23 September 2013

Stone of the Heart

Gardens with a bit of a difference this week: went off to the Bots to see this year's Sculpture in Context, and then to Burtown House on Sunday, to hear Eileen McDonagh talk about her work, which is placed in the meadows of the garden, and which we'd spent time with and loved when we were there in the summer. I say 'in the summer' as though it were in the past, but it has hung on this weekend:  an Indian Summer has settled in, at least for a while, and we've had temperatures in the 20s ... as delightful as it is surprising.

Butterflies, on Verbena bonariensis, making the most of the Indian Summer in the garden this week,
The sunshine we had throughout the summer--and which continues now--has meant that the tomatoes in the greenhouse are sweeter than ever this year. I didn't ever really like tomatoes until I first tasted them fresh from the plant in a friend's back yard in Canada years ago. What a revelation! They were so-o-o sweet and juicy and tasted very moreish. I hadn't known tomatoes could taste sweet and I couldn't believe these were the same fruit/veg (I know, I know, it's a fruit--it carries seeds--but everyone thinks of it as a vegetable) as the swollen tasteless things I was used to that had to be covered in salt to deliver any flavour at all. There and then I promised myself that at some point, somewhere, I'd grow my own tomatoes... it took a while, and I've a lot to learn still about growing them well, but still, we have the pleasure of wandering out to the greenhouse and picking them as we need them and eating or cooking them straightaway. It's hard to beat tomatoes picked two minutes ago and fried gently for a couple more minutes in olive oil (with or without a little garlic and Malden salt). Yum. This year I've Gardeners' Delight (as always), Ailsa Craig, a small yellow 'gem' bush variety and some Plum tomatoes, which I haven't grown before. In spite of a bit of neglect mid-summer they're providing more fruit than I deserve. 

But far away from my faltering husbandry, the gardens and palm house and gallery in the Botanic Gardens were well worth a visit this week to see over 100 sculptures (there are 150 altogether this year) in the Sculpture in Context 2013 exhibition. I'm not linking to their website as it hasn't been updated since May this year, which is a bit bizarre given that their exhibition has been underway since the start of this month... go figure.

Anyway, there was a huge variety of work: from first-time exhibitors (some of whom I knew: well done folks!) to established artists; from tiny works to large; and in all sorts of media -- ceramic, stone, cement, copper, textile, blown glass, bronze, stone, paper, willow. Three of us spent most of the day there, in warm sunshine, walking through the late summer borders, under huge trees, through the curvilinear and palm houses, into the walled garden ... and everywhere we went there was sculpture. We all had favourites, we agreed on which ones the Bots should keep, and all in all it was an inspiring day. There is such talent in the country and it's great to see it have an outlet. Well done to the Bots for hosting the exhibition - it's such a lovely venue. I've included a few rather faulty pics here of the more gardeny pieces.  

'Silently', Ceramic, Tara Butler-Frey

'Talking Heads', Ceramic, Louise O'Sheehan

'Time', Steel, Copper, Glass, Patricia Karellas
 (if you look carefully, you'll see the floating 'seeds' suspended from the tree branch to the right)
A part of 'Liber', Paper, Cord, Sandi Sexton
'Tree Dressings', Blown Glass Forms, Mags O'Dea
That last one caught my eye for a few reasons, it's a yew tree (which I'm a bit obsessed with at the moment), the glass forms look as though they belong to the tree yet they're a bit surreal too, which I like; and it turns out I know the artist! (Hi Mags). 

While we were in the vicinity of the yew trees, I noticed this gem:

Yew tree with golden berries in the Botanic Gardens
(if I were a 'proper' gardener I'd have recorded the name, but I was in culture mode not botanical mode on the day)
I'd urge anyone reading this who lives in or near Dublin to go to the exhibition, it's free in--as always in the Bots, how great is that?--and there is some exquisite work there. I loved 'Making Waves' by Philip O'Neill, 'Songs for Prakriti' by Pertiwi, 'Liber' by Sandi Sexton, 'Aberrant Filaments' by Orla Kaminska and 'Council of the Seven Chieftain Trees of Ancient Ireland' by Gráinne Doyle ... the list goes on. Just go and have a look yourselves! 

Friday night was Culture Night across the country and some places chose to extend the idea throughout the weekend. Burtown House was one of those places and on Sunday we headed down to hear Eileen McDonagh talk about her works there. What a pleasure - delicious lunch in the sunny courtyard followed by an enlightening and entertaining talk by someone who clearly loves what she does. And oh, does she do it well... If any of you reading this ever win the lottery and are feeling very flathúileach, feel free to buy a McDonagh piece for my garden. This artist knows and loves the stone she works with so well: she talked about the untreated rock surface as being 'living', that it gets 'deadened' when it's damaged, that sometimes it needs polishing and sometimes it doesn't, that it takes a while to work out the intervention she wants to make, that sometimes she has to wait years before she can start or indeed finish a piece she loves. I've loved rock for most of my adult life, but having been a geologist by trade, I've known it from the scientific point of view; but to see the work Eileen does and to hear her talk about stone from an artist's viewpoint was simply wonderful.

And the more we manage to find wonder in our lives, the better. 

Have a good week all. 

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