REMAINS: Drawings from the Sheeffry Pass
Over many years I have returned to the west of Ireland, drawing on aspects of the landscape – places simultaneously indomitable, immediate and remote. Places, yielding, in their seeming-barren rock faces, geological evidence of their own continuing formation; and that in the prevailing North Atlantic climate, the weathering of rock, earth, plants, creates ecosystems of exotic beauty.
Inspired by cartographer and writer Tim Robinson’s description of these places, their mountains and geological forms, I see in his words a continued recognition of the land as an entity in constant making and remaking, as well as being subject to human experience.
Pillars of Eternity, at first glance, majestic features of the landscape…but to the eyes of geology, they are provisional arrangements or overhasty conclusions soon to be undone by tremendous reconsiderations, while according to fireside tales they are the Devil’s work.
From Last Pool of Darkness, Tim Robinson, 2008
I was searching for a way to layer social history and the experience of personally felt loss. These places are, also, the backdrop to colonization of land and minds; a land harboring memories of famine, and of social injustices wielded by colonizers and, more recently, by our own kind.
Hearing, in 2017, of the tragedy of the newly found remains of nearly 800 children at a mother and child home within this region, provided the impetus to combine the chorus of Yeats’ poem the Stolen Child with the landscape drawings. By combining this text with the landscapes, it is my desire to nudge a connection between our glorification of the landscape, and its identity as a place where the greatest of tragedies can occur, by our own hands, both to ourselves and to the land.
Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild, With a fairie, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
From The Stolen Child, William Butler Yeats, 1882
Yeats, in his poem the Stolen Child, immerses us in mythology and romanticism that portrays a land filled with occult forces capable of tragic yet intended compassionate outcome. A child is lured away, stolen, by mythological entities, to a better place. In recent Ireland, in areas with similar beauty as their backdrop, the myth of respectability excused the removal, bordering on stealing, of children of unwed-mothers from their families by authorities also associated with prescribed supernatural forces – though of a different heritage, to ‘better’ homes.
In the making of the drawings, the primacy of charcoal as medium, tracing, abstraction and description by graphic mark- its layering, weaving, obliterating, burying, equates to response after response, cry after cry, voice over voice, mark over mark, evidence after evidence; equates with a geology of accretion and subjugation, and its remains as both witness and evidence.