Wednesday 18 July 2018

What Lies Beneath: Ag Gabhail Daoine/ The Taking of People by Helen Richmond

Ag Gabhail Daoine/ The Taking of People by Helen Richmond, Acrylic, spray paint, turf on canvas Courtesy of the artist and www.amerginpoetry.com

Ag Gabhail Daoine/ The Taking of People by Helen Richmond
Ag Gabhail Daoine/ The Taking of People by Helen Richmond

Niall MacMonagle

In The Great Gatsby, Daisy asks: "Do you watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it."

In Waterville next Thursday no one will miss this year's summer solstice at the inaugural Amergin Solstice Poetry Gathering.

Poets, including Paula Meehan and Michael Longley have made poems for the occasion, and Iveragh artists have responded to that moment when Amergin, chief poet of the Milesians, came ashore, sang a cosmic poem that identifies with the whole of creation and set Irish poetry in motion.

Artist Helen Richmond also responded to this magical moment.

"Images and feelings in the Amergin poem from centuries ago emerge and go through me. It's a poem that moves from the breathing presence of the vast eternal ocean to a sense of unity of land and fauna."

Using materials in keeping with the physicality of Amergin's incantatory poem that "opens with a swelling inhalation, the ocean's breath, and gives way to an earthy driving rhythm, the great clash in the poem between beauty, wonder and the brutality of life gave me leave to use materials that sit uneasily together".

Words from the text in Leabhar Gabhala Eireann float across an image that captures the sea meets land. It's both an abstract piece and an image of rock and sand shimmering beneath shallow limpid saltwater.

Dublin born, Richmond was "born plugged into nature". Her father, a Professor of Ancient Greek, meant images of Greek art at home and rainy Sundays in the National Gallery.

"Hot summer in the 1970s and one wet one in Achill where I spent the time under the kitchen table with markers" shaped her as an artist. Her mother's love of nature, gardening, another influence.

"I can't remember a time when I didn't make art, including the time I was three and decided to make a sculpture of the toilet with a hammer."

Now living in Kerry, she jogs every morning on Reenroe beach and is optimistic about the planet.

"We are part of each other, whatever we do to it we do to ourselves. Environmental groups are sprouting up and volunteers clean the beaches."

And on this year's longest day all will be pure poetry.

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