14th Feb 2019
Thank you so much for the lovely coffee and the invite. I’m delighted to be part of your project. Also, Happy New Year! While I’m writing this in late 2018, it may be 2019 by the time you get to read it...
I’m sitting drinking the coffee + writing this from my current studio, which is a former physics lab at University College Dublin (where I’m a current artist-in-residence). High stools + long benches – if you can remember from any laboratories you may have frequented in school, if you ever studied science? Initially I was perturbed by such reminders, but I’ve slowly made a sufficient mess, spilt sufficient plaster to make it feel like home.
Making a mess. That’s what I do best. In ‘artspeak’ I would say “embedded in materiality” or some such. But, seriously, making is the cornerstone of what I do. To illustrate this, I had considered perhaps perversely taking this risograph and spilling plaster over it... or painting a layer of jesmonite over it... or soaking it in concrete... or dipping it into hot sugar... or encasing it in resin... the usual. But no, I haven’t. Probably won’t. Experience has somewhat inhibited me. The extra weight of the post packet for starters. Then the inevitability of it fracturing, perhaps turning to ominous remnants in a jiffy bag certain to appear suspicious if opened by any curious officials along the way. Not worth it. The cost.
Ah yes, the cost. The COST. Financial, physical, mental, emotional. Not really spoken about much in art circles. Money for starters. Especially for us material – affinity freak material girls. One day, sitting on the bus, through some chain of thoughts + images, you dream up a half-baked notion to take a silicone mould of a clump of frozen peas and ooh, wouldn’t that look nice in say, marble jesmonite. Or perhaps, how about taking a latex mould of your studio floor?
Or perhaps you should make a guerrilla alginate moulding of the Taoiseach’s doorknob + cast a series in hard-boiled sugar offering Christmas lollipops to all the little children *1,2. One month and a few hundred quid later, your half-baked notion could be your NEXT BIG THING.
It might just fall short. Too short to be nurtured any further for the time being. Like a lukewarm love affair. Best left be. And there it sits... that few hundred euro or so... (which could be spent on all or some of the following: 1. a contribution towards rent / 2. Phone bill / 3. a new winter coat / 4. the dentist /5. a nice dinner with your lovely boyfriend... perhaps even a weekend away... /6. groceries)... in the corner of your studio. Forlorn. Brought into the world + then abandoned. Rejected by its maker. Like Frankensteins creature.
I really got a sense of this parallel (between Mary Shelley’s nightmare + my own) with a sculpture I made once a couple of years ago...
For a number of months I had been following what’s known in the game sometimes as a ‘line of enquiry’. Not to be confused with a criminal investigation, this particular enquiry process had involved boiling sugar + corn syrup + pouring it into moulds which were kind of mini weird architectural shapes. I had my reasons. There was potential + I was really determined, but it just didn’t go anywhere. Then, one day, after despondently forgoing the sugar project to the back burner, I decided to, what the heck, take a latex mould of my studio wall.
Low and behold, love struck!
Just like dating... you could be pursuing some eejit situation that’s just not going to work for AGES... and then one day, you just go on a random tinder date without thinking + then... VOILA, there he is. Bellisimo!
So, the latex moulding of my studio wall eventually graduated in other more interesting architecture (the artist exploring the artist studio... come on... no way... it’s not the 60’s)... Specifically, it evolved into taking a mould of a Georgian period Ionic column in the heart of commercial Dublin. It was a fairly nerve-wracking experience, not to mention physically draining involving painting a layer of latex all over this column... leaving it for an hour... going back... painting another layer... going back... oh it’s not dry... coming back later again... another layer... and then SIXTEEN LAYERS LATER… coming back + peeling the whole thing off, wrapping it up + bringing it back to my studio (which was Fire Station Artist Studios at the time, which was AMAZING)
I folded the mould + glue-gunned it into a sack + then made a large mdf box (bigger than me!) + then bull-dog clipped the sack into the box. Do you follow? Then proceeded a dizzying frenzy of bucket of plaster after bucket of plaster after bucket of plaster being thrown into the latex sack. I was of course covered in plaster, my studio was covered in plaster + most things I owned were also covered in plaster.
In the end, there was a LOT of plaster inside that box. And it was HEAVY. And it had to be turned upside-down. Eventually, with help, that happened. Accidents narrowly avoided.
The MDF walls came off... it was a BEAST. An absolute beast! A fiend! A monster! Slowly, I ‘skinned’ the latex off to reveal the warped, distorted plaster features of this deformed creature. It was ugly and monstrous and heavy. So heavy, it couldn’t be moved. Not even a couple of centimetres across the studio floor... let alone up 2 flights of stairs in a gallery with no lift... which was the gallery I had a show in exactly 2 weeks from that day... No, it was to stay there in the studio for another year. Despised by its creator... Until its eventual demise by its creator. (Which was also expiring!)
In the days following the reveal, I didn’t rest. I made the necessary adjustments in size. Descaled to something that I could physically grapple with... that wouldn’t potentially kill me. It took a few goes... but finally... they started to emerge... I could see what they were becoming and I was starting to get excited to meet each new one. Strange, eccentric, vulnerable, awkward and sad.
Now, they’ve been to London, Germany, USA, Galway... but currently lie quietly covered in bubblewrap in a back room in a house in Dundalk... I’ll visit them over Christmas...
Have a good one!
Doireann Ni Ghrioghair is an artist based in Dublin. She is currently artist in residence at Parity Studios, UCD in the School of Architecture & Engineering. You can see her work on Instagram @doireanndoireann.