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Anchor 3

I later became interested in the work of Vija Celmins, a Latvian American artist, who made a series of drawings of the sea in the late 1960’s and throughout the following decade. Her precision and excellence of mark-making in graphite was exceptional. She was to become the subject of my thesis a couple of years later. 

While making these works, a major dispute was unfolding between a local community in North Mayo and the Shell Oil Company. This resulted in five local men being sent to prison for 94 days. My husband had been doing academic research into this and other environmental issues around the country. When the men, who became known as The Rossport Five, were imprisoned he became their spokesperson. What followed was a media storm which had quite an impact on our young family. I had taken it upon myself to write to the men while they were in prison. In turn, each day I wrote to one of them, giving bits of local news and enclosing cuttings of articles from local and national newspapers. Given the enormity of the whole experience, I felt strongly that I needed to express it in my work. Words and writing had become part of my day, and ultimately, would be the means by which I communicated this experience in my work. It resulted in two works: Sea of Words I and Sea of Words II.

Sea of Words I, newsprint on gesso board, 31 x 47 cm, 2005-2007.

In making this work I cut out all the articles covering the issue in the local weekly newspaper, the Western People. The articles were then cut up into individual words and glued onto the gesso to form an image of the sea. As a guide, I used a photograph of the Mayo coast that I had taken. This work is comprehensive in recording everything to do with the events during that time: names; townlands; politicians; political parties; organizations; companies; technical terms; judicial matters; along with all the words that made up the story of the events of the summer of 2005. The words don’t overlap and are legible. It is in effect a written history of these events. As each word was glued down, I also recorded it in a journal. There are 5,435 in total. 

Sea of Words II, graphite on card, aluminium, wire, 153 x 244 cm, 2006.  

This work evolved out of Sea of Words I. Taking the words recorded in the journal, I wrote them onto 64 pieces of card, each 18.5 x 30.5 cm, using a range of graphite pencils, 4H-8B. Once again working from a photograph, I created the patterns of the sea’s surface by writing these 5,435 words over and over to gradually create the image. Unlike the first work, it is not possible to read any of the words here. The 64 card panels are joined by wire fasteners resembling curtain hooks that I fashioned out of sanded wire. Each card hangs from the other and all are supported top and bottom by a strip of aluminium. 

These two works capture the sea of words written during that summer of 2005.

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