Tuesday 12 November 2019

Artists on retreat - meet 16 young artists awarded Next Generation bursaries

From poets to dancers, 16 young talents awarded Next Generation bursaries by the Arts Council of Ireland spent an inspiring week together at a retreat in Co Monaghan. Arlene Harris paid them a visit

Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet from North West Donegal. Photo: Barry Cronin
Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet from North West Donegal. Photo: Barry Cronin
Sian Ni Mhuiri is a writer, producer and director of theatre for young audiences, and a graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama, London with Angela Fulcher, a visual artist working in sculpture and installation. Photo: Barry Cronin
Guillaume Cousson, a self taught circus performer, artist and dancer. Photo: Barry Cronin

Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, all our lives are enriched by art. Some may say that they don't enjoy looking at paintings or they don't have an eye for the written word, but there is no doubt that the world would be a lesser place without creativity.

The Next Generation programme from the Arts Council of Ireland recognises this and promotes a selection of artists from different disciplines and helps them to do what they do best.

For 2016, 16 bursaries were awarded to innovative young artists, working across visual arts, music, literature, film, dance, theatre and circus to support their ambition as rising stars of the contemporary arts in Ireland.

The chosen artists each received an award of €12,500 to fund their works this year, and were invited to participate in a collective week-long residency in April at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, a residential workplace in Co Monaghan where our photos were taken.

Orlaith McBride, director of the Arts Council, says picking the bursary winners was a difficult task but the most important thing was allowing them the space to develop and grow within the residency programme.

"The big challenge for the Arts Council in terms of shaping the Next Generation programme for emerging artists was to look at the different ways in which artists nowadays think and work," she explains. "The shared conversations that were had at Annaghmakerrig have probably brought the artists into a different space in terms of their own arts practice and that's really all we wanted to achieve. We didn't want to direct them in any way. We wanted the residency to be absolutely led by the artists and all we wanted to do was try to create the context and the environment around that, where they could take time to immerse themselves in their work without distraction."

Here we meet some of Ireland's rising arts stars…


Alma Kelliher (31) from Kerry is currently living in Dublin but has worked all over the world as a sound designer and composer, primarily for theatre, dance and visual art.

"I'm a freelance artist and work with a number of theatre companies, including Rough Magic, thisispopbaby, The UK National Theatre and, most notably, with Olwen Fouéré on her worldwide tour of Riverrun, for which I won the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Sound Design 2013.

"I'm also in a band called The Evertides with Ruth McGill and Ruth Smith. We're a folk and harmony trio, with our roots in Irish music, gospel, bluegrass and good storytelling. We just launched our debut EP in the Unitarian Church, to a fantastic response and we're set to play a number of festivals this summer including Doolin Folk Festival's main stage."

ANNEMARIE Ní Churreáin, poet

Annemarie Ní Churreáin (34) is a poet and writer from Donegal. Growing up in the Gaeltacht and raised in a world of story-telling and legends, Annemarie (pictured left and main) developed an ear for the 'musicality' of language at a young age.

"The poems I write explore emotional experiences through the physicality of rural landscapes. For me, it's impossible not to be writing in some way about the complexity and fragility of human relationships.

"In the future I want to keep writing poems. I'm also using this year to explore the creative non-fiction essay form. I believe the current care system in Ireland needs to change drastically and I think essays in particular are a great way to contribute to that conversation."


Guillaume Cousson, a self taught circus performer, artist and dancer. Photo: Barry Cronin

Guillaume Cousson (38) is a French-Laos circus performer. He originally studied law and accountancy.

"I am a circus performer and use technology in my performance, which is very visual and inspired from my Asian heritage. Performance through drawing is a door to a fantasy world where I can be whoever or whatever I want. I also use magic and live special effects to recreate a realm where the impossible becomes a reality.

"I started in 2003 but it really picked up since I've been living in Ireland as being far from my roots allowed me to take this path without being judged or criticised.

"I believe art should be accessible for everyone and my dream is to see the first national circus training centre open in Cork - this will allow competing on an international level."


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Pictured are Niamh Moriarty (left) and Ruth Clinton who use performance, video, sound installation and storytelling, along with a detailed research process to convey visions of transience and resistance. Photo:Barry Cronin.

Niamh Moriarty (28, left) lives and works in Dublin at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios in collaboration with Ruth Clinton (29, right). They also work in Cobh, where they have a residency at Sirius Arts Centre which will culminate in an exhibition titled Time (Ireland) Act 2016 opening for one month from October 1.

"Myself and Ruth are visual artists who have been working together since 2011. We use performance, video, installation and storytelling, along with a detailed research process to convey visions of transience and resistance.

"Throughout our practice there is a dialogue between the romantic and the pragmatic that is enacted both within the work and through the collaborative process. Collaboration, verging on telepathy, is crucial to all of our endeavours and often lies at the centre of our work, influencing its form and content.

"Using our own bodies and immediate surroundings as a starting point, we engage with local environments, histories and communities, in order to open up spaces of renewed reflection. Each exhibition intends to provoke a parallel sense of adventure and trepidation in sympathy with our own processes."

MOLLIE ANNA KING, visual arts

Mollie Anna King (28) is a visual artist located between South Tipperary and London. Having studied in Crawford College, Cork and The Slade School of Fine Art in London, much of her work involves the exploration of architecture and its materials as a 'metaphor' for the human body.

"I create architectural compositions which mimic the figure, linking the corporeal with the structures we inhabit. Growing up in rural Ireland, the idea of an 'innate place' set into local materials has always been of central interest in my work.

"Within my current practice, the potential narratives available in carefully chosen sculptural materials become part of my examination of how we relate to objects. These fabricated portraits of contemporary life are created by using organic and inorganic matter (cement, plaster, essential oils, bodily fluids, pigments, gelatine). The artwork is created by layering references from pop culture, design objects and art history, receiving different interpretations according to the viewer's subjective relation to each material."


Dan Colley (28) developed a love of acting as a child. Along with his partner Matt Smyth, he creates 'entertaining, provocative, audience-focussed' theatre.

"This year we will present two new shows -one, an adaptation of the Roman epic poem The Aeneid and the other, a show about astrophysics for four- to six-year-olds. Our work has toured around Ireland and been to Edinburgh, London, Moscow and, later this year, to New York.

"I work with actors as a devising ensemble which means that I'll often start without a script, just a broad idea or a text I think is interesting and we'll improvise and discuss until we have something worth writing down as a play. It's a process which can take a lot of time and resources, which is always a struggle to find, but it's worth it because the shows that come out of it are really owned by the performers."

FIONA REILLY, visual arts

Fiona Reilly (30) lives in Dublin and works as a visual artist. Having studied Fine Art at NCAD and completed a masters at LSAD, her current work is 'routed in a continuous questioning of the role of art in society'.

"My focus is visual art, working in multiple disciplines including found objects, drawings, video and performative public events. My art is used as a tool for investigation into aspects of our lives that go unnoticed or are accepted as normal. I strive to question predominant ideologies and presumptions within society. So my work at present is investigating precarious and unwaged labour.

"I went straight from secondary school to NCAD in 2004 as I was lucky enough to have a wonderful art teacher who inspired and encouraged me to pursue my studies. My ambition is to continue to develop my practice, both nationally and internationally, through new research and projects which push the parameters of what art is."


Ramon Kassam (34) from Limerick studied Fine Art and Painting at Limerick School of Art and Design. Having been interested in art from an early age, he is currently a practising visual artist based in Dublin and working from a studio in Temple Bar

"Paintings form the basis of my practice and are the result of an intuitive reshuffling and re-contextualisation of studio materials, art histories, biographical elements and formal structures. They relate to one another through an invented narrative centred around supposed activities, environment and viewpoints.

"Art was the only subject I was remotely interested in at school but the concept of being a visual artist was alien to me then because of a lack of exposure. However, once I started college, the world of contemporary visual arts was opened up to me. I was instantly hooked and decided to pursue a degree and career in that field."

SIAN NÍ MHUIRÍ, playwright

Sian Ní Mhuirí (26, below left) is a playwright and theatre-maker from Dublin. Specialising in work for young audiences, she is a graduate of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London and believes her work offers a wonderful opportunity to reach out to people.

"I make work for children and young people which attempts to understand the social issues, challenges and anxieties which affect their lives and represent them with creativity, humour and honesty. I believe live theatre and art provides a powerful exercise in empathy for audiences, a chance to flex the muscles of our social understanding by following the stories and struggles of other humans and characters.

"The stories we tell young people imprint on them, change their perspective and send them overt and covert lessons about the world. That's why representative, socially-engaged and high quality art for children is so important - they need more representative, brave media which opens up worlds of possibilities for them and lets them flex those muscles of empathy and imagination."

Sian Ni Mhuiri is a writer, producer and director of theatre for young audiences, and a graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama, London with Angela Fulcher, a visual artist working in sculpture and installation. Photo: Barry Cronin


Angela Fulcher (41, above, right) lives and works in Cork city. As a visual artist, she works in sculpture, installation and photographic collage.

"My approach to producing works involves applying close attention to the details and qualities of materials and surfaces. Through this process I explore the contexts and philosophies associated with the production and use of found materials.

"My recent work has focused on fabrics from domestic interiors, particularly curtains, blinds and carpets, also clothing and accessories. I also explore functional fabrics including tents, window display material, transport interior fabrics and vinyl. With an emphasis on colour, my work often responds to the architecture and space of its environment and my interest in embodied aesthetic experience."

Photos: Barry Cronin

Irish Independent

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