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Arts

David Begley – Artist in Residence Wexford


Artists in Residence

David Begley – Artist in Residence Wexford

Wonder this: before St Aidan arrived and The Normans later, what drew the ancients to Ferns in the first place? Was it chance Tom Breen’s plough unearthed the first relic at Clone which led us to poke holes in the turf and speculate? Who lay the first seed? What made the first tribe put down roots, leaving charcoal and ceramic in their wake?

The first farmers followed distinct seasons. Today it snows in March, scalds in April, pours in July. So how will future farmers cope? During the drought of 2018 archaeologist Barry Lacey flew a drone over Tom Breen’s field and discovered an ecclesiastical enclosure surrounding Clone church. This led to the community dig of 2019. What will future excavations unearth?

David headshot 2 2

The Revelations the Trowel Unearths

“For centuries monks and artists have sought out solitude in order to reflect and create. Responding to the Monastic sites of Ferns and through the activity of excavating and exploring the history and heritage of farming in Ferns, I wish to illuminate the beauty of this place and its people.

During this residency I will be making a video documentary on the heritage of farming in Ferns, facilitate a 12 week visual arts, storytelling and gardening project with St Edan’s National School and produce a new body of work in drawing, print, painting, ceramic and writing. From silence and contemplation comes expression. I savour the opportunity to kneel in a field and delve through the surface, experience sifting the soil, witness revelations the trowel unearths and how this may percolate into my work, through observation and recording, and through encounters with people, places, objects and stories. I look forward to sharing what I have learned.

I have begun walking and documenting the hedgerow of a 24 acre field in Ferns, gathering materials and ingredients as I go, and making inks with these in order to respond to this farmer’s field and his fascinating family history.” – David Begley

Date: July 2020 – Aug 2022

Funded By: Wexford Percent for Art

Learn More at:
www.davidbegley.com
www.instagram.com/davidbegleyartist
www.facebook.com/davidbegleyartist

Project Outputs:
Exhibition
New Garden
Documentary Film

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Arts

Artists Commissions

Arts Project

Artists Commissions

Ancient Connections has commissioned four new artists’ commissions, exploring some interlinked themes that are at the heart of the project including: pilgrimage, connecting with the Celtic diaspora of Ireland and Wales and our relationships to sacred places such as holy wells, chapels and ancient sites.

The artists will produce new artworks over the next two years, inspired by their own research as well as the findings uncovered by the Ancient Connections teams of story gatherers, community researchers and archaeologists. Each artist is expected to create work that can be shared online, in order to engage with both local audiences and with people much further afield such as Australia and North America, where there are significant communities of people with Irish and Welsh ancestry. The artists will also present their work in a final public showing in both Wexford and Pembrokeshire in 2022.

The four artists are Seán Vicary and Linda Norris, who are both visual artists based in West Wales, and artist/archaeologist John Sunderland and writer Sylvia Cullen, based in Ireland’s south-east.

Linda Norris

‘Williams Leatham Plate’ from Cân yr Oer Wynt series, ceramic decal on vintage china

Linda Norris proposes to use ‘sherds’ or found pottery fragments as the starting point for her project, encouraging people to send sherds to her and locate them on an online map. She says:

“Far from the glamour of precious metal hordes or celebrated monuments, sherds speak of anonymous domestic stories and link us with the people who lived in our homes in the past. I propose to initiate a ‘citizen archaeology’ project in Pembrokeshire and Wexford, and extending into the Celtic Diaspora. I will be researching people who emigrated from these regions to the Diaspora in the 19th century and trying to trace their descendants.”

Seán Vicary

'Field Notes RAF St Davids'

Multi-media artist Seán Vicary recently discovered that his great-grandmother was born in 1874, just 3.5 miles from Ferns in Camolin, and he seeks to:

“Understand the forces that shaped me living here across the water from my great grandmother’s home. By excavating my own past, I’ll undertake a process that mirrors the archaeological and historical research underway in both communities”.

He will be discovering ‘hidden narratives’ in the landscape and creatively working them into an engaging personal travelogue that moves back and forth between Pembrokeshire and Wexford.

“Voice, text, music, film and animation will combine to evoke these places in an exciting, contemporary way; building a deeper sense of identity through sharing experiences of reconnection”.

John Sunderland

'The Shooting Hut' (Site 1, Visit 9) from the project 'Touching Darkness' (2019)

Trained archaeologist and visual artist John Sunderland will be undertaking a pilgrimage from Whitesands to Ferns and excavating found objects along the route for the creation of a reliquary alongside pinhole photographic work. Rather than approaching this like an analytical contemporary archaeologist, he hopes to examine his discoveries with a mediaeval mindset, paying attention to “the supernatural or the sacred, to questions of good and evil, signs or portents”.

Sylvia Cullen

Cover of Sylvia Cullen’s play The Thaw, commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland, produced by the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, published by New Island Books, inspired by the people of North Wexford, South Wicklow and East Carlow.

Writer Sylvia Cullen proposes to create a bespoke new series of short stories for podcasts or livestreaming, drawing on “dramatic tales of piracy and bootlegging along the Welsh and Irish coastlines” and haunting tales of sacred places or a longing for home. She will also run creative writing workshops in both communities.

Watching these projects evolve separately and then ultimately weave together in a final presentation will be a journey of discovery for both the project team and our audiences.

Date: August 2020 – December 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections

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Arts

Fern Thomas Artist in Residence Pembrokeshire

Artist in Residence

Fern Thomas – Artist in Residence Pembrokeshire

YNYS: “…and as the relics, stones, bones and stories from both places washed out to sea, a new island was formed right in the middle. A shared place for culture, history, dreams, poetry and song from all time to live alongside each other. And from this place, a radio station was formed and began to transmit…”

“For this project I am creating a radio station that ‘transmits’ from YNYS, a fictional island located between Pembrokeshire and Wexford. YNYS takes its initial response from the erosion on Whitesands Bay, which exposed the buried chapel of St Patrick. The project considers the potential, through coastal erosion, for all of this history to be washed away – that somehow these coastal places are living right at the precipice, or at the very edge of history.” – Fern Thomas

A Place of the Past and Future

“Taking this as a broader image I am imagining Pembrokeshire’s history washing into the sea while simultaneously Wexford’s history does the same, and from here they move towards one another and meet somewhere in the middle to form a fictional island. An island where St David can sit alongside the three young men from Wexford in their borrowed canoe; where the fire of Boia’s hill fort or the mermaids off Porth y Rhaw are as present as the eroding sand at Whitesands bay. A place where the past and the future are simultaneously considered.

This audio work will exist as several episodes which will follow the development of the Ancient Connections project where I will weave together excerpts of interviews with community members and participants in the Ancient Connections project alongside folklore, historical research, myths, field recordings from the sites, and sounds from archives as well as the present day to create an audio telling from this timeless land.”

“Embedded in the broadcasts I will offer poetic responses inspired by the questions being asked within the project as it develops, following the mysteries, the stories and the revelations as the Ancient Connection project unfolds.

The radio station’s content will be shaped by communities of Pembrokeshire and also of Wexford through public engagement events and one to one conversations.” – Fern Thomas

Date: July 2020 – August 2022

Learn More at: 

www.fernthomas.com

Project Outputs: 
Podcasts and an exhibition

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Arts Community

Animating Schools

Arts Project

Animating Schools

Animating Schools brings three schools together for the ambitious creation of a short animation film telling the stories of connection between these two regions. The participating schools are Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Scoil Naomh Maodhog Ferns and St Edan’s School, both in Ferns, County Wexford.

In March 2020, the project kicked off with a group of aged 12-13 plus staff traveling from St Davids to Ferns to meet and get to know their peers in the Ferns schools. The pupils in all three schools have been learning about their own heritage stories, as well as the stories that link these two regions through working with Fishguard based storyteller Deb Winter and Wexford based Lorraine O’Dwyer. In Ferns, the young people performed their stories to each other as well as sharing musical performances of contemporary and traditional pieces.  

“I just wanted to send a HUGE thank you from all at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi for the amazing visit we had to Ireland. The pupils and I were so ‘blown away’ by the incredibly warm Irish welcome and every aspect of our visit was perfect! The arrival at Scoil Maodhog was moving and our pupils are now texting, snap chatting/what’s-apping etc. and looking forward to the return visit. All the excursions were fabulous and informative and when I asked pupils what their favourite aspect of the trip was, not one of them could decide as there were just too many things to pick from.”

Cilla Bramley, Head of Expressive Arts at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi

The project is due to recommence in March 2021, and Cardiff based animation studio Winding Snake will be assisting the young people to creatively retell these stories through different animation techniques, culminating in a short film that will be screened in venues and online in 2021-22.

“The team at Winding Snake are thrilled to be working with the schools involved as part of this exciting and historic project.  We can’t wait to get stuck in and start making! The young people taking part will work with us to create animation, learn musical composition, make foley and sound effects, participate in script writing and storytelling sessions, and will work with professional actors to learn acting and performance skills. With lots and lots of arts and craft thrown into the mix too, it’s going to be a wonderful project.” 

Amy Morris, Director of Winding Snake

A short documentary film about the project will also be created by filmmaker Terence White based in Wexford.

Date: March 2020 – Jan 2022

Project Outputs: A short animated film

Learn More at: www.windingsnake.com

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Arts

Bedwyr Williams ‘Do the Little Things’ Public Art commission St Davids and Ferns

Arts Project

Bedwyr Williams 'Do the Little Things' Public Art Commission in Ferns and St Davids

Ancient Connections is thrilled to be able to create a permanent legacy of the project through commissioning public art in St Davids and Ferns. 

Bedwyr Williams was selected from a shortlist of five artists by a cross-border panel in July 2021. He has proposed to create a series of giant beehives, three in St Davids Cathedral grounds and three in Ferns. These beautiful structures would be modelled on traditional skeps, and although they would be much larger than a typical beehive, they are functional hives and would house real bee colonies. The artist has proposed that the communities in each location will take over the care for the bees and compare the unique flavour of the honey produced with their neighbours across the Irish Sea through exchange visits.

The project is in its early stages. Currently the focus is on finding the ideal locations for the skeps and connecting with local bee keeping specialists to ensure that public safety is ensured as well as the wellbeing of the bee colonies. 

Bedwyr Williams

Bedwyr Williams is originally from St Asaph and now based in Caernafon. He is widely recognised as one of Wales’ most significant contemporary artists and represented Wales in the Venice Biennale in 2013 with his installation ‘The Starry Messenger’. He works across a range of mediums in both gallery and public art settings, often employing wry humour and surrealism to explore culture through a different lens. For this project, he will be working closely with Contemporary Art Society, a consultancy specialising in support and delivery of public art projects. Bedwyr says:

“I’m interested in objects that invite communities to become active participants to make the artwork whole. I want people to become fully engaged in the artwork, doing the little things to bring the artwork to life, forgetting themselves and their daily concerns for a few hours. St David’s last words were “Gwnewch y pethau bychain” or “Do the little things.” This ethos has guided the development of my proposal which is founded on the story of St David and St Aidan and steeped in the magic and history of these two intertwined locations”.

Public Consultations

Bedwyr’s proposal was also the most popular among the communities of North Pembrokeshire and North Wexford, who took part in the online survey. These were some of the comments that community participants made about the project:

 

“I like the fact that this is a “living” sculpture, in that it will house live bee colonies. This will provide much needed pollinating insects in both communities and continue the ancient tradition of bee keeping”.

(Pembrokeshire)

 

“This project is simplicity itself, I particularly like the idea of the bees collecting the pollen to bring it back to the beehive and being turned into lovely honey. It would be a great idea and it would help to conserve and safeguard our environment”.

(Wexford)

Funded by: Ancient Connections

Dates 2021-2022

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Arts

Seán Vicary

Art Commission

Seán Vicary

“I’m going to embark on a journey through an entangled landscape of ancestral heritage and place in search of my great-grandmother’s roots near Ferns.

Using the language and processes of archaeology as a metaphor, I’ll scrape back the layers of landscape to discover hidden narratives, creatively working them into an engaging personal travelogue that moves from N. Pembrokeshire to N. Wexford and ‘home’ again. Voice, text, music, film and animation will combine to evoke these places, building a deeper sense of identity through sharing experiences of reconnection.”

'Field Notes RAF St Davids'

“I recently discovered that my great-grandmother was born in 1874, just 3.5 miles from Ferns in Camolin. She was one of 10 children, I know nothing else about her or her family. In this current time of flux and heightened identity politics it feels apposite to consider where we’ve come from in order to contemplate where we might want to go. I carry my Irish roots in my name, yet I’ve never really acknowledged that part of myself. I’d like to understand the forces that shaped me living here across the water from my great grandmother’s home. By excavating my own past I’ll undertake a process that mirrors the archaeological and historical research underway in both communities.

I’ll be looking at different personal responses to place and landscape, where they overlap, and how artistic representation might open them for another’s understanding. I’m particularly excited about the use of geophysics for revealing hidden structures/ traces in the landscape and I’ll be exploring how the data produced by the geophysics techniques (magnetic gradiometry, electromagnetic conductivity and ground penetrating radar) can be manipulated to inform an artistic outcome.

There’s something alluring about the archaeological process and I find many similarities with my own arts practice. Archaeology’s test pits and stratigraphic sequences map phases of place over time, cutting across our inner and outer landscapes and forcing us to imagine our future as part of this record. Thinking on timescales that reach beyond our own lifespan informs how we make decisions. How might this also affect our understanding of contemporary anxieties?”

Date: September 2020 – December 2020

Categories
Arts

Artists in Residence

Arts Project

Artists in Residence

Ancient Connections has appointed two Artists in Residence who will be exploring the shared past of North Wexford and North Pembrokeshire working alongside the contracted archaeologists and historians as well as local communities.

The artists will produce new artworks over the next two years, inspired by archaeological excavations, geophysical surveys and community story searches in Pembrokeshire and Wexford; with a final public showing of the work in both places in Spring/Summer 2022.

Fern Thomas

The artist selected for Pembrokeshire is Fern Thomas; she is based in Swansea and has a long track-record of working with communities. Fern plans to create a radio station and a series of 16 podcasts that follow the progress of the Ancient Connections project. The radio station will be broadcast from a fictional island YNYS in the Irish Sea: “A shared place for culture, history, dreams, poetry and song from all time to live alongside each other.”

Fern describes this as:

“An island where St David can sit alongside the three young men from Wexford in their borrowed canoe; where the fire of Boia’s hill fort or the mermaids off Porth y Rhaw are as present as the eroding sand at Whitesands Bay. A place where the past and the future are simultaneously considered”.

David Begley

The artist selected for Wexford is David Begley, an experienced multimedia artist. 

David invites us to:

“Wonder this: before St Aidan arrived and The Normans later, what drew the ancients to Ferns [Wexford] in the first place? Was it chance Tom Breen’s plough unearthed the first relic at Clone which led us to poke holes in the turf and speculate? Who lay the first seed? What made the first tribe put down roots, leaving charcoal and ceramic in their wake?”

David will make a video documentary on the history of farming in Ferns, facilitate a 12 week visual arts, storytelling and gardening project with St Edan’s National School, Ferns and produce a new body of work in drawing, print, painting, ceramic and writing.

It is also hoped that the two artists will find ways to collaborate together and learn from each other’s journeys.

Date: July 2020 – July 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections and the Wexford Percent for Art scheme

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Arts

Sylvia Cullen – Smugglers and Summer Snowflakes

Art Commission

Sylvia Cullen

Smugglers & Summer Snowflakes will be a bespoke new collection of short stories, responding to the Ancient Connections themes of journeying, sacred places, Celtic diaspora and longing for home. Inspired by the Story Searches from 2019, and using my own tailored process of Creative Exchanges with local communities, I will create this new collection, setting two stories in Wexford and two in Pembrokeshire.

A Summer Snowflakis a beautiful, rare, poisonous flower native to Wexford; it symbolises the elements every great short story should contain. Smugglers speaks for itself suggesting where I will glean inspiration for this new collection from – drawing on dramatic tales of piracy and bootlegging along the Welsh and Irish coastlines.

The stories will be distributed digitally and shared online as a podcast series for the global Celtic diaspora, as well as being published in book form. In addition, they will be broadcast on local radio in Wales and Wexford.

A Shared Past

“I am a rural-based writer, living in north county Wexford. For Ancient Connections, I will make new work that draws inspiration from our shared past on both sides of the Irish Sea, in order to illuminate our present. This commission is a superb opportunity to explore the interconnectedness of these two regions, creating haunting stories, which will linger on in the minds of all who listen to or read them, no matter where in the world they live.”

Creative Exchanges

“As part of the research process, I will facilitate several Creative Exchanges with local community groups in both Wales and Wexford. I see these interactions as a two-way exchange of oral history and local research. I will facilitate a creative writing workshop for a number of groups and in exchange, participants will offer me their perspectives and opinions on the four Ancient Connections themes.” – Sylvia Cullen

Cover of Sylvia Cullen’s play The Thaw, commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland, produced by the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, published by New Island Books, inspired by the people of North Wexford, South Wicklow and East Carlow.

Date: September 2020 – December 2022

Funded by: Ancient Connections

Project Outputs: 
New short stories
Podcasts and radio broadcasts
Final exhibition book launch

Categories
Arts

John Sunderland

Art Commission

John Sunderland

“Over the last three decades, I have led parallel and interweaving careers in visual art and archaeology. Through this, I have developed a transdisciplinary practice informed by research in the fields of geography, contemporary archaeology and art. I am a founding member of The Praxis Collective, an international group of artists and transdisciplinary practitioners seeking new ways to address contemporary issues through grounded theory and art/science collaboration. My current practice draws on deep mapping and the deep time of the Anthropocene to delve into the past, in the present, with an eye to the future.” – John Sunderland

Questions of Good and Evil

'The Shooting Hut' (Site 1, Visit 9) from the project 'Touching Darkness' (2019)

“I see the discipline of archaeology, the study of the material past, as a product of the enlightenment, with all its encumbrances of colonialism and material appropriation, it has developed into a highly evidence-based enquiry into materiality in many forms (ecological and cultural) and scales from the microscopic to the changing global landscape. 

In the context of this project, I find myself considering that these philosophies and methodologies seem at odds with what would have been the prevailing philosophies or theologies of the times that the archaeologists and researchers in Ancient Connections are investigating. This disparity is interesting when considering both movement and the sacred in terms of how someone in the medieval period might have responded to encountering something old or unusual in the landscape. We cannot truly know what went on in the minds of our ancestors but rather than deciphering materials and places in terms of classifications and significations of evidence, narratives may well have turned to the supernatural or the sacred, to questions of good and evil, signs or portents. Objects and materials may have evoked fear or reverence verging on the ecstatic.

In Search of the Uncanny

“Taking this into account, I will undertake a contemporary pilgrimage from one archaeological excavation to the other in St Davids and Ferns. To mimic the medieval experience of travel overland, I will cycle and walk, as cycling would mean travelling at a pace similar to a horse or horse and cart. The purpose of this journey is to make an immersion into the landscape in search of the uncanny, the supernatural and the sacred. It will begin and end with me physically excavating at each site (as an archaeologist). 

Taking an imagined medieval mindset as an inner world, I will project this onto the outer landscape through photographic practice, mapping, drawing and writing. I will also collect found objects of curiosity, from the excavations and during travel. A selection of these would be modified and placed inside a handmade reliquary. The central component of this practice will be photographic. In order evoke atmospheres of the medieval mindset, I will use a large format pinhole camera with 5”x4” black and white negatives.

The intention is to create a visual and written narrative of this journey, not to undertake the journey as a performance, but to use deep mapping principles to investigate a route, rather than a place.” – John Sunderland

Date: September 2020 – December 2022

Project Outputs: Photographs and handmade reliquary

Learn More at: www.johnsunderland.com

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Arts

Linda Norris – what3sherds, a Citizen Archaeology Project

Art Commission

Linda Norris

Sherd: Synonyms or Related Terms: shard, potsherd

Category: Artefact

Definition: Any pottery fragment – piece of broken pot or other earthenware item – that has archaeological significance. They are an invaluable part of the archaeological record because they are well-preserved. The analysis of ceramic changes recorded in potsherds has become one of the primary techniques used by archaeologists in assigning components and phases to times and cultures.
(Kipfer www.archaeologywordsmith.com 2020)

“I am an artist working across artforms, moving from painting to glass blowing, casting to ceramic in my investigations of the genius loci of the landscape. For the Ancient Connections Commission, I am interested in exploring how I can use archaeology to reveal and examine human connections with other places, primarily Ireland and the Celtic Diaspora. I am constantly seeking out things that connect me with the landscape and the people who lived here before me and I am increasingly drawn to small overlooked ‘finds’ that tell untold stories and connect me to the landscape and the people of the area.” – Linda Norris

Links with the Past

“I have recently been focusing on ceramic sherds that I have found in my garden and on beaches and riverbeds on my daily walks. Far from the glamour of precious metal hordes or celebrated monuments, sherds speak of anonymous domestic stories and link us with the people who lived in our homes in the past.

For the Ancient Connections Commission I plan to initiate a ‘citizen archaeology’ project in North Pembrokeshire and North Wexford in Ireland, and extending into the Celtic Diaspora. I will invite people to send me a sherd they have found in their garden, or on walks in their local area. I will record the finds, research and archive them, and, add them to an online map set up for the project. I will be consulting archaeologists on the submitted finds in case anything submitted is of archaeological interest.”

Diasporas and Descendents

“As part of this project, I also hope to research people who emigrated from Pembrokeshire and Wexford to the Diaspora in the 19th century and reaching out to their descendants. I will seek out ceramic fragments from the places where those families now live and asking them to send photographs, which could possibly inspire new art works.

The form of the final physical artworks will be developed in relation to the material uncovered in the research process, but – in addition to the virtual map – I envisage remaking some of the sherds in glass which will be incorporated into new artwork to be exhibited at the end of the Ancient Connections Project.” – Linda Norris

Date: September 2020 – December 2022

Learn More at: www.linda-norris.com