Wednesday 26 June 2019

A little bit of Soho in Dundalk

Bridge Street Studio artists outside their studio.
Bridge Street Studio artists outside their studio.

'Just like Soho' is how a Polish journalist described Bridge Street and the artists working there were so taken which his description that they have used it as the title of their new exhibition which opens in The Basement Gallery, An Táin Arts Centre, on Friday night.

The studios are located in an atmospheric old building in the heart of the town's St Nicholas Quarter. The artists were among those who campaigned to have the area included in regeneration plans for the streets north of the town centre.

This exhibition sees the artists declare their eclectic relationships with their space, place and each other with a dynamic and diverse exhibition of work in ceramics, textiles, painting, jewellery and mixed media.

Bridge Street Studios was founded 23 years ago by four ceramic artists who set up studio in the top floor of a former 18th century grain store. Due to demand it has since expanded and occupies three floors housing open plan art studios, a gallery and a workshop space. The artists are collectively responsible for the management of the building and gallery space and meet monthly to organise studio business and work very well as a group in this capacity.

A Polish journalist who visited the area described Bridge Street as being 'just like Soho', linking the artistic community working in the studios to underdeveloped areas of big cities where artist thrive often hidden from the rest of society.

For the exhibition, named after that comment, each of the eight artists in the studio has created a new body of work based on their relationship with Bridge St studios and the area. The work includes ceramics, paintings, textile art and jewellery.

The exhibiting artists include Orla Barry, Rachel Tinniswood, Mary Cowan, Sarah McKenna, Fiona Quigley, Orlaith Cullinane, Bróna Carty, and Caoilfionn Murphy O'Hanlon. Each artist has created a body of work in their chosen medium which communicates their relationship with their studio space, the working environment and the locality - both as an individual and as a part of a group. The exhibition will show an exciting dynamic and communication between the pieces which will mirror the connections between the artists and to their place of work.

Fiona Quigley has found her inspiration from buildings and the urban nature surrounding's Bridge street studios. She has translated these images into textile pieces using acrylic, stitch and a variation of papers and text. Fiona's pieces result in nostalgic, bright and embellished pieces.

Sarah McKenna is examining maps and hidden treasure in her pieces for the upcoming show. She is fascinated by the alchemy of people and place and how certain combinations will create hidden gold.

Having moved into Bridge Street Studios after working from home, Bróna Carty has looked at how there is a flow of production when surrounded by the other creative artists. A Hive of Creativity, Bróna is exploring the similarities of artists to bees, creative and hardworking.

Mary Cowan has always loved industrial objects and discovered an old winch above her studio space. She has used this as her inspiration for 'Just like Soho'. Mary hand-builds her sculptural pieces using coils, slabs and pieces turned out from molds or a combination of all these.

Rachel Tinniswood's new work takes inspiration from the words, cracks, crows and holes. This is in direct reference to the space in which she inhabits and works within the studio walls. The work for the exhibition reflects a number of thoughts, the process of grief, families,communities and the passing of time.

The work of Caoilfionn Murphy O'Hanlon is a representation of her emotional transition on joining the team of artists in Bridge Street Studios; the pieces document a journey from darkness into light, stagnation to fruition, revealing how a hub of fellow creatives coaxed her from her self-exiled cocoon.

Orlaith Cullinane is making a series of portraits of the Bridge Street artists at work. The alchemy of transforming crude materials into objects of beauty and meaning is manifest in the depiction of their physical process. The paintings and drawings illuminate the numerous layers of the artists' relationships with their practice and their workspace.

Orla Barry's work contains images which are snippets of different memories and experiences from the studio and the area. These glimpses combined show her symbols from over the years and how they layer together.

The exhibition opens officially on Thursday June 7th with a wine reception, and will run until July 21st.

Rachel Tinniswood will be showing how to make 3D felt pods on June 9th while Gailfionn Murphy O'Hanlon will be giving a workshop in making mini felt landscapes on July 16th, while Orlaith Culinane gives a talk on June 23 and Mary Cowan gives a printmaking workshop on June 30th. All these events are in the Basement. The Bridge Street Studios will be open for talks and presentations by the artists June 21st and July 5th.

The Argus