Born of Samhain

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According to UNESCO, the term “cultural heritage” is not limited to monuments and collections of objects. It also includes living expressions of culture—traditions—passed down from generation to generation. Hallowe’en is a perfect example of this.

There is something magical and mysterious about Hallowe’en. The dressing up, the decorations, the bonfires, the fireworks, the peculiar traditions, the lack of formality. It is our most anarchic and pagan time of year. It is one of the few times that a person can knock on the front door of a stranger’s home and be welcomed in a ritualistic way.

All Hallows Eve, 31 October, is the time in the Christian calendar when the dead are remembered, including saints (hallows) and martyrs. Hallowe’en goes back to the time of the Druids and the ancient Celtic harvest festival Samhain (pronounced sow-in) which was the beginning of the Celtic new year on 1 November. Oíche Shamhna, Night of Samhain, is the Gaelic word for the Christian festival of Hallowe’en. It celebrates the harvest, paticularly fruits and orchards.

Most years we buy sweets and fruit for the local witches, vampires and odd monsters that knock on our door. “Trick or treat” or “Help the Hallowe’en Party” are the usual excited cries.

The Plague Doctor – Ink on Paper

This year Hallowe’en felt darker than normal. No tiny monsters would be knocking on our door. As a response to the invisible menace of Covid-19 we created a tableau in front of our house. A macabre vision from the days of the Black Death, the Plague Doctor stands with his burning herbs to ward away malignant spirits. The Druid Monk with his burning eyes evokes Hallowe’en’s religious and pagan past. Behind him the Bloody Hand of Death scuttles about. This entry was also posted in the Firhouse Zibaldone

The Art of Gardening, Gardening as Art, Gardening as a Revolutionary Action.

I’m an artist. Gardening is my graffiti. I grow my art. I use the garden soil like it’s a piece of cloth, and the plants and the trees, that’s my embellishment for that cloth. You’d be surprised what the soil can do if you let it be your canvas. – Ron Finley the Gangsta Gardener

Ron Finley also known as the LA gangsta gardener didn’t have a garden of his own and was sick of living in what he describes as a food desert.
He decided to plant some vegetables on the verge in front of his house. They started to grow and everything was going well until the city authorities knocked on his door and said you can’t do this and threatened him with fines and even jail time if he persisted.
He persisted and he fought back and got a neighbourhood petition together and got the law changed so that people can now grow their own food on municipal verges. It has transformed the area where he lives from a concrete jungle to an urban oasis. Finely says Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do … There are so many metaphors in that garden – we’re cultivating ourselves, we’re learning how to take care of things, we’re learning that nothing is instantaneous.

Photograph: Courtesy of The Ron Finley Project

We find this idea inspiring. So we’ve been getting a little hooked on gardening lately. We are also looking around us at the suburban environment in which we live wondering what we can do to extend our gardening into the wider community.

Our first foray out into the wider community has been through our own front garden. Along with some local kids we have planted a number of vegetables such as courgettes and tomatoes and peas and have shared some of the produce with our neighbours. We have also planted a fig tree and a pear tree in the front, this is an investment in the future and one which we hope we will be able to share with our neigbours. We have also planted a pumpkin patch on the grass verge between the footpath and the main road. This grass verge is owned by the council along with the street lamps and so on, but why not plant things there?

Pumplin patch on grass verge
Our first act of Guerilla gardening; planting a pumpkin patch on the council owned grass verge between our house and the public road on our estate

We happen to live in a typical Dublin suburb and there are lots of similiar housing estates with hundreds ( thousands and thousands if you include every suburb in the country) of these patches of council owned grass verges, wouldn’t it be lovely if they were all growing a mix of pollinator friendly flowers and vegetables and fruit trees that everyone could share.
There are so many benefits to growing your own, here are just a few:

  1. Being able to grow and eat your own free or cheaper renewable food sources on however small a scale is empowering.
  2. It helps create biodiversity especialy when we grow organic and plant native plants and crop varieties, this helps insects and pollinators that depend on plants and all the other organisms that make up the web of life including ourselves.
  3. It creates less dependency on future uncertain external food supply chains. It was not too long ago when most countries were pretty much self sufficient. In World War II people created Victory Gardens in their back yards to help with the war effort. Britain grew 40% of the nations vegetables in this way. We can do this again all over the world. Plus the more you grow the less money you need to spend, it makes you richer.
  4. Globalisation and mono cultural farming practices are working in the short term but are ultimately unsustainable and definitely not renewable because they work against nature and through tillage (the turning over of the soil in a field) pesticides and chemical fertilisers it is destroying the living bio-organisms in the soil which then release their stored CO2 into the atmosphere. Farming and gardening that allows for biodiversity creates nutrient rich, living soil that can act as a carbon sink, literally sucking out the excess CO2 from the atmosphere through plants and trees. Check out the excellent documentary Kiss the Ground narrated by Woody Harrleson on Netflix, it’s very informative and inspiring or visit the https://kisstheground.com for more information on how gardening and farming can reverse climate change within 30 years and transform the planet for the better for all it’s inhabitants.
  5. Gardening is a creative and defiant act. Growing things is a no brainer when it comes to benefiting our mental health and it is good for us spiritually.

We look forward to the Spring of 2021 when we intend to do some more gangsta gardening and sub/urban guerilla plantings.

Extra, Extra : Joseph Beuys was a Gangsta Gardener

Joseph Beuys was a founding member of the German Green Party and believed that artists could and should seek to effect society and the environment for the better.
His idea to plant 7000 oak trees in Kassel, Germany, was his biggest and to me most inspirational art project. It is still ongoing long after his death and certainly will be long after ours. It’s worth checking out the video here to gain further insight into his urban renewal, and social art work that involved a whole community in it’s conception and ultimate realisation

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Drawing on the City

Grand Canal Basin

Grand Canal Basin

I grew up in an older Dublin which is now fast disappearing and being replaced with block after block of glass, steel and concrete. Some parts of the new city are better than others, like the newly build Brew Dog building at the end of the quays near the Dublin Docklands and Grand Canal Basin.

 

 

Grand Canal Basin

Grand Canal Basin

Brew Dog Brewery Pub

Interior of Brewdog and the View across the river Liffey to the new Central Bank building

 

 

 

Drawing on Ulysses and the city for inspiration

These sketchbook mixed media drawings are quite textured and gritty.  They depict a rather shabbier older Dublin, full of faded grandeur and character, a Joycean Dublin.
I grew up in this older city which is now fast disappearing and being replaced with block after block of souless glass, steel and concrete monstrosities. It makes me mad and sad at the same time.

 

 

Some watercolour painting and drawing from the Inisheer Féile na gCloch drawing workshop 2019

It was nice to be invited back to host the drawing on location sketch outs again this year. We were lucky with the weather staying dry for the most part. I did fall off my bike and sprain my wrist which wasn’t so nice, luckily for me it was the left wrist rather than my drawing hand.

 

Boat on Inisheer

Boat on Inisheer

Boat on Inisheer 2

Boat on Inisheer 2

Aran Landscape

Aran Landscape

Oh Fence De Fense – A response…

OhFenceDeFence

Oh Fence De Fence

Oh Fence De Fence was a direct response to the Finnegans Woke exhibition in Rua Red in Tallaght, that came out of several conversations between Dirk Hudson and James Moore.

Oh Fence De Fence refers to the duality of fences; particularly in a geo political context. Depending on your viewpoint a fence can be a defensive or offensive structure.

The fence is also a metaphor for the barriers erected in our minds that prevent us taking action, seeing the world in a different way, empathising with others, taking sides or sitting on the fence.

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Franko B – Spare some change please

15th – 17th November 2017

Exhibit1Eleven artists spent a physically and mentally intense but rewarding three days at a series of workshops with performance artist Franko B at Rua Red in Tallaght, Co. Dublin. Part of the programme was to create a performance piece in a defined area of approximately 1 square yard. Over a two hour period I sat cross legged in a hoodie pretending to be homeless. As people passed by I asked them for money. I was successful in my deception and managed to collect €10.80. This exact same amount then went towards a homeless charity via an online credit card transaction.