A month in Finland

Other work, Solo work

In September 2019 I was accepted on a month-long residency at Arteles Creative Centre in rural Finland. It was a magical time, that in retrospect has changed my life in a quiet way.

My stay at Arteles felt like it might be a stepping off point, but I don’t know yet where I’m stepping off to. I don’t usually make work on my own, so this was a challenge and an opportunity for me to see what kind of things emerged from myself alone. (The next challenge for me is to work out what to do with some of these thoughts and potential projects. What form they take, and where/how I can show them. That’s the hard part…)

I came with no specific project in mind and tried to listen hard and follow interesting thoughts as they appeared. I took photographs, I came across unexpected new friends, I made things with my hands and gave them away, I wrote things and kept them to myself, I drew things and burned the drawings, I cycled very slowly and waved at passing cars.

I thought a lot about hospitality, about obligation, about misremembered colours, about hugs, about being happily lost in translation, about rowan trees, about things in pairs. I tried to think about my brain from the inside. I tried to recalibrate how I think about the body that carries that brain around. I tried not to think about what to do with all these thoughts.

For the month we had no phones and limited internet, and being removed from the world was pure pleasure. It felt good to be among people who were always fully present. It felt good to be warmed through by the sauna. I was happily selfish and missed no one. I stopped reading the news, and haven’t started again. I ate too much smoked salmon. I saw the northern lights.

Being introduced to meditation and starting a daily practice gave me something new that I’ve taken into my Dublin life. The beautiful land, the changing clouds, and the little gravel roads around Haukijärvi are still in my thoughts every day. I’m very grateful for the lessons in how to be still and quiet and present.

After I came back I found it difficult to explain what I’d been up to for the four weeks. A friend said to me – you basically let yourself be an artist for a month. And he’s right, I did.

Two months in Paris

Design for performance, Solo work

I’ve been meaning to post this for ages, but only getting round to it now. Even though it was months ago, I’m still dreaming of my time on a wonderful two-month residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. Firstly, a huge thank you to the CCI for giving me the time there.

When I applied, I hoped for a chance to ringfence some time to be creative – something that I find very difficult to do with a dual career as an artist and a manager. In fact, the last time I’ve allowed myself to indulge (is it really indulgence?!) in reading, drawing, thinking, seeing things, and meeting people in such a dedicated way may have been at university. I’m talking about the turn of the century here, people.

The CCI residency itself is luxuriously simple: they fly you over, put you up in the beautiful building in the fancy 5th arrondissement, and give you a stipend of €700 per month to keep you going. I was also given access to my own studio (bliss) across the courtyard.

While you have to give an outline in your application of what you’d like to do, when you’re there you are left to you own devices, which is wonderfully freeing. And does feel like a luxury. It was an extraordinary feeling to be taken seriously enough as an artist to be supported in this way. For me, it means I take my own creativity more seriously too. Which I’m normally not great at.

And what did I do? A big part of what I’d wanted to do was get to know the city a bit better – I threw away 4 new pairs of socks over the two months, worn out with all the walking.

Towards the end of my time there I had a small panic that I’d not really done anything, so I started to make a list. Phew. Exhibitions, talks (given and attended), performances, books, music, countless excellent, thought-provoking chats. And lots of time in the studio, sitting staring out the window, writing, drawing, and (a little surprisingly) painting.

One result was a series of simple portraits on cardboard. Not sure where it’s leading me, but it was really, really refreshing to just try things out with no ultimate agenda. Another small revelation for me was to understand the imperative of safe-guarding the time I need to transition from the ‘admin’ way of thinking to the creative way of thinking. A hugely valuable lesson for me. Now the trick is to find a way to transpose some of the creative, relaxed, invigorating Paris energy into Dublin life. Fingers crossed.