Thursday, 27 September 2018


Today, I had the pleasure of chatting with our Artist-in-Residence, writer, Maeve Bancroft. Maeve is currently working on her historical fiction novel, A Gift of Stone. This is Maeve’s first time delving into the world of historical fiction and she is admittedly surprised to find herself working within this genre. While discussing  her new project however, it is clear that this is an undertaking that visibly excites her as a writer.

The Famine-time, novel deals with contemporary issues of displacement and migration, themes that are also raised in the Coming Home exhibition. An interesting and unusual aspect of Maeve’s residency is her workshop engagement with our visitors here at West Cork Arts Centre. As part of the Coming Home programme, visitors are invited to write a response to any of the art works in the collection. The nature of this response is varied and is ultimately decided by the individual visitor themself. A response could be a personal account of a visitors experience of the collection, a fictional narrative that a sculpture may inspire or a piece of prose or poetic phrase roused by a particular painting. Maeve’s studio is a curious place at the moment with wonderful fragmented words and phrases swirling around the studio walls. ‘... and there’s Trevelyan with the golden egg!’ reads one, ‘we were shrunken and starved’ reads another. The prose is a particularly pleasing sight as an array of handwriting styles, long and loopy, small and squashed, printed and proud, bring an interesting character to the fragmented responses.

Maeve’s studio is open to the public on Friday and Saturdays. Visitors are welcome to view the writer’s process as it progresses throughout the residency or to participate in a workshop with Maeve to create a piece of writing and a personal response to Coming Home. Casual visitors are invited to write a response and leave it in a box at the centre’s reception. What these wonderful physical, emotional and intellectual responses to the exhibition will become is still an ongoing feature of Maeve’s residency. The writer has spoken of creating a collaborative poem or a large-scale print or poster as a culmination of this energy of engagement created by her residency. I, for one, am certainly interested  in where this process of collaboration and participation takes us.

For more information about Maeve Bancroft and her residency at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre click here

Tuesday, 25 September 2018


Art galleries and museums around the country are greatly indebted to the role of the hard-working invigilators. The invigilator's role is to keep an eye on the art-work and to act as a friendly-face for visitors to approach with queries as varied as 'How long is this exhibition on for?', 'What kind of response is the exhibition getting from visitors?' and 'Where is the toilet?' - all equally important questions, that invigilators can answer to help visitors to navigate a gallery comfortably and feel welcome.

We are lucky here at West Cork Arts Centre to welcome two Italian language students, Giannarita and Teresa. As two art-enthusiasts who have an interest in cultural heritage, Gianna and Teresa act as a warm support within the Coming Home exhibition. The students are here for a month and have helped ably with the invigilation of the artwork during their time here.

Giannarita an invigilator for the Coming Home in front of her favourite painting in the exhibition.

Everyone here at Uillinn is delighted to have the help of the girls in facilitating the Coming Home exhibition. The success of the exhibition is assisted by the many helping hands that support the Coming Home programme.

Teresa another invigilator on the Coming Home team

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Culture Night

The weather has definitely been signaling to us in the last few weeks that we have finally reached the end of what has undoubtedly been a glorious summer - but don't despair as this is also a sign that the annual, nationwide event, Culture Night, is fast approaching. I would recommend that whatever you do, you do not spend Friday the 21st of September indoors. Get out and enjoy the wonderful programme of events that will be happening around the country and county on this evening of free late night entertainment. Public spaces and venues open their doors for a night of celebration of arts, heritage and culture. The event, now in its thirteenth year, has progressed to become an important event in the arts calendar but is also importantly a chance for the curious to engage with cultural venues in a celebratory and welcoming environment.

Here at Uillinn, we are holding an array of events on the night. Our writer-in-residence, Maeve Bancroft will host an open studio on the night. Maeve is working on her historical fiction, novel-in-progress during her stay in West Cork Arts Centre. Period fiction will collide with fantastic fact with the launch of John Devoy's exciting new travel book Quondam: Travels in a Once World. The book details the exciting true-grit epic of a bike expedition through the heart of Africa. Dervla Murphy, the adventure travel writer will be a special guest on this evening of literary celebration.

Our Learning and Engagement: Artist-In-Residence, Charlotte Donovan will also be holding a visual art workshop on the night. The workshop will form part of her project [un] intentional moments, a series of individual and group engagement, interaction and collaboration with the people of West Cork. These encounters vary from the fortuitous, to the fixed and to the flexible. Charlotte has worked as a socially engaged and collaborative artist in the community and healthcare settings for 25 years. Her workshop on the night promises to be a very special event. The artist is responding to the Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger exhibition by exploring the theme of immigration. Participants will be invited to create and craft boat structures as they consider questions such as ‘If I had a boat where would I go? ... Who would I take with me? What would I pack?’. The workshop will explore issues such as emmigration and migration, life and loss, hope and fear, power and dispossession autonomy and vulnerability.

Uillinn will be a hub of creative activity come Friday the 21st, reflecting the Arts Centre position as an art locus of West Cork. We look forward to welcoming familiar and fresh faces on the night! You can find out more about Culture Night here

Friday, 7 September 2018

Artist-in-Residence Programme

Everyone here at West Cork Arts Centre is really excited by the arrival of our two newest Artists-in-Residence, writer Maeve Bancroft and visual artist, William Bock. The two artists and their very different practices will be engaging with the Coming Home programme in the coming weeks.

 The Artists' Residency Programme is one of the most noteworthy initiatives undertaken at the Uillinn, made possible only, by their move to their new premises, Uillinn in 2015. It provides an exciting opportunity for artists to research and develop their practices within the unique atmosphere of the West Cork Arts Centre. The programme offers three artist's studios, as well as a dance studio and a learning and engagement residency. A distinctive aspect of the programme is the opportunity to engage with artists working on site and the request that the artists have their studios open to the public two days a week.

The artists have the opportunity to participate in the centre's activities and both Maeve and William will be involved with Coming Home's calendar of events. This will be William's third residency at Uillinn and he will be continuing exploring the themes of immigration and migration in West Cork. William's process-led practice often takes the form of photography, performance, object-making, participatory events and site-specific installation. The diverse nature of William's practice is intriguing and I can't help but wonder what kind of medium or outcome will be the result of this particular interaction with West Cork.

Similarly, Maeve's practice also excites my curiosity as she is Uillinn's first writer-in-residence. Maeve is currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing in UCC and will be working on her novel-in-progress, A Gift of Stone, a work of historical fiction, during her residency. Unsurprisingly, I am really looking forward to meeting these two artists and discussing their practices with them.  I will be chatting with both artists soon so watch this space as I will be sharing more information about their upcoming work!

Day 3 Leaving Portrait - William Bock

  • Maeve will be giving an Illustrated Talk on Saturday the 29th of September at 12 noon where she will discuss her process, her research methods and the challenges involved in writing historical fiction.
  • William will be facilitating the photography and collaborative performance Workshop Excess Baggage for artists and individuals who don't identify as coming from one particular place on Saturday the 15th September at 10.30am.
  • William will also be giving an Artist Talk Acts of Leaving where he will discuss the three year project he has been working on in October the 11th at 3.30pm
  • You can book any of these free events Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre 028 22090 or

To find out more about the special artist-in residence programme here in Uillinn
click here

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Emmigration and Coming Home

Two of our visitors today, David Sheehan and his daughter, Judy, travelled to the exhibition from Bandon. The pair have a keen interest in Irish heritage and as West Corkonians An Gorta Mor has always been a particularly emotive history. James Brenan’s painting Finishing Touch particularly affected Judy, she remarked that it is a truly ‘emotional’ scene to witness.

This painting is a moving portrayal of the realities of emmigration. Typically, emmigration scenes are painted in dramatic fashion at the docks of a sea-bound ship. Brenan’s artwork differs from this archetype as it depicts a much more intimate, interior scene. A detailed narrative is constructed through the painting’s composition and as the story unfolds so too does the pathos felt by the Sheehan family. A young girl is preparing herself for her voyage to more prosperous lands and her family struggles to cope with the sense of impending loss. The mother tends to her daughter’s needs knowing that this may be her last time with her child, while the invalid father and grandfather come to terms with the fact that they, unfortunately, do not have this option of travel. A reference to the Madonna and Child hangs over the fireplace, adding a further sense of grief to the scene.

Finishing Touch by James Brenan

The Sheehans were very moved by the uncertainty that surrounded the young girl’s future and the further uncertainty of her reuniting with her family. Judy commented that sadly, emmigration was still a factor of Irish life and while the factors contributing to modern emmigration are not as tragic as this scene’s depiction, the effects of emmigration on family life remain the same. President Higgins outlined the effects emmigration continues to have on the national psyche in his contribution to the exhibition’s catalogue. It is undoubtedly still a very contemporary feature of Irish life and is a theme that reoccurs throughout the Coming Home exhibition, particularly given the exhibition has travelled to Skibbereen from America. The Sheehans left the exhibition with a  strong sense of poignancy and with plans to visit Skibbereen Heritage Centre’s Famine Story.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Jack Yeats returns to Skibbereen

Coming Home resonates in Skibbereen because the drama of the Famine story transpired here in tragic reality. The local significance of the exhibition is heightened, however, by the inclusion of a figure of both national and local importance.

Jack Butler Yeats was one of the most important figures in Irish art in the 20th century.

One of the great titans of Irish art - and one of my own personal, favourite painters- Jack B. Yeats is on display in the Coming Home exhibition. This is a particularly special occasion as it is the first time the Romantic landscape painter, Yeats, has been exhibited in West Cork. Considering that early in the artist's career, he spent considerable time perfecting his style here in Skibbereen this makes this occasion all the more special.

I first heard of Yeat’s important connection to the town through Philip O’ Regan of Skibbereen Heritage Centre. A programme of historical walking tours was created in collaboration with the Heritage Centre to coincide with the Coming Home exhibition. It was during this animated and informative talk that the significance of Yeats’ inclusion in the exhibition was made clear to me. Additionally, Philip kindly provided West Cork Arts Centre with an article he had written about Yeats’ time in West Cork during the summer of 1919. The artist, I was surprised to find out, sketched and painted Skibbereen and Schull extensively in his early career. His sketchbook, Sketchbook 123, contains  58 sketched pages, with a further 11 manuscript pages detailing the summer of 1919. An array of paintings emerged from these sketches in the years to come, including Castle near Skibbereen, The Return from the Picnic, The Sleeping Tinker and The Bridge at Skibbereen.

Yeats was the son of the established portrait artist, John Butler Yeats. His brother William Butler Yeats is one of Ireland’s most famous poets and his sisters Susan and Elizabeth (affectionately known as Lily and Lolly) were pioneers of the Irish arts and craft movement. A truly artistic family their influence on Irish culture is still felt today.

Jack B. Yeats managed through a use of thick impasto oil paint and a unique kind of romantic expressionism to create a celebratory vision of Ireland. His colour palette seems to embody Irish rural-ness and his bold use of blue, white, red and green have become synonymous with the Irish countryside. The use of symbolism and motifs is another feature of his work, with horses appearing regularly in his paintings.

Derrynane  (1927) by J.B Yeats is on display in Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre

Derrynane painted in 1927 forms an important part of the exhibition. Ostensibly a seascape, the use of broad brushstrokes in combination with pure colour and the materiality of the paint abstracts the scene. Yeats’ Derrynane transcends a representation of the bay and allows an air of rural romanticism to revel throughout the painting. He imbues the scene with ‘Irishness’.

The painting is included in the exhibition to remind us the effect that the Famine had on national identity. Yeats along with other Irish artists such as Sean Keating and Paul Henry (also featured in the exhibition) established a visual Irish identity within Irish life. Derrynane was also home to the Great liberator Daniel O’ Connell. O’ Connell, a giant in Irish politics, campaigned tirelessly for Catholic emancipation. However, the statesman suffered a controversy when it was reported his tenants experienced terrible conditions. The Catholic’s rights advocate’s challenged these accounts but a scandal had been created. Yeats’ painting incorporates many narratives into Coming Home’s visual exploration of the Famine story.

The Bridge at Skibbereen (1919) by J.B Yeats (Image credit:

The exhibition marks Yeats’s arrival in Skibbereen and is a quite seemly event given the artist celebrated the town with paint in The Bridge at Skibbereen. This particular painting, created in 1919 is a good example, when compared with Derrynane, of how much the artist's style progressed during his career. Yeats also saluted Inishbeg during his time in West Cork, with the creation of Flowing Tide, Inishbeg, Near Skibbereen. The island is located on the estuary of the Ilen river which flows through Skibbereen town. The nature of this seascape allows the artist to be more expressive in his mark-making. The painting is dominated by a body of water in its foreground.Yeats approaches the water with playful brushstrokes that bring this feature to the point of near abstraction. The looser approach found in this painting is indicative of the style that emerges in Yeats' later works such as Derrynane.

Yeats' return to Skibbereen would be celebrated in any context. However, his inclusion in, such a culturally significant exhibition as Coming Home seems apt given the extent of Jack B. Yeat's own cultural significance.