I began my master’s degree in ceramics in the national college of art & design in 1991 as a figurative sculptor. i had just finished a collection of three-quarter life-size sculptures for an exhibition which were naturalistic in style.The final piece that was created was of a woman lying, grief-stricken, her hand out – a cry for help. it was inspired by a photo of a real victim of war. i had been researching photo-journalism and i was deeply moved by these photos taken of real events. i felt, like most people, the sadness and shock that comes with viewing these pictures or news footage. i was also acutely aware that to work in clay was to work with one of the most fragile mediums. it was to me, the perfect material to sculpt in.
In 1991 i had gone to see a photo-journalistic exhibition in Dublin. i saw images of bodies distorted from war, torture, famine & hunger. i had researched images already of the world war 2 concentration camps, rwanda and other heart-wrenching atrocities . amnesty international were kind enough to help and speak to me on the injustices in the world, especially the injustices to children. out of all of this, the body of work for the master’s programme was formed.
“Blue requiem” was the first piece created. it is a reminder of a lost generation of children - lost to famine and starvation. it is a sculpture of a little girl, with her tiny seated frame frozen, as if when she died she was mummified. she was veiled in blue ash similar to the figures in pompeii showing us their last moments. she sits, quiet, eyes shut, with dignity.
The next piece “wounds” is of a man & a woman. standing at 13ft, it is a piece that
“Target, hide behind her” is also 13ft high. it was the most difficult piece to make. it was built at 15 ft then sectioned, fired and reassembled on a metal armature. clay works very slowly so to create anything large scale takes time, care and patience. there were many technical problems pre-firing and that was only the beginning. for most of the work, scaffolding had to be built and technical expertise issued with huge patience and skill. (thank you mike & paddy). the main clays I worked with were stonewares, porcelain, terracotta.
“Target, Hide behind her" shows two women, one frail woman hiding behind a pregnant woman. a target is painted on her pregnant belly. both are moments away from being shot. they are maimed, torn, spectres with charred flesh hanging from their bones. they look no longer human, more like creatures. Their heads hang waiting for the sound of gunfire.
Along with the sculptures that took months to create, i made a series of drawings/paintings in pen and ink. some of these are in the book "once upon a time” and represent the “final days “ section. The “final days triptch”, was also created at this time along with “wounded her”, “final beat’s of life”, “the dust children”, the final days (Wax), “pieta-ashes to ashes”, “wounded him” & “spirit’s flew away”.
During 1991-1993 i felt compelled to render the horror of war and famine in my work. many commented that it was dark and uncompromising, it was.
Along with the sculptures and paintings of this time i was writing stories and poems that also formed the beginning of “once upon a time”, the story.
My Master’s drew to a close and the final exhibition consisted of all these pieces but with a few different drawings also present. these represented where the work was going in the future.
I had in june 1993, started a collection of abstract paintings and drawings based on the idea of hope which came out of the previous years work. even in a brutal and violent world there is something other present. maybe we call it empathy, love, conscience or hope. i wanted to hold an exhibition of work showing both the wounds and the hope. it would take fifteen years to accomplish.
In the story “Once Upon A Time” a lone figure calls out to the universe to help Gaia . Gaia is pregnant and afraid to give birth to her last creation. fear is everywhere. The princess of the universe hears the call and begins her quest to find and help Gaia.
“Once upon a time“, can be viewed as both a book or film on the website. my dream of holding the exhibition that first began in the early nineties finally came through on the 4th of December 2007. it was held in the church of st. michael and john in temple bar, dublin. it was opened by her excellency Priscilla Jana, the south african ambassador to ireland.