My name is Gavin Buckley. I’ve been working as part of the Front of House staff at Uillinn for just over a year now. I’ve seen an eclectic range of beautiful works in my time since. When I first arrived at the centre, the 2019 Members and Friends Exhibition was just being set up. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction as I was presented with the opportunity to see over a hundred pieces from dozens of artists. Artists from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. It was a pleasure to walk into work, and have such an explosion of creativity as the backdrop to my day.
Fast forward to today and sadly the Centre is standing empty. As we all know, Covid-19 has spread worldwide and even small towns like Skibbereen have come to a near standstill, with the doors remaining closed at Uillinn. So, what were we to do about the 2020 Members and Friends Exhibition that many of us were eagerly awaiting? Thankfully, a solution was near ready-made through our online presence. We were able to contact all of our current Members and Friends to ask them for photographs of the pieces they had been working on for this year's show. Our staff emails soon beamed with a colourful collection of our member's fantastic creations.
Dee Pieters, whose wonderful seascape oil paintings are featured in the exhibition, took positives when it came to creativity during the lockdown: "Although being in lockdown could potentially stifle one's creativity, I made sure to maintain good discipline and focus when it came to my work. I was lucky to have it".
Dee Pieters, Cliff Edge
Our next task was presenting the collection to you, the viewer. Social media was an option but not an ideal one as we didn’t want all of this wonderful work scattered in amongst messy social media feeds. We needed a dedicated website. Not the simplest of tasks. Yet up steps Louise Forsyth, Uillinn’s very own Atlas when it comes to bearing burdens. With the aid of Dermot Browne to help get it off the ground- an artist and arts worker based in Cork, who volunteered his time to help - Louise put some serious work into making the dedicated website reflect both the feel and quality of the exhibition and a platform for artists to sell work. And so here we are with an online 2020 Members and Friends Exhibition for your viewing pleasure.
So, the exhibition is up and yes, even though viewing it online might not have the same impact as experiencing the art in the galleries with your present senses, there are some benefits to it being online. For one, the exhibition is available to people who normally wouldn’t be able to experience it. For example, people that live far away or are otherwise unable to travel to the Centre. The collection can also be organised into different categories or viewed all on one page, depending on your preference. You can now purchase a piece from the comfort and privacy of your own home, dipping in and out at your leisure.
Even though all of our circumstances are wildly different compared to this time last year, we at West Cork Arts Centre are delighted to be able to break through the current gloom with some small sense of normalcy. In my opinion, art helps us hone in on answers to the puzzling emotional questions we have about our own lives. In that way, and considering current circumstances, art has become as necessary as ever. In our isolation, we have turned to TV, books, games, music, and whatever else it is that helps us get through the day. The art that is presented through Uillinn is a part of that too. Because of that, I feel privileged to be a part of West Cork Arts Centre because I admire its ability to contribute to brightening people’s days during these grim times.
Ann Davoren, Director of the West Cork Arts Centre, had this to say about the comfort that art can bring us: "As we look ahead to more hopeful days, we also find grounding in the belief that art can speak to us in moments like these, offer solace or joy, and bring us together, even if physically apart".
Soon enough our front doors will open as well as many others. I'm looking forward to being back in the centre with a reinvigorated appreciation for people. The people I work with, the artists that present at the centre, and the visitors taking time out of their day to see what's on display. It’s the combination of those people that were the highlight of my time before Covid-19, and I know will continue to be so once this is all over.
To view the 2020 Members and Friends Exhibition, please visit: https://www.uillinngalleries.com/