Nuala Ní Fhlathúin presents ‘Dathú / Dyeing’ and‘Anam Teanga’
At Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh, Rosmuc, Co. Galway
20 May – 9 June 2017.
A new exhibition by artist Nuala Ní Fhlathúin opened on Saturday 20 May at Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh, the new cultural centre in Rosmuc. Two bodies of work are presented, which were developed in conjunction with Oireachtas na Gaeilge and the 1916 centenary; ‘Anam Teanga’ and ‘Dathú / Dyeing’. The former is a work-in-progress the artist began during a residency in August 2016 at Art Farm in Newbridge, Co Galway. A fluent Irish speaker from Connemara, Ní Fhlathúin sought out Irish speakers in this non Gaeltacht area of North East County Galway where Irish is not openly spoken. Meeting with people from Newbridge, Ballygar and Mountbellew, she was surprised by the number of local people who had fluent Irish. She asked them to bring personal objects related to the Irish language, which she photographed. These books and diaries on the images, bear the marks of time and use and feel as if they have grown an existence of their own. She also recorded conversations in Irish with local speakers that can be heard through headphones in the gallery.
The Irish language and its use in everyday life was an integral part of the vision of those who took part in the Rising, many of whom were writers themselves. Ní Fhlathúin continues to work with the local communities of North East County Galway and aims to use the visual arts to further explore Irish-speaking identities in this former Breac-Ghaeltacht area. The role of language and theatre in the Rising is picked up in the second project, ‘Dathú / Dyeing’, revolving around the legacy of Patrick Pearse. Ní Fhlathúin went to the bilingual school set up by Pearse in 1908, Scoil Naomh Éanna in Rathfarnham, to carry out research on the theatrical plays that were produced there in the years leading up to the Rising. The series of photographs she presents are little stages themselves, setting up figures cut out from documentation of the school plays, model stairs made up of cardboard and pieces of fabrics. The experiments she conducted to extract green dye from nettle leaves are also staged for the photographs. This method was used extensively to dye military uniforms as well as theatre costumes during times of shortage. Green is thus present as a very physical substance as well as its nationalist associations in the images.
The photographs of the two projects are hung from the sloped ceiling of the gallery slightly off the walls. The long and bright space is interrupted by a partition with wicker work that is part of the permanent exhibition. The new cultural center, which was officially opened in November, is situated close to Pearse’s cottage in Rosmuc, between mountain and lake. Its main purpose is as a visitor centre, which occupies the main space to the left of the building. However the potential for an art venue in the gallery space to the right is most welcome in an area in which dedicated art spaces are rare. It is to be hoped the space will acquire a proper programming throughout the year which would cater for a local audience as well as visitors. The exhibition run until the 9th of June.