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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

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