Month: March, 2015

The Idea of Islands

Donald Teskey RHA, Small hours, 2009

Donald Teskey RHA, Small hours, 2009, Charcoal on paper, 76 x 105 cm, Image courtesy of the artist and the Rubicon Gallery, Dublin.

I greatly admire the work of Donald Teskey who made a series of powerfully atmospheric drawings while in residence in Cill Rialaig some years ago, which together with a collection of poems by Sue Hubbard have been published in a book entitled The Idea of Islands. Responding to her experiences of Cill Rialaig, Sue Hubbard explores in her poems both the dark and the light within human experience. She evokes the perceived and the actual world through careful attention to the detail of things be it nature, the incidental or the everyday and attempts to give voice to our deepest emotions and our sense of inchoate spiritual longing. Her subjects are those of love, loss and memory. Donald Teskey’s large-scale drawings are no landscape idylls. His parallel body of work, complementary to the poems, vividly evoke a powerful sense of that remote and harshly beautiful place, confronting us with the raw forces of nature at the inhospitable edge of the world.

I am reminded of my time in this beautiful rural place and the hugely beneficial experience i had working at Cill Rialaig. I met many wonderful artists, some of whom introduced me to Sherkin Island, where i am fortunate to be living now, and exploring the world of Visual Arts.

Extract from Ballinskelligs by Sue Hubbard

They come to me in dreams
Scariff and Deenish, rising like those islands
floating in a veil of mist in Japanese prints,

their peaks in a halo of cloud.
Early morning the sun casts
rings of bright water, stepping stones of light

out to the distant shore. Midnight
and the islands are sleeping, turned in
on their own emptiness as if remembering

those ghostly lives gleaned on the barren cliffs
stinking of sea birds and herring,
the air thick with turf smoke and old rain.


Birds On The Wall


Making paper birds and playing with shadow..


A stove lit one half-daft night,

Birds hanging on threads in suspended flight,

Shadows cast in an ambient light

on the wall

i join them,

my hands

playing ,


dancing ,







The Man From Cape Clear

Conchúr Ó Síocháin (with the kind permission of the National
                  Folklore Collection, UCD)

Conchúr Ó Síocháin

(with the kind permission of the National Folklore Collection, UCD)

Ceo, Ceol agus Seoltóireacht – Trí Pairteanna den Draíocht.

Fog, Music and Sailing – Three Portions of Magic.

                                                                      – A Cape Clear Proverb

This dear storyteller from Cape Clear was born in 1866. I am inspired reading about his life and the ways and old traditions of when he was alive. Here is the beginning of Chapter 15:

The new quay. The Story of the grey water.

Thirty-five years ago there was no harbour in Cape Clear where they could keep their boats in the winter; and in all earnest the value of the boats, nets, and every sort of fishing gear owned by the people of the Island was considerable. They had to keep their boats in safe harbours on the mainland to protect them, and everyone realises that that didn’t suit them but that they would rather have them in their own harbour at home where they could best keep an eye on them.

At that time, naturally, all the Irish Boards-as well as everything else-were under English control and direction. Day after day and from year to year, efforts were being made to do something about a harbour that would convenience the fishermen and enable them to protect their property in their own Island. For a long time, however, a deaf ear was being turned to them.

At length Timothy Sheehy, a good man from Skibbereen, who was troubled by the complaints of the people of the Island, went over to England for the express purpose of doing something about the matter. He was promised a substantial grant of money for the building of a safe harbour in Trakieran. Shortly afterwards a man came from the Board of Works in Dublin to examine and survey the site in order that he might give his opinion of what was to be done and how best to use the money.

After he had gone back the work started, and it lasted three years without a break from the day it began until it was finished. The job was completed most satisfactorily: inside the quays a dock was constructed so that, when the boom-gate was closed, a cable from a boat was no better than a little thread of wool for mooring her-however stormy the weather.

The year the work began almost all those engaged in it were strangers from outside the Island; the men of the Island wouldn’t give up the fishing for any other job for it was of that they had the greatest experience. But that year the fishing season was a failure: after clearing their expenses they had very little left. When Christmas was past a lot of the fishermen went to work on the dock for the strangers left their jobs: it was so expensive for them on the small wages that they had nothing left over after their time, and so they went home.

I myself stayed working there the whole time until the beginning of the following spring. But when the potatoes were set that meant the start of the fishing season.

One morning after my breakfast a boy came in the door to me and said: “My father sent me to call on you to go fishing because they are short a man.”

I pondered on the matter a while before i gave him my answer for, to tell the truth, I intended to go working on the dock again.

“By the Lord Himself,” I replied, “I won’t refuse you; I’ll go along with ye.”

When I got as far as the quay I met the boss: “You are up to something,” he said when he saw my makeshift bed on my shoulders.

“Do you know what you’ll do now,” he continued; don’t bother about your fishing but come back to work here and I’ll give you six shillings a day from this until the work is finished.” I suppose he was tempting me to be greedy for that was double pay.

“I won’t,” I said; “whatever I would get from you I won’t stay on the job, for a man must keep his word, and since I promised this particular man that I’d go fishing with him I won’t go back on my word and make a lie of it”.

It has ever been said that what a person thinks the worst thing in the world turns out to be something to his profit. We left the harbour the same evening and fished for that night; we got a fair catch of fish and so went to the fish-market in Baltimore on the following day. We anchored in the harbour and the captain said: “Put the tackle in the punt, lads, and launch her so that I can go ashore in search of some small things I need.”

The cook and he pulled for the shore. A short while after we noticed the boat connected with the work in Cape Clear passing by us with six men at the oars in her and a man at the helm. We didn’t pay any special attention to her for the same boat used often be ferrying between Cape and Baltimore.

When our captain returned he said: “Conchúr, do you know what?” “I don’t then,” I answered.

“Well,” said he, “you were the fortunate man that you didn’t go to work on the job that time yesterday.”

“Why so?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “they were shifting a load yesterday evening with that crane on the new quay and the stays gave way so that it toppled over the quay-side carrying the men working nearby. Nothing happened to anyone except only to the engineer; he has a big gash in his head. Bringing him to the doctor they were that time.”

“It has ever been said,” I remarked , “that accidents are always possible, if only one could avoid them.”

‘Asylum of the Birds’

This is a great interview with Roger Ballen, a photographer who has spent most of his life in South Africa.

Vogue Trivia

“I’m fascinated with birds. They link the heavens to the earth.”

“I see my photographs as mirrors; reflectors that challenge the mind.”

“If it challenges Roger Ballen, then it’s an inspiration”

“A momentary sense of reality”

“In my 40s and 50s i focused on asking questions and trying to answer those questions through my photography. I’m 64 now and try to take my pictures with a silent mind. I don’t think about the photograph when i’ m taking it”.

“Core instincts…beyond mood.”

“…part of a life process…”

“…make pictures that i find exciting to myself.”

“Black and white is an abstract way of viewing.”

“…obsessed with composition. A square is perfectly balanced.”

“…logic – narrative…dreams…a story going on.”

“…meaning of life is ‘life’…”

“It is what it is.”

“A good picture gets into your mind.”

“A picture has to ‘feel alive'”

“Pictures don’t need music. The music is in the silence.”

“The light comes from the dark.”

I was fortunate to have made it to “Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Absurd” at the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm last year.

School room, 2003

Child under chest drawer, 2000

A Sailing Boat of Mystery


Made a little boat of paper, some clay, a piece of reed and some thread.. put it in a sheltered puddle of water at Silver Strand and watched it move on the water, dreaming of sailing away to sea



” My little boat of mystery

On the water we will be

Sailing swiftly on the sea”




Little sailing boat of mystery

Trapped Bird


‘Tied Down’ – a small paper bird is hanging on a thread and when flipped upside down it looks as though it is tethered to the rocks and trying to fly away


In the Museum of Miniatures i put a tiny paper bird on a thread and hung it in an oyster shell. When i put it outside and filmed it fluttering in the wind i thought of a bird being ‘trapped’ and how many birds live their lives in cages.


I would also consider this a metaphor for feeling trapped and helpless.

May all beings be happy, wild and free.


Life Drawing

Great tips from Ian Humphreys at his Life Drawing Class in the West Cork Arts Centre. We focused mainly on proportion and learning to really look at the model

First drawing 15 mins

First drawing 15 mins

Final Drawing

Final drawing 30 mins