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.

Design for Stage and Screen Ireland website

Design for performance

Earlier this year I worked with Ewa Segner and Siobhán Bourke of Irish Theatre Institute to compile a website to highlight stage and screen designers coming from and working in Ireland.

You can access the website here. It is in Beta mode for the next few weeks, and the content is being updated and added to every day – an ever-growing catalogue of the work of costume, set, lighting and sound designers/composers who design for the stage, and production, hair, makeup and costume designers who design for screen.

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing horizon ideas sketch

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing horizon ideas sketch

Most exciting (for me) is the chance to see some of the sketches side by side with the final production images – it’s always a treat to see the development of ideas, and the idiosyncratic ways that designers approach their work.

The timing of the website going live in June was to coincide with both the year of Irish Design and the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. However, it is a resource that will be kept up by ITI, along the same lines as their Playography and Irishtheatre.ie sites.

Ireland mapping report for IETM

Other work

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 18.05.02Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the secretariat of the IETM international network to write a ‘mapping’ report that outlines the current situation of the contemporary performing arts in Ireland. Incredibly difficult to distill it all down, but I had a go.

Here it is in all its sweeping, unsubtle, gap-filled glory.

(Thanks to Cian O’Brien of Project Arts Centre for being the outside eye and reassuring me that you’d never guess from reading it that I was a left-leaning liberal.)

World Scenography 1975-1990 now available

Other work
World Scenography 1975-1990

Book cover of World Scenography 1975-1990

Some years ago I was hired by Irish Theatre Institute to research Irish design for performance as part of the Irish contribution to World Scenography 1975-1990, a publication commissioned by OISTAT, the International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians. The book is now published and available to buy online.

OISTAT says:

World Scenography 1975-1990 is the first volume in a new series of books looking at significant stage design throughout the world since 1975. This volume, documenting 1975-1990, has been about four years in the making and has had contributions from hundreds of people in more than 70 countries. Despite this range of input, it is not possible for it to be encyclopædic, much as the editors would like. Neither is the series a collection of “greatest hits,” despite the presence of many of the greatest designs of the period being examined. Instead, the object is to present designs that made a difference, designs that mattered, designs of influence; to document for posterity a collection of the significant theatrical set, costume, and lighting designs from the period.