The Argus

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Ulrike turning rubbish into art

There's a lot more to music festivals than the music. The bands might be what draws the crowds, but today's festivals bill themselves as immersive cultural experiences with a host of fringe events, from yoga to poetry. Each festival has its own vibe and this is often signalled by the art installations which grace the festival site.

One artist who has been working on the festival circuit for several years now is German-born Ulrike Lietbrau. A trained occupational therapist who has been living in Ireland for the past 13 years, Ulrike first got involved in making installations for festivals when a friend asked her to help out at Vantastival when it was held in Bellurgan Park. Having always had an interest in art, Ulrike was immediately hooked on this form of public art.

This is normally a busy time of year for her, but with the festival season cancelled, she is concentrating on preparing work for her first solo exhibition in The Basement Gallery of An Tain Arts Centre, next January, as well as posting videos of crafty ideas for parents to keep their children busy during lockdown.

When she first came to Ireland 13 years ago, she originally lived in Cork city and then Kinsale. She first came to the Wee County nine years ago and now lives in Bellurgan.

Ulrike makes her light installations and sculptures for festivals from recycled materials. This is driven by her desire 'to raise green awareness and inspire people to recycle, reuse and upcycle every day'.'

'My preferred medium is rubbish art, using recycled material and stuff people throw away, making collages and sculptures,' she explainss. 'I love the challenge of making things with what I have and what I can get my hands on. People frequently bring me stuff, saying 'I am sure you can make something awesome out of this'. I create this 'out of reality space' to tempt visitors to get lost in art, to let the hardship of life go for these moments and wonder in amazement.'

She loves the outdoors, mountain biking, surfing, hiking, airsoft as well as dancing, and draws inspiration from these for her installations,

My main inspiration is nature in all its facets, nature creates every day, all the details, diversity, it is constant, nature survives and adapts... it never stops and is beautiful. Fire, wind, mountains, water, sun and all the living things inspire me every day to create. Using rubbish and recyclables as material to create is not only a budget decision it also is my respect for all things, that most things still have a value and a purpose.'

She says that her hands are her most important tools as she fashions these large pieces out of recycle materials, and she uses a variety of tools including a jigsaw, staple gun, drill, mitre saw, pallet breaker and a wireless glue gun.

She enjoys the collaborative aspect of working on installations for festivals. 'Creating for events adds another layer to creativity as many minds work together,' she says.

Her work graces the fields at Bellurgan Park where she created pieces for numerous festivals including Vantastival, Lunasa, Arcadian Field, Absolute Deep, as well as working on the annual 'Festival of Horrors. She has also created work for Electric Picnic, Body and Soul and Knockanstockan festivals.

Ulrike has also worked with local bands like Nix Moon, Elephant and T.P.M. and has created stage props for local theatre groups including Dundalk's M.A.D Youth Theatre, and with community projects at Creative Spark and the Focus Family Resource Centre, Killeshandra, Co Cavan.

Her work has taken to festivals around the country and in Germany, but not this year. 'All my gigs this year are cancelled this year due to the pandemic.'

I am still creating every day, and when it started I felt called to make short clips with ideas for people they can do at home with stuff they might have already there, posting video tutorials on how to make simple crafts from everyday items on her YouTube channel.

She is also using the time to prepare for her first solo exhibition, sharing snippets of her work on Twitch.TV

Ulrike says she also likes sharing her work with the world around her 'to bring a bit of light, magic and colour into other people's lives to make them happy. Creating something that wasn't there before feels so good.'

'At the moment, I making 99 roses from drinking cans, keeping in touch with my audience and provide an online space for a cup of tea and a chat.'

'After working for years at events that only last one to three days, I am craving a longer exhibition, and more creative freedom for my art pieces as these installations need to be waterproof and indestructible. It's also time to bring the labyrinth gallery to a wider spread demographic in the heart of the town. I want to enchant the public and lure them into a new perception of colour, shapes and space,' she says.

'In a world of creation I can dream up anything and its up to me to make it work and transform my ideas into reality. It's like magic. I document my progress with time lapse videos on YouTube and live stream once a week on twitch while creating small details for the Labyrinth Gallery.'

Urlike also posts regular updates on the Patreon website, an on-line platform which allows artists to get support from subscribers.

The Argus