Thursday, October 10, 2013

Annual Public Sculpture Series

Annual Public Sculpture Series (2012-2014) was a project I undertook to leave a marker behind me in rarely visited landscapes I am very familiar with and fond of, where I live in the north-west of Ireland. I hope you can find your own meanings from the work but on one level I did it to draw others to these places and to show it can be done, here or anywhere. In my art practice I'm also interested in exploring the often illusory nature of permission. In making them I used my One Minute Residency and Deeper Into Nothing models, in that they could all be completed in a short space of time and I limited myself to using whatever materials were already available at these most unpromising and yet to be regenerated spaces. I wanted them to be quiet and almost invisible as art so they would have a chance to continue to subtly exist there without permission or sanction. The locations I used were the Co. Leitrim coastline, the cleared site of the old E.S.B. power station near Arigna, Co. Roscommon and Ballisodare Bay, Co. Sligo. -Stephen Rennicks

Pixel/Nest/39 Stones (2012) The first piece in this series was made while I was camping on the very beautiful but rarely visited Leitrim coastline (its only 2.5km long and has no beach, road access or signage)  in August 2012. It was my last morning there and I spent time lifting one white sea smoothed stone at a time and then climbing a rock outcrop before arranging them into a circle to be best viewed from the cliff-top above. Not long after I finished a coastguard helicopter flew along the coastline and its crew may have been the first to view it. I hope it will be possible to view it from satellite images one day, perhaps as a single pixel of light.

Chimney/40 Bricks (After Elaine Reynolds) (2013) was made at the site of the former E.S.B. power station near Arigna in Co. Roscommon. The site was not too far from where I lived then and I had been going there for many years for walks along the shore of Lough Allen. I had already used the location for an entry in The Guide To Here Nor There and filmed there for sections of my Cutting into the Present video piece the previous year.

The artist Elaine Reynolds had done a project, I always wanted to be a Windmill, about the coal fed power station which was supplied by a local mine nearby. The closure of the station also led directly to the end of the coal mines and was thus a massive jobs loss to the local economy in 1991. The station and its huge chimney was demolished not long after and the site cleared. Her project discussed this and reflected on more sustainable energy that is today produced by wind turbines nearby as well as social energy.

When I saw this work exhibited in 2009 at The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon, I liked it and remembered she had made a small tower of bricks in the space. On my visit in October I noticed plenty of bricks still lying in the remaining rubble of the site, some of which I presume she also must have taken to The Dock and used there. I took them to where I thought the original tower would have stood and built my tribute to her project and my own quiet memorial to the station.

I was exploring the outskirts of Ballisodare, Co. Sligo, not too far from where I am now living since the start of 2014, when I came to a dead end road near the coast. There is an old graveyard and the ruins of an abbey at this point. I then followed a pathway which over looked the bay where the Ballisodare River joins the sea. I continued on and found it led me into part of a still operational quarry. I back-tracked a little as there had been a smaller right fork, which had looked to me as if it was about to peter out into thick overgrowth. I pushed through the very narrow gap and soon found myself on a deserted beach. The first thing I saw was the ugly remains of a mound of burnt tyres and broken bottles. The sand is a dark grey and during the week there is constant noise from the quarry. It's like an industrial beach but I loved it for all those reasons and have come back many times since and have yet to meet anyone there. It has a real desolate beauty, very much like the other two sites I was drawn to for this project, as well as amazing views and plenty of wildlife.

I knew on that first visit that I would probably be using it for the last part of this series. I went there again in August and made it with rocks that were scattered about the beach but had to pull most of them out of the bank nearby. There are 41 large rocks which make contact with the ground and I used smaller ones to even it out a bit. It's well back from the sea but I anticipate that it will disappear or become partly submerged during times of high tides. In a nice case of synchronicity, just as I finished it, again the same coastguard helicopter passed right overhead as had happened when I had completed the first piece on the Leitrim coastline.