Every year I go to Ireland for several weeks. They have an elastic concept of time there. The country seems to be in another time period than my country. Someone I met said the following about that: one hour in Ireland can take an hour, but can also last a whole day. And he added: throw your logic out of the window. This other sense of time and logic is strange to me. The completely normal position of the supernatural in everyday life is an incomprehensible thing for me.
These are the things that make me visit Ireland again and again because I do not understand them.
You could state that the omnipresent supernatural is generated by the empty and wild landscapes and the everchanging light. The effect is sultry and dramatic. This causes things to appear strange. Or is the supernatural strengthened due to the narrative culture, for example , by telling stories in the pub? I notice it myself when I am in Ireland, stories that I have heard, sometimes horrific and bizarre in nature, come to my mind.
I asked myself whether I could do something with the inspiration Ireland gives me. The foundation “An Ceardlann na gCnoc”( abbreviated An Clo) offered me the opportunity to stay and work for several weeks in the residence in a very lonely place at the edge of western Europe.
The art center An Clo is a cultural oasis in an almost cultural-free environment. It lies in a remote area of Ireland in County Donegal overlooking Mount Errigal, which is an iconic landmark in the surrounding area . The workshop of An Clo where I could work is located in a large white building
with tinted windows. You can practice several forms of graphic art, make music recordings or work with computers . There are many courses and sometimes there is an African film festival and there are exhibitions of prints.
What was I planning to do at An Clo? For two years I have been making a daily drawing in an Moleskine sketchbook. The rhytm of the day, what has happened to me and in what kind of mood I am, can be read directly from these drawings. Crazy ideas and fantasies find their way to these drawings. I take the pencil in my hand without goal and let myself get carried away with it.. In that a conscious plan; it is very direct and more spontaneous than my other art works. I wanted to break the theme of the “daily drawings” away from the sketchbook in which they were made. In the workshop of An Clo I have procuced a series of lithographs based on these drawings.
In the remoteness of An Clo it can take hours before a car passes by. Sometimes the sound of the wind is so strong that it resembles an oncoming car. The sound is apparently mostly in my head. Before I started this stay in the residence I was not sure I could handle the isolation. After the purchase of a bicycle I had the feeling I could go whenever I wanted, it did not matter anymore.
The isolation gave me the feeling that my concentration was very good. Every line that I put on paper or on a lithography stone was correct. Only afterwards I understood what a stay at a residence like An Clo does to you. All the daily obligations are gone and that produces a super concentration.
The process of the “daily drawings” just went on as usual in Ireland. I could use these drawings to make a lithograph. The daily drawing became a daily lithography. I found it surprising to rediscover the lithography technique. It fitted very well with the character of the drawings in my sketchbook. The lines that I printed on paper had a sober and graphic character. The abstract shapes were directly inspired by the rocky and rugged scenery of Errigal.
I was the first Dutch visual artist to stay at An Clo.
The little cottage that contained my room is very old and the building has a new extension. The building was once owned by the grandparents of Cathal O Searcaigh, a very famous Irish poet who writes in Irish. When I met him I
found out that he is also greatly inspired by the Errigal scenery. These are a few lines of a poem by Cathal:
Here at Caiseal na gCorr Station
Here at Caiseal na gCorr Station
I discovered my hidden island,
my refuge, my sanctuary.
Here I find myself in tune
with my fate and environment
The cottage also contains the Living Archive. This is a collection of art books, documents and recordings about Gaelic culture, music and art. In addition to these specific topics there is also a wider variety of art books coming from donations and legacies. The library is not organized according to any fixed system, so it was very exciting what I would encounter.
The art books that I found in the cupboard contributed to the development of the daily lithography.
And if I had closed the books and did not feel like working in the workshop, I went walking on a
stretch of embankment that has been deserted since 1940. This dike is still recognizable as a railway embankment and is ideal for walking. The route starts at Caiseal na gCorr Station and runs through a valley where a few cottages stand that have been empty and deserted for many years now. The poet Cathal O Searcaigh told me that as a child he visited these houses many times. In one of his poems he writes about the sound that an empty house produces when the wind blows through it. The poet compares this house with a musical instrument.
Tory Island is not very far. This is a sparsely populated island with an authentic culture of music and language. The 150 inhabitants of the island speak mainly the Gaelic language. The scenery is beautiful with cliffs that disappear vertically into the Atlantic ocean and with a high windy platform where very rare birds like the corn-crake live.
It is so remote that in winter the inhabitants can become stranded on their island because the sea is too rough for the ferry.
When I arrived on Tory Island by ferry I was greeted by a very neat elderly gentleman. This was Patsy Dan Rodgers, the so-called King of Tory Island. This chosen monarch does anything to highlight his island, which he is very proud of. The greeting of every visitor to the island with a handshake and a chat is a very good example of this.
Some moments later I walked past his house and art gallery. I found a very remarkable collection of paintings. Images of plant and wildlife of the island painted in almost mediterranean colours. His style reminds me a litte bit of The French painter Henri Matisse.
Remarkably authentic and very passionate.
I loved the matter-of-fact way in which he spoke about his art works. His paintings are made with masonry paint, because he cannot afford anything else, which proves that even with the simplest materials beautiful art works can be made.
In Ireland the past is relived in a very special way. I appreciate that very much, but I do not understand it . A very good example of this is a long conversation I had with a guard at the Tower Museum in Londonderry about Dutch and Irish history. He asked from which country I was. When I told him, he started on a very inspired story about William the third, better known as King Billy. This originally Dutch king fought a European war against his father-in-law on Irish territory. This is called the Battle of the Boyne ( 12-7-1690 ). This man spoke about it as if it had happened yesterday. It is an event that still has much influence on daily life in Northern Ireland.
I was planning to visit another art institute. But a bomb was discovered in a car next to the building and the institute was closed. The streets around it where closed because of the danger of explosion. By accident I walked into the area and was guided out by a very friendly constable.
The continuing battle between pro-Irish and pro-English has its origins in the Battle of the Boyne.
There is only one possible conclusion. I have to get back.