The Club Bridge in Ennis will provide a unique viewing gallery for art this coming Saturday night during the Ennis Street Festival when local visual artist Shelagh Honan mounts a series of large-scale projections that blend into the the local built and natural environment. Joe Ó Muircheartaigh reports.
SHELAGH Honan’s artist statement gives a window into where she’s coming from with the latest showing of her work.
“The challenge of adapting and developing a work so that it creates a sense of unity between the content and the place that it occupies is of immense importance to me,” she says. “It means that I as an artist can engage with the spirit, history, mood and energy of the site.
“This may or may not be clearly manifest in the work. It might result in a particular emphasis on a piece, the development of a new chapter or video piece that allows the work to go forward.
“My practice is situated between photography, video, sound, sculpture and spatial installation. My work almost always deals with the human presence, whether that is visible or not. I am interested in people and the narrative landscapes that they inhabit,” she adds.
So when she was asked to be part of the Ennis Street Festival, it was always a case of trying to re-adapt her work to be in tune with her latest exhibition space — in this case it was taking the work out of the studio/gallery space and moulding it for the outdoors.
These are two video narratives that were developed for an outdoor setting to be projected onto the gable end of two houses on the banks of the River Fergus in Ennis that can be viewed from the Club Bridge.
“The challenge was to re-adapt an installation that I had made for a solo exhibition in Ennistymon,” she says, “because one of the things about installation work is that what you make for one place doesn’t necessarily work in another place. That’s one of the biggest things. You find that the more you exhibit the more you come to know that what works in one place doesn’t suit in another place,” she adds.
In many ways this journey, from indoors out into the open air, wasn’t very far, with the combination of the Ennis streetscape and the river setting providing a perfect backdrop for the work as the locally based artist explains.
“What is interesting about it is that one of the pieces that I’m going to exhibit was filmed in an old Georgian house up the river bank in Bindon Street,” she says, “and so from its original conception or inception has travelled back again like a tidal journey. It’s moved from one bridge down to the other bridge. From Carroll’s Bridge to the Club Bridge.
“The other piece was filmed along the Atlantic coast and it works very well because it’s a piece that was created on the shore and this in a sense is the river shore. There’s a meeting of places there and it lends itself very well to that,” she adds.
For Ms Honan, this River Fergus rendezvous for art represents familiar territory — even if it’s at a remove of 15 years since the river surrounds provided the inspiration for a series of projections that were part of a ground-breaking millennium project in Ennis.
“The millennium project was something I co-founded with two other artists — Maria Finucane and John Hanrahan — that I still exhibit with to this day,” she reveals. “For that project we projected three video pieces further down the River Fergus — on the other side of the Club Bridge towards Steele’s Rock. It was from the Lifford side of the river to the walls of the old barracks. We installed three light-boxes and with a high quality projector we projected three individual video pieces onto the walls.”
Moving up river, Ms Honan’s contribution to the Ennis Street Festival from the Club Bridge will take place this Saturday night from 11pm to 2am, with the viewers and passing public seeing two short video pieces approximately three minutes in duration that will run in a continuos loop.
“Both pieces work very well because they both depict the same young woman in a red dress,” she says. “It depicts this woman drifting between two different landscapes. One is the internal of the old house on Bindon Street, the other is the shoreline.
“It will be interesting and I think it has a haunting quality to it. When you look to the gable end of the house that one of the pieces will be projected onto, you see this woman climbing a staircase so it almost as if you’re looking through the wall. She could almost belong to the house. The look and feel to the narrative is very similar to the house itself.
“It represents maybe a haunting spectacle and may be that works quite well when I’m not using a big high-powered projector. It makes the image a little more ghostly, as if you were looking at the river and you thought you could see this ghostly spectacle,” she adds.