of Willie Doherty for his focus on the 1916 rising and the impact of memory on our landscape.

On Benbulben, County Sligo

On the way up Benbulben,
County Sligo

On Benbulben, County Sligo
On Benbulben, County Sligo

On Benbulben, County Sligo

Hiding in the mist, Benbulben, County Sligo.

On the road towards Benbulben, County Sligo

I found an Artist called Dara McGrath and his work focuses on how voilence effects the landscape: When I read an Essay on his work by Dr. Deborah Lilley here was my response to that:
Below is a conversation we had about our ideas: June 2016

Jennifer Burke:  The essay by Dr. Deborah Lilley really captivates your work. When she says "that violence leaves an invisible trace on the land and that history leaves a physiological  charge on the landscape:  these descriptions makes for a Powerful essay that really complements your work and gives a voice to your images. Very captivating words, and imagery. I have been trying to come up with a total visual solution to capture the use of caves during the Irish war of independence, these caves were used by men on the run, in locations in Killarney, Sligo and in a place close to Fenit where I live. equally I felt these places were charged by the presence of these men, the fear, the violence , the bitterness, the betrayals, and their death, in particular the men who sought refuge in Benbulben in Sligo (Brian McNeill, the son of Eoin McNeill, who along with his men were hunted down by fellow Irish men, finally found and murdered on the spot, my focus is not on the politics, it's on the use of the land as a refuge and the physiological impact on the land. Again great work and excellent essay.

Dara Response:
Hi Jennifer.Nice to hear from you and thank you so much for your great and kind comments. I'm humbled!! I started this out almost 5 years ago on this project and Im on the home stretch. Thankfully. I love your ideas of researching the caves used during the War of Independence and Civil War. Makes me think immediately of Yvette Monahan's work 'The Thousand Year Old Boy' She explores the genetic lineage of bones found in a cave in The Burren. Check out her website. Great approach. I think these days just photographing the object (your caves??) is not good enough. My work beyond just taking the photos, includes objects collected (Ebay), video interviews, archive documents,sounds,  video stills, anything I can get my hands on to convey my ideas on numerous multi-media platforms. From reading your message there seems to be alot of bitterness, betrayals,resentment, secrets. caught up in that time. Dont mean to be pushy but, wouldnt it be good to visually/artistically bring the truth (as far as you know it) to the fore. A sort of resolution to the landscape and the memories that are ensnared into it?? God you got me thinking now!!Thanks again for your kind words and your great ideas.Best wishes. Dara

Jennifer Burke:  Dara Mcgrath that exactly what I want to do, it will be a multimedia show when I finally create the visual solution to my ideas of our landscape and its stories, the secrets etc... I will do some research on the artist you mention. For the month of July I will travel the wild Atlantic way doing research and of course the cave in Sligo. Brian McNeill has become my inspiration, almost an obsession. Please visit my google plus page and read an interview I did with Nancy Spero her inspiration was giving a voice to Artaud a man who was silenced, also my page deals with the themes and ideas of our landscape and how we are connected ... (Sorry not very articulate at the moment.. But tired, I have been sketching and doing some preliminary work for my installation show.

Thanks for your reply, essentially you completely understand what I am doing and equally I completely admire your project and agree with you that you have much more to do!!!

Dara :
To be honest, im jealous of your caves idea. So is my partner who peeked into our conversation.Please do keep me posted on how it progresses. When I started my project there were so many doors to open, discover and explore. Now I am closing doors to keep me focused and to finish it. I will get the chance to have a look at all your links later. Best Dara

Friday, 4 December 2015

Ireland and the Caves of Ireland Art Project Research Phase

Research for my project based on the caves in Ireland where revolutionaries in Ireland sought refuge, up to and including the Easter 1916 Rising, The War of Independance(focus on Bian Mac Neilland his father Eoin Mac Neill. Link to background and story of Brian MacNeill also fantastic documentary by Micheal McDowel Grand Newphew of Eoin MacNeill titled "A Lost Son"
Below are some pictures I have taken of Mangerton Mountain in Killarney County Kerry, and of a cave entrance in Churchill close to Fenit,  County Kerry.
Entrance to cave near Fenit, County Kerry.
Beside entrance to cave at Fenit, Co Kerry

I am continuing my research in County Sligo.
The first part of the project focuses on the men and women of Ireland who sought refuge from the English leading up to and shortly after the Easter 1916 Rising, and later the second part of the project will gain inspiration from the individuals who used the caves during the Irish War of Independence.
The Art work will be entirely influenced by the caves, the natural beauty and  surrounding areas and the spirit of the work will be influences my the nurturing element of Mother Earth and how she protects her own...

Images can be viewed at Twitter account
Ground underfoot at the entrance way towards the base of Mangerton
Add caption

The Punch Bowl Mangerton 

Lake Mangerton

Remnant of stone building Mangerton

The path leading to the base of Mangerton the branches
are so black.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Dreaming ..... Thoughts behind a series of work I did

+Orlando Santos having read your link on the aboriginal dreams I could not beleive when I read this

" The Earth was a flat surface, in darkness. A dead, silent world. Unknown forms of life were asleep, below the surface of the land. Then the supernatural Ancestor Beings broke through the crust of the earth form below , with tumultuous force"

I had based a series of my paintings in this very idea the belief that we came from the earth grew up out of the earth and nurtured our world... And as time passed we died returned to the earth and nurtured it for our descendants and so the cycle began... Below are some of the paintings on this subject..,. So I was delighted to read ur post and felt a connection with the aboriginal belief of how our world began .. Naturally this belief is purely spiritual and not my scientific view.. Like a dream I loved being enveloped by the idea

Link to the dreaming Aboriginal Art and stories.

Please select the google plus icon in the top right hand corner of this blog to bring you to the post regarding there iseas

Williamsburg, Brooklyn Studio

Williamsburg, Brooklyn Studio

Williamsburg, Brooklyn Studio

Williamsburg, Brooklyn Studio

Thursday, 22 January 2015

What's on view for 2015

Since creating this site 2 years ago I am delighted to say that I have had over 134,000 views!!! I am delighted to see how many people are interested in art and the artists featured in this blog: Nancy Spero's, Louise Bourgeois, Leon Golub, and more....
In 2015 I will be featuring more interviews with visual artists and adding a few new dimensions such as art education on line, Irish TV and its place in the Art World. Another area of interest will be web design and designing educational sites for adults and children discussing content and creative and featuring some of the best on line educational sites available today... Keep watching...thanks from the publisher; Jennifer Burke

UPDATE July 2016 I now have over 350,000 views,

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

VET Interview styles and Inspiring Artists

By Jennifer Burke

In preparation for VET: To interview and then review an artist’s work I have been reading so many interviews of Artists who are influencing my own work at present.  I would like to share an Interview with the Artist Ann Hamilton. Although I will not get the opportunity to Interview this Artist, I do want to Interview an Artist who’s work inspires me to "art"iculate what I am trying to achieve in terms of creating an Installation, I am intrigued by the materials used and relied on to create an environment that stimulates all the senses  auditory, visual, touch and smell. I want to expose the viewer to a world where secrets are exposed. I want the viewer to enter a world "the installation" where their own body becomes part of the Installation and their experience is relying on so many senses, their response will be emotional. The key word is "experience" I want the viewer not just "looking" I want to get a particular emotion after they have had an experience, so to speak. The installation will be in control and will be designed to purposely ignite specific emotions the experiences which will be premeditated. "The viewer would be swept into an awareness beyond that of the normal viewer, intriguing the whole body. I want to bring to the surface the questions we should be asking"  Ann Hamilton. 
Katy Kline, the director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Maine, who chose Ann Hamilton for the 1999 Venice Biennale, says of Hamilton, "She invites the viewer into a set of visible and auditory conditions where their entire bodily experience is activated. They are swept into a state of awareness beyond that of the normal viewer. She tries to intrigue the whole body."Jennifer Burke.

"Swing"The event of a thread-Ann Hamiltom at the Park Ave Armory.

Ann Hamilton Interviewed by Lynne Cooke July 1999

Over the last decade, Ann Hamilton has emerged as one of the most provocative installation artists of our time

Best known for her site-specific environments that make use of sophisticated technology, unusual and highly sensual materials, recorded sound, and literary and historical allusions, the forty-three year-old artist – who received a MacArthur award in 1993 – was selected to represent the United States at this summer’s Venice Biennale, Her installation, entitled myein, will be on view through November 7.

LYNNE COOKE: What were your first thoughts when you were offered the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale?

ANN HAMILTON: From the very beginning I responded to the fact that this is an American pavilion in another country. So I took my cues from the pavilion’s American references and its neoclassical architecture.

LC: Was the pavilion built In 1895, the year the Biennale began?

AH: No, it was built in 1929, the year the stock market crashed. A rather auspicious date. Its architecture is very Jeffersonian; there are two symmetrical wings that embrace a central courtyard. You’re very aware as you step into the interior courtyard that you’ve crossed a first threshold, and on entering the central rotunda you cross yet another one.

LC: The architecture of several of the permanent pavilions in Venice – I’m thinking specifically of the Dutch and Russian pavilions – seems designed to symbolically reinforce the nation’s values. Is that true of the American pavilion?

AH: Yes. I saw the pavilion for the first time last June, and immediately upon returning to the States I went to see [Thomas Jefferson's Virginia home] Monticello, and I started reading about American history in a way that I hadn’t before. I suppose there were some parallels to how I approached my recent installation at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art [in Ridge field, Connecticut]; for that work, whitecloth, I researched New England’s Puritan history. For the Biennale the question became: How does an architectural ideal embody a vision of social democracy? And then what are the schisms, paradoxes, and contradictions within that vision?

LC: You seem to work simultaneously on two fronts – you think through the ideas in relation to a site on a fairly abstract level, and at the same time you think in response to very specific material conditions.

AH: Yes. And I was also thinking about the rhythms of actually being in Venice. The simplest observation I had that was pertinent to the project was that you’re always getting on and off boats, so you’re constantly accompanied by a subtly shifting horizon. I was thinking about air and movement, of metaphors of descent – that was a very visceral, emotional response. And then, because it’s a very particular circumstance to be representing a national identity, I had a more conscious sociopolitical response. I came away thinking about what issues might be most pressing for us now as a country.

LC: Where did these thoughts lead?

AH: I approached the building as an object, and began working with the relationship between its exterior facade and its interior space. I began with the idea of a mirrored wall that reflected the garden in which the pavilion sits. That went through several permutations before I arrived at what we’re building now, which is a large, rippling glass screen that extends across the entire front of the building. It doesn’t dematerialize the building but renders it very liquid as an image.

LC: And the viewer must decide how to enter the building, around one end of the wall or the other.

AH: Yes. And once in the rotunda, you must again decide whether to go left or right. One thing we’ve done is remove aH of the false ceilings that had been installed in the ’60s, which covered the skylights in the four adjacent galleries. For the first time in years there is natural light coming into the space, which is filled not with objects but with something more like a phenomenon. There is a mechanical system that sifts an intense, fuchsia-colored powder slowly down the walls. The powder is very responsive to your movements – to the turbulence in the air you create but are not aware of. It’s almost invisible as it descends over the walls, which have been encrusted with small raised bumps that spell out a text in braille. There’s a continual movement, a marking of the text that doesn’t actually stay on the walls.

LC: What is the source of the text?

AH.’ It’s taken from two volumes of poetry by Charles Reznikoff called Testimony: The United States 1885-1915 Recitative [1965]. They’re incredibly wrenching accounts of acts of violence based on turn-ofthe-century legal documents. And rendering them in braille in some sense mirrors the way this kind of violence is difficult to absorb into the democratic ideal.

LC: You will also have a spoken-word audio recording as part of the Installation. What will be on the tape?

AH: I used the middle section of Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which was an extremely important speech in its time, quite radical in its brevity. It’s an attempt to ask: How do you heal the schism that comes from the inheritance of slavery and that is the basis of much of this country’s early history? I translated the text into an international phonetic code and spelled out the paragraph according to that code, and you hear my voice, in unison with itself, whispering it over and over again with urgency. The meaning isn’t immediately apparent; it’s more about the rhythm of the voices than the voices as conveyors of meaning. The quality is halfway between an echo and a remembrance that can’t quite be pieced together.

LC: Frequently, your most immediate reference points come from literature.

AH: Yes, I’m beginning to do work that is more actively about being a reader. The way one reads is almost like a signature, much in the way one might write or speak.

LC: What practical problems did you encounter in working on this project?

AH: Well, lately my process has shifted, so that increasingly a lot of what I need is highly skilled technical help. Previously, I produced my installations with the help of volunteers who worked by hand. But now much of my work requires more complicated technology – this piece, myein, is set into the membrane of the building – so we’re really pushing the limits of what’s possible.

LC: What has caused this shift away from the labor Intensive hand-manufacturing?

AH: My work shifts in response to my emotional needs from the work, and I’m now looking for different kinds of experiences. But certainly making the braille is very much a hand process. And as we were standing there today putting dots on the wall, I recognized how the underlying concerns of the work are similar to other pieces I’ve done. No matter how much you think you’re making a new work, what rises out of it are continuing concerns.

LC: Do these preoccupations – which seem hinged on a dialectic between sensory experience and information acquired through codified forms of knowledge – date back to your formative years in the Midwest? You grew up in Ohio, where you still live.

AH: It’s hard to know because sometimes you’re blind to your own interests. On one level you do this intellectualized research and you think you’re really onto something – but it’s almost as if you’re keeping yourself busy because you’re blind to deeper issues. It’s like you set up a process that allows these issues to rise to the surface. And as my research takes its own path it almost forms an organism within which each project occurs.

Interview copied from bnet art publications.

Lynne Cooke “The Ann Hamilton experience – installation artist – Interview“. Interview.


This link will allow you to view images of the installation

Friday, 14 December 2012

Louise Bourgeois

Interview with Louise Bourgeois at her home in New York.

By Jennifer Burke


While attending School of Visual Arts in New York 1992. I decided to ask the Artist Louise Bourgeois if I could interview her for an assignment which was to Interview an Artist and then do a presentation of the artist and their work.  I thought if I would ever have the opportunity to meet the artist Louise Bourgeois, now was the time. I had discovered the artist a few years earlier while taking the class "Women in Art" at School of Visual Arts.
The first piece of work that I ever saw of this artist was the well known work "The destruction of the Father" - 1974. Fig.1.
 Fig.1.      The Destruction of the Father-1974
The day I went to Louise Bourgeois Brownstone in New York for the interview it was a freezing cold day. I arrived at her house knocked on the door, Louise opened the door greeted me and I followed her through a hallway into a living room. She seemed so small to me for someone who produced larger than life creations. She offered me something to eat, she was very kind She wanted to know about me where I came from ........ She wondered how I was coping with living in New York while being so far from my home in Ireland. I felt she was very motherly, in fact when I was leaving her house after the interview she was concerned that I was not warm enough and insisted that I take a beret of hers to keep my head warm! I remember it smelled exactly the same as her home I treasured it.  She had a student photographer present who photographed us as I interviewed her.
During the interview she would take breaks and go into her kitchen which was just off the living room. I would gaze at a wall directly across from where I sat in the living room. The wall seemed to be covered in bookshelves which were filled with books papers small works. As I sat quietly waiting for her I could see her small frame through the glass in the door between the kitchen and living room as she paced and then suddenly she would return and take up where we left off. I felt she needed to do this as she became exhausted or rather overwhelmed with emotions that she was re-experiencing when she discussed works such as destruction of the father and her relationship to her work. These relationships were difficult for her and she really felt everything she was saying, (And I am sure at times my questions were frustrating I was young and opinionated and had no clue of what I thought I knew) She took the interview seriously. I felt she was sincere and very real, she was honest, she lived her art and was completely surrounded by evidence of this in her home it was as if she had no choice about it.

The Interview:

JB: What are some of the ideas behind your work?
LB: This is the subject of a book and I cannot answer this question in one sentence or even two!

JB: Is it possible to define art?
LB: Yes, art is a guarantee of sanity.

JB: What is the other for you and do you think of yourself as the other?
LB: The other is everything......everything! The French say there is the toi and the moi. I am very interested in the toi and in the relationship if possible between the toi and the moi. These relationships are very complex and I am trying to understand these relationships in my work.

JB: How do you give the other a voice in your work?
LB: My work is about others. I am extremely conscious of the toi as opposed to the moi. I am not interested in myself, but I am interested in how other people see me, and in the way I can be liked by others.

JB: Liked by others in you work?
LB: Liked by others in my person and I do this by offering the best I can be in my work, but it is a personal achievement that I want. If somebody asked me: would you rather have me like you or would you rather have me like your work? With the hundreds of pieces I have made I would say, I would rather that you like me.

Fig. 2. Femme Couteux 1982 

JB: I feel in some of your work you characterise the other as both male and female, you seem to combine both male and female attributes in your work for example "Femme Couteux-1982" Fig.2. Fig.5. 1969 and 1970. Is this one of the relationships between the toi and the moi that you mentioned?
LB: I am exclusively a woman. I believe in opposites and the differences between men and women. These differences are profound you are one or the other you cannot be everything to everyone for instance you are different from me, not all too different but you come from a certain background and I come from a different background and it is these variations that are going to be interesting to each of us, going back to the toi that I talked about I show some people who are not myself.....not everything is a self-portrait.

JB: When you think of theses variations and attributions of character did you combine them in the works  "Femme Couteux-1982" Fig.2. Fig.5. and  "The Fragile Goddess-1970" Fig.3.? Is the "knife" a phallic symbol?
LB: No this is a couteau which is a knife. The knife comes from a need to defend what she is carrying which is a child so this knife appears as a defense of her child.....that is not male. That is what you think.

JB: Why did you feel she needed this protection?
Fig.3. The Fragile Goddess 1970
LB: The "Fragile Goddess" Fig.3. is a weak person who has to carry a child, and it is too much for what she can do, so she is on the defensive. The "Fragile Goddess" Fig.3. represents a young girl who finds herself with child the fact is she is not up to the job, she is not up to the responsibility she suddenly has and she is supposed to defend what she carries and that frightens her. So she borrows the knife of the man. She is a woman on the defensive I agree with that, but this has nothing to do with the man, in fact she admires the man. I am not a feminist because I like men. I am afraid of them but I still like them. So she borrows the weapon of the man. She is very young and sees everything in black and white, this is very subtle. The "Fragile Goddess" Fig.3. is a frightened pregnant girl that is all she is.

  JB: What would you say about the work the "Fillette" Fig.4. 1968 ?
Fig.4. Fillette 1968
LB: What I have to say about the "Fillette" Fig.4. is that the "Fillette" Fig.4. does represent a male organ. It means that  if a woman has a man around, she is supposed to take care of her man, to cradle him this is why it is a fillette,  because fillette is somebody who is very young......(she pauses and thinks about it for a bit) yes, innocent and very you attribute these qualities to the male organ and you take care of your man. This has to do with my autobiography I have a Husband and three sons so I got used to it. I never had any girls and my way of getting along with everyone was to actually take care of them.

JB: And in return......
LB: And in return they would tolerate me, they would not kill me off...she laughs...But it was up to me to take care of them. That's what it means. So if you have a boyfriend the way to get along with him is to take him with a grain of salt, be nice to him, take care of whatever he wants, almost nurture him like a mother, basically that is what it means.

JB: And what will he do in return?
LB: He would make you feel important significant he would make you feel like a good woman like a good girl which is not easy to be. He would give you self-esteem. I assume in all my writings that the woman suffers from a certain lack of self-esteem.

JB: Can you comment on your quote: "A woman has no place in society as an artist unless she proves it again and again"
LB: This is an ancient quote of mine. But absolutely that is to is not that men dislike women as the feminists try to prove. Men do not dislike women they do not see them, they do not conceive of them so if there is something you want to put across as a self-expression you have to say it again and again until they finally listen to you. I suppose it's not just that they don't see you, it is that they are self preoccupied.

JB: Would you talk about "The Destruction of the Father"- 1974 Fig.1.  in terms of the other?
LB: "The Destruction of the Father" Fig.1. comes from a difficult time at the dinner table when the Father would gloat, fill up and brag about how great he was. No one could shut him up. It made the children very tired listening to him brag  the macho this is the other the toi. The Macho problem I am still interested in. What constitutes the macho of man? How do you experience it? What do you do? What do we mean by that? It is a constant bragging right. It is because of that, I fancied taking this big hunk of a man trowing him up on the table where we were eating. Instead of eating the food we would eat him, so we would dismember him like a chicken, you pull the legs out, you pull the arms out, twist the neck and you cut off the neck, then gobble him up. This was not a constraint this was a fantasy a very pleasant one. He would never have had a chance, he would not know what happened to him.

JB: Do you think we can become what we fear, what we resent? Is fear something that motivates your work?
LB: Now that is a very good question. We are more than that, but fear and resentment are very important. Fear was not the motivation in "The Destruction of the Father" Fig.1. as you say, it was a Fantasy   But fear, resentment, loss, these are very important.

JB: So lets go back to the first question, your ideas behind your art...
Fig.5. Femme Couteux 1969

LB: No, no! I have no answer
JB: No?
LB: This is ironical...
JB: Why?
LB: Absolutely nothing when there is so much.

This interview was done in 1992. The focus was on Louise Bourgeois's earlier works. In 1993 she represented America in the Venice Biennale.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Nancy Spero

Interview with the artist Nancy Spero at her home in New York, 

by Jennifer Burke

Artist - Nancy Spero - 1926 - 2009
I did the below interview with Nancy Spero in 1992 while completing my last year at School of Visual Arts in New York City. When I first contacted Nancy she never hesitated to have me come by and interview her. When I arrived at her home/studio, I was taken aback about how idyllic the setting was in my view. She was in a kitchen area, which basically seemed to be just a small kitchen table, where I imagined many a discussion took place. And right across the space which was the other half of the room lay a very large canvas against the wall and  in front of it stood the artist Leon Golub her husband. Being quite young I though how amazing a life this is, fantastic space, buzzing with work energy and ideas, and having that to share with someone you cared deeply about. During the interview Leon would speak at times and finish Nancy's sentences. They had a great comradery, not just as husband and wife, but one of mutual respect for each others work, Leon understood the struggle Nancy put upon herself for the kind of work she did, for her opinions, for being different, for giving a voice to the victim, for not being afraid to force people to look at something that they may not like.
Nancy and I sat at that little kitchen table and spoke for a long time, she was just as interested in me and what I had to say. I felt she had a very nurturing side to her, I felt very at peace in their home. I will always feel privileged to have shared a Sunday afternoon with Nancy Spero and had the opportunity to watch Leon Golub painting in the background.....below is the interview.

The Interview

JB   Lets start big! What is the meaning of art to you?

Fig 1 Head with phallic, The WAR series - Nancy Spero
NS   It is all I can do, this thing called art. I do not have the capabilities of doing anything else. Recently and building up since the seventies I am fortunate to get attention, before that I was not really a burgeoning artist. I was participating in the art world by exhibiting and producing. What is art...something that is on the edge. The wonder of art is that it is symbolic you can act out or say things, that could not be achieved on a one to one daily basis. Art has to do with the school* the group you associate with, the other challenge is the art world. Leon Golub interjects at this point with a comment: We Nancy and I were restless, both of us figurative painters which was still acknowledged in Paris.......allot that was going on in the art world  did not get into the media here! Except minimalism  it was an illusion of power......what would life be like without art! We (Nancy and Leon) were in Chicago the "second city" we were the rebels resistant to the abstract expressionism which was the New York school, De Kooning, Pollack, Franz Kline the New York hierarchy.

JB   What is the other to you? with your views of not being recognized in the earlier days, did you feel like the other?

Fig 2 The WAR Series - Nancy Spero
NS   Not in the gender sense. In the art scene being the other is the artist if I am interested in the extreme, the edge, that my mind set is not working in the norm. I feel different - the artists lifestyle, the stigma of being understood and misunderstood at the same time. Yes you could say as a woman artist but I did not realize as early as you. During the revolution(the women's movement) of the late sixties I realized within this analysis of power that we(women) were subservient to male revolutionaries  so came W.A.R women artists revolution.(Fig 2)

JB   Considering the war series its subject matter and imagery are you trying to rewrite women's history-herstory therefore guaranteeing your own place is history?

NS   In a way as you mention in the war series(Fig 2). I used an image of a tongue(Fig 1) sticking out, represented me being angry with the world. It is a phallic tongue. I used Artaud as a vehicle for my message because he had been silenced by the bourgeois society. I felt lost as an artist in my society. I had seen nothing like the mental torture and the physical anguish of Artaud, his pleas to be listened to, moved me very much. I felt it clever and funny my responding to him......he would have hated me doing this. As artists we use things as stepping stones to get our message across. I decided what I wanted to focus on was the status of women, a hot subject, very controversial but not an excepted topic. The everyday occurrences in the lives of women keeps me very interested. I would not like to be brushed aside! I am talking for myself but I want to get into the public domain where it can be understood rather than a personal biography.
Fig 3 The first language - Nancy Spero 

Fig 4 The first language - Nancy Spero

JB   A Lot of articles discuss your turn towards Artuad is because of his "hysterical" voice - the Greek word hysteria means uterus and has been used to connect a woman's sexuality with madness  Do you think this is true, is your voice one of hysteria?

NS   No. I relate it to being silenced, being on the edge in a selfish society where no one is (was) generous to a living artist. I relate it to language using the image of the tongue sticking it out at the world bringing my personal outside where it can be understood. I was concerned with this going back as far as 1962 with the great mother piece, which deals with the birth of language.(Fig 3, Fig 4)

JB   I like that you are illuminating women's language in your art. Should art represent gender? Some female artists are always fighting the male view that dominant in sectors of the art world. Should your art be used to point this out?

NS   Yes, they should listen! We have spent our time in art history in the media looking at male art. It is time they look at our artwork and listen to our voice., be forced to look The reins of power have been very carefully under control by the masculine so there is a fear of appearing too feminized, its less valuable. This control is by the macho artists like Al Held, Jackson Pollack  Franz Kline.......but there are the sensitive Artaud. The ancient birth in the woman series deals with this, it is very symbolic of a different kind of power that is language. It shows this birth of language and if it is cut off that is then like a death, like the myth of the young woman who witnesses a man murder her own sister he then cuts off her tongue so she can not tell on him. The woman series is about the polarity of opposites, of ourselves in control of our bodies, moving in the world rather than being the victim  After Artaud and the woman series it changed to the actual being in control rather than anger. the shift was from internal psyche-to investigations (black paintings) becoming externalized with the sense of reality having a voice. Finding a voice with which to say there are possibilities. There are two stages of victimage:
1.   The voice of Artaud which is realistic but internalized and needs to find a way to get across.
2.   The voice that is external becoming powerful more male.

JB   With some of the images of women in your work, are you expecting them to live up to the traditional images of warrior-male, like "Running Totem Woman"?

Athena - Nancy Spero
NS   This is complex, the images are more complex than that. The sexes change. I have taken images of men and changed it into women. Sometimes women are very masculine looking. the images of the past are of men making men look more powerful. I have felt free to show women as powerful even what we would consider masculine looking. The image of Athena with her helmet, spear and shield  The goddess of wisdom and menura. I used everything from fashion model to old scrubbing lady. I have reasons some come out and some are arbitrary.

JB   In an article from Art Week Nov 26 1988 Andrea Liss writes about your "Celebration of the body as it's central archetypal icon is clearly at odds with such feminist practices of representation as those carried out by such artists as Barbra Kruger and M. Kelly for example in which they refuse to picture the female body or allow and condone a position of male spectator-ship for the viewer/voyeur....would you like to comment on this?

NS  They do not condone my artwork. I can not say at all if my artwork is detrimental to women. Their(feminist group of eighties) tactics are to treat the subject of women as elliptical. That group of the early eighties are more gung-ho seeing the image of women as object all the time throughout art history for the delight of men, that they disapprove of my imagery of women. Their attitude is very different being one of theory with art practice, mine is theory to a point but I do not want to illustrate it! It is correct that use of female imagery would allow this spectator ship  but the male spectator would get caught up short and realize that this is woman as activator, that my work is not averting the male gaze but running past oblivious or defiant-independent.

JB  Are you ready for another quote from the same article by Andrea Liss?
"Attempts within Spero's projects to unify womankind into one harmonious kinship also reduces the important historical , ethnic and economic differences among women....can you comment on this?

NS   I am trying to achieve the opposite as a matter of fact. I want surprises! Tensions! Shocks! Shocks of recognition, that these images are out of context, you have to take a second look to see what is there.

JB   In some of your work, the body is placed on the canvas, a way that  leaves allot of space around it. Can you talk about the body and the importance if any to that space you give it?

NS   I was interested in putting these images into space, this started with Artaud being isolated in his pain, in his otherness, a sense of disconnection from society. this format was more technical while the ideas are more of utopia in a way woman as antagonist to move freely in space. I do like to think of my artwork as a continuum, open-ended.

JB   I feel that some of your images are like butterflies that rise above the official discourse to be heard and taken seriously, can you comment on this idea and on the process of creating this work?

NS   In Spain I did an installation on the fourth floor of an old baroque building. I used soft plates to press images on the hard surface of the walls. These images found themselves in unexpected places right out onto the terrace. That was a beautiful ruin which appealed to a romantic side of me. One of the images which was both humorous and sinister floated on the wall like she had wings and I thought of her as a butterfly, but not just beautiful because she was sinister as well.

JB   Why did you become an artist?

Leon Golub 
NS   I was encouraged by teachers in grammar school, not by my parents.
Leon Golub  shouts across the room "There is no other area we could go into!" they laugh.
NS   I had a certain need to become an artist its intangible. In the beginning it did not seem desirable, but I was pulled in, drawn in by the visual. Its a hands on thing using the mind, its the challenge of the blank page, the blank canvas, whatever, its like a mania, a Frankenstein,  we all create monsters!
Leon Golub   (pointing to his side of the studio and then to Nancy's side) "On one side you have corruption and evil while on the other you have purity and decency"

JB   Can you comment on the art world today?

NS   Its just a can of worms.

JB   What do you think people are thinking of you and your artwork these days? That is if you care?

NS   I think they have changed their minds! Fortunately they are looking. They think I'm aggressive on some never really know, you just get an inclination of which way the wind is blowing. appreciation but still a certain amount of resistance.......that is pretty neat. I sell my work but not enough for the amount of press I get. I can see the resistance but people have put up a few bucks.
An artist can spend many years underground (no recognition) and when they surface, they will be questioned: where have you been all these years? Because of this there is a lot of bitterness and few rewards.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Inspired by the artist Louise Bourgeois to put down my paint brushes and create an installation

Mulling over the idea of creating an installation

I want to share the artist Louise Bourgeois with you, her work is influencing a work I am focusing on at present. Although this Artist has always had an impact on my work in general, it has only been through the early stages of MULL that I have rediscovered the artists work and this work has directed me to: finally finding a solution for choosing the right medium/materials and media to create my next piece of art work. Below is a link to a media release by the Guggenheim museum in New York titled:


As I mentioned earlier I am in the process of reviewing Louise Bourgeois for MULL, and during this process of revisiting the work of this artist I have decided on a creative solution/choice in order to put a physical dimension to an idea I have had for a few years. To date I could not start creating any art for this idea as the medium I have relied on (painting) is not the right choice for this project. So I have now decided to put down my paint brushes and focus on creating an installation. I really connect with Louise Bourgeois work and I am planning to create my installation using her work, in particular "The Cells" as a starting point for my installation. In a media release by Lauren Van Natten, The Guggenheim New York, she states:

The cell (Eyes and Mirrors) is one of a series of installations which Bourgeois began making in 1989. The Cells are typically constructed from a mixture of such salvaged architectural materials as old doors, windows and wire mesh combined with found objects and sculptural fragments. As a result of their elemental materials, simple form and large scale, the eyes convey a sense of monumental force, both inviting and repelling the viewer’s gaze.

Cell-Louise Bourgeois
I want to process my ideas and gather my sketches, thoughts which I have been "mulling over" for some time now and then combine these ideas with a number of choices for the media/materials required to create this installation.
The installation, will be multi-sensory, it will have a strong physical presence, becoming a work that engulfs'/cannibalises the viewer, they(the viewer) will literally enter the artwork and become part of the artwork. . I have been finding additional creative solutions from my fellow MA-participants. David Phelan's work has helped me to address adding a dimension to the installation that is required, The installation will need to have a video and sound dimension and when I had the opportunity to view some of Davids work I found another creative solution.
Still from "The Artist is Present"
I am looking forward to working with Aine and Jean on MULL, and the required analysis is a great opportunity to evaluate this work and be influenced by their (Aine and Jean)work and by the artists they recommend Aine introduced me to the artist Marina Abramovic, in particular a Film titled "The Artist is Present" This Film discusses and documents Abramovic's work. In ways she is similar to Louise Bourgeois, exorcising demons fears and pain, but she has chosen to use her physical body as her media rather than using a representation of her body.

I have been toying with the idea of creating a work in which the viewer becomes part of it, the viewer can enter it, exist in it, becoming a "live material" if you will. Similar to Abramovic using her body as a medium. Abramovic also touched on the idea of having the audience become part of her performance piece at a performance in MoMA,

Its interesting the process of how artists arrive upon creating their work or a body of work, initially it can be a very daunting exercise. The blank canvas is very intimidating an empty space can taunt. Once I come up with an approach to give a creative and a physical life to my ideas, it becomes a kind of full steam ahead. This seems to be one of the ways I know that I am in the right direction as I have started the creative dialogue The first words are spoken and the piece I am working on communicates to me if you will. The work itself becomes a creator and begins to communicate with the artist. When the finished work resides in a public space the viewer has a dialogue also, it is this interaction that I am very interested to focus on when I show the installation.

I will continue to put together my sketches, ideas etc for this installation and post it on my blog in order to get your thoughts.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Students work and the importance of the materials they use

This is an illustration by one of my students she is 11 years old. I have noticed that, since the children have been using charcoal, pastels,( basically all Artist professional materials) their work has improved so much(the children are 4 years up to 12 and they have never worked with these materials before). The children love working with these supplies, using their fingers to blend pastels and charcoal, they have opened an amount of new techniques available to them when they are creating art, and the new materials combined with instruction are responsible for this new creativity and skill level. The children are especially happy with being able and confident to realize their ideas on paper, they are happy with the work they are creating. This goes back to something that I am extremely interested in: the process of creating art, the materials used and rendering ideas from the mind on to paper, canvas etc......................................has anyone had a similar experience in that the tools the children use can have a massive and positive influence on the children, especially unlocking the images in their minds and putting them down on paper, the work on paper is as good as their images in the mind. I know it probably is an obvious thing to most of you better materials equals better work, but this is more than that, the materials have control of the outcome of the children's work, so much so that they are craving the use of these material all of them have asked their parents to get the new supplies, especially charcoal and pastels for Christmas! The children go to a rural primary school with about 200 or less kids in the school, they never get an opportunity to work with these materials in school nor do they get a small introduction to art history or the masters. I believe that the primary school curriculum should include art as a subject rather than a pastime. Do you agree? What about the larger schools closer to the capital and in larger cities around Ireland, do these schools have a better art program for primary school children? 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Creating again

How I create and developing my Artwork

Work in progress 2012
Entry Nov 16th 2012

I have been feeling so inspired by the participants of the MA course I am taking at LIT: MA in Art and Design Education. All of you have amazing talents and ideas on art! The above work which is a work in progress.  I have to say: I am really enjoying working on this painting. I feel that I am part of a larger piece of art work, which is all of us creating work individually, but at the same time our work is inspired etc by each other, by the group, we are a collective artist----gelling.  On a certain level I feel this work belongs to all of us, give me your comments, what direction would you take from this point, as the above is a sketch. I would really like to continue painting with your input and influence!!

Entry Dec 14th 2012

The finished work Dec 14th 2012

As I have mentioned earlier I was influenced by the MA group and course to start creating work on a regular basis. When I first started the above painting I was really excited about it and the direction I thought it would go. That feeling changed half way through the work! This painting is a "perfect"example of art that I create because of a need that I have, which is to please other people and avoid criticism. I make assumptions on what is an acceptable type of art for the masses. At times these"influences" have a powerful impact on my work. It is an ongoing dilemma that I have which is: the decision to create work that I want to, work that I don't apply my own set of censorship guidelines to, (an example of this type of artwork is the installation I am currently developing) VERSUS do I create work that I think is acceptable based on my upbringing, based on not shocking 
people, not making people uncomfortable work that produces "lovely pictures"

Entry Feb 14th 2013

An interesting thing happened to me as I was focusing on the artist Louise Bourgeois for the MA in Art and Design Education course at LIT (project titled "Mull")
While I was reviewing her work I remembered why I became an artist, I felt a new confidence and began to believe I could work on an installation piece that I have been mulling over for a number of years. The reasons I did not actively pursue working on this installation are many, one in particular is this need to please and I realised that this need was influencing what I was creating. I am now feeling free to now cultivate my own creative thoughts and resulting artwork. The MA art and design in education that I am currently participating in has also had a massive impact on my moving forward with the creation of the installation. I have found a community of artists that I feel nurtures, motivated and protects me. I am creating this installation as if these artists are my audience, but not to please them, just to share my work.....

I do not plan to create work that will always shock people, it is the subject matter that I am interested in that can be uncomfortable. I am interested in giving the victim a voice in my work, I am interested in having the viewer experience what it is like to be the victim and the oppressor. I am shifting towards creating an experience for the viewer rather than a visual experience. I feel that a full sensory experience is the only way that I can communicate or say what I need to in my work. I want the viewer to be part of the creative process. I want the viewer to have a responsibility, to take ownership of the ideas and the statements I am expressing. I do not want a passive viewer. I want to create an experience.

When I create an Installation there are three stages:

1. The physical stage of the work. The process of creating the work, the exorcising of ideas, demons, giving a voice to the victim to the other. "To meaning and shape to frustration and suffering" - Louise Bourgeois. The materials selected and the forms that will take shape, I have been reading so many interviews of Artists who are influencing my own work at present. "shapes that will provide the viewer with premeditated experiences in order to invoke feelings similar to the victim or oppressor. "When does the physical become the emotional its a circle going around and around" Louise Bourgeois 

2. This is the emotional stage of the work. The Installation is displayed in a public space where the viewer can interact with it or become part of the installation and experience it. The experiences are premeditated  I have a specific set of experiences I want the viewer to have. I want to go further than Louise Bourgeois when she created her Cells, Ann Hamilton is another artist who’s work inspires me to "art"iculate what I am trying to achieve in terms of creating an Installation, I am intrigued by the materials used and relied on to create an environment that stimulates all the senses  auditory, visual, touch and smell. I want to expose the viewer to a world where secrets are exposed. I want the viewer to enter a world "the installation" where their own body becomes part of the Installation and their experience is relying on so many senses, their response will be emotional. The key word is "experience" I want the viewer not just "looking" I want to get a particular emotion after they have had an experience, so to speak. The installation will be in control and will be designed to purposely ignite specific emotions the experiences which will be premeditated. "The viewer would be swept into an awareness beyond that of the normal viewer, intriguing the whole body. I want to bring to the surface the questions we should be asking"  Ann Hamilton.

Katy Kline, the director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Maine, who chose Ann Hamilton for the 1999 Venice Biennale, says of Hamilton, "She invites the viewer into a set of visible and auditory conditions where their entire bodily experience is activated. They are swept into a state of awareness beyond that of the normal viewer. She tries to intrigue the whole body.The second stage is the active stage in this process. The work will take the shape of cubed spaces. The viewer will enter these cube like spaces that will have different materials, that take different forms that the viewer will feel as they pass through these cubes. While some of the viewers are passing through the installation there will be a viewing/voyeur area which allows other viewers to watch the reactions of people as they encounter and navigate their way through the installation.

3. This is the validation of the work. Validating and applying value to the experience. The final stage of the installation is to take the 3D shape and return it to a 2D shape, this is done by opening the installation piece just like opening a box and flattening it ou. Once the installation is "opened" it will then hang on a wall to expose the internal of the work, just like a traditional piece of artwork. The viewer can now look at and review the place that they were part of, now it is an image of their experience, they can reflect and see the innards of the thing.

Below are some photos of my journal, these are rough drawings and notes on installation.