FSAS Presents: An exhibition of works by Resident Artists curated by Siobhán Mooney

12 June, 2024

FSAS Presents is an exhibition of new and previous work by 10 Resident Artists at Fire Station Artists’ Studios. Siobhán Mooney was invited to curate the first iteration of this annual exhibition.  

Vanta, our FSAS cat, was the starting point for the exhibition and was used as a way to engage with ideas around community and shared space. Her daily route also inspired the location of each artwork.  

Artists exhibiting are: Alice Rekab, Alisha Doody, Blaine O’Donnell, Brian Teeling, Evelyn Broderick, Kian Benson Bailes, Maria Maarbjerg, Mieke Vanmechelen, Paul Hallahan and Samir Mahmood. 

The exhibition is open to the public on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 June, 3 – 6 pm, and will be available to be seen by appointment the following four weeks, on Tuesdays, between 2 and 4pm (25 June, 2 July, 9 July and 16 July). Email to make an appointment.

Siobhán Mooney is an independent curator based between Dublin and Kerry. Siobhán is interested in work that responds to place and memory, particularly in relation to traditional Irish culture and folklore. Siobhán is a current a co-director of Basic Space and is curator and artist liaison for Earth Rising festival held in IMMA. 

Curatorial Statement
Genuine community is hard to come by in this city and in recent years has become increasingly hard to maintain. With ever-increasing rents pushing people out of Dublin, a thriving artistic community in the city centre is more important than ever and Fire Station Artists’ Studios helps to provide this. For this first iteration of Fire Station Presents I wanted a way to link these 10 resident artists, all at different stages of their residencies, through this sprawling set of buildings. I suggested Vanta, the very black cat who lives in FSAS, as a starting point. I see her as a meandering thread that ties these distinct artists together and her omnipresence a playful way to think about community. The parameters of the show allowed artists to work outside the boundaries of their practice, to be lighter and looser. Some artists worked broadly with the idea and some went straight for the cat. As I listened to the artists I learned how she makes her mark on their day to day lives by punctuating time or simply offering a kind of recognition through her presence.  Everyone has their own story about Vanta, and their own relationship with her. From these stories, her movements in FSAS and the surrounding streets were used to map out where each artwork would live, a little homage to her in the places she chooses to frequent.

Vanta roams freely through space and time at Fire Station. She was here watching and waiting, comforting and causing people allergic reactions before this community of artists arrived, and she will be here with the next. (🤞)

Artwork & Artists: 

1. Alice Rekab and Kian Benson Bailes, Púca-Pusaí, 2024, a modular work in clay

Alice Rekab’s practice is concerned with expressions and iterations of complex cultural and personal narratives. Alice Rekab takes their own mixed-race Irish identity as a starting point from which to explore experiences of race, place and belonging. Over the last ten years Rekab’s practice has centred around collaboration and interdisciplinary work from which they produce film, performance, image and sculpture, creating new intersectional narratives and objects for exhibition. Recent Projects include Mehrfamilienhaus, Museum VILLA STUCK , Munich (2023); FAMILY LINES Project, Douglas Hyde Gallery(2022); Mountain Language, Galway Arts Centre(2022) Concealed in the half-light, Catalyst Arts Centre, Belfast (2021), Truth, Flags, Identity, Temple Bar Gallery+Studios // Culture Night Dublin (2020) The Nomoli/Father talk, VERY Project Space, Berlin (2019) and The Open Object, Stanley Picker Gallery, London (2018). Rekab completed a PhD in Art at Kingston School of Art London in 2018 and an MA at Goldsmiths College London in 2010. Their work is in the collections of Trinity College Dublin, The Cathal Ryan Trust, The Irish Museum of Modern Art and The Arts Council of Ireland. Rekab is a recipient of the Visual Arts Project Award 2021 and the Visual Arts Bursary Award 2020. Alice Rekab identifies as non-binary.

Kian Benson Bailes is an Irish artist residing in the northwest of Ireland. His multifaceted practice explores rural Ireland, visual language and identity, through the use of sculpture, installation, collage, and textiles. Benson Bailes draws from Irish folklore, personal history, and queer theory, “to interrogate my own emotional landscape as a way of reconciling place and self.” Recent exhibitions include ‘Culchie boy, I love you / Grá mo chroí thú, mo chábóigín féin’, at Project Arts Centre, Co. Dublin and ‘The Gleaners Society’ 40th Edition EVA International, Co. Limerick.

Púca-Pusaí is a modular work in clay by Kian Benson Bailes and Alice Rekab. Consisting of separate parts that when combined form a complete whole, this work was collaboratively hand made and fired by the artists at Fire Station Studios. The modular nature of the sculpture allows it to be taken apart and rebuilt piece by piece to capture the transient and communal nature of local Fire Station feline inhabitant Vanta. Each iteration of Púca-Pusaí can be deconstructed and reconfigured to the needs of the artists and the space it is in.

2. Alisha Doody, How to Live Here, 2022, 2.57min digital video 

Alisha Doody is a visual artist with a socially engaged practice, whose work combines solo and collaborative research methodologies. Through photography, moving image and installation, her work explores the role of mentorship and history in relation to identity development specifically within the LGBTQI+ community. A starting point for how she has begun to understand her practice emerged through Katherine O Donnell’s writing on Irish lesbian feminism which “has remained conscious of its post/colonial legacy, it is characterised by a political practice of building alliances, coalitions and by an intersectional thinking that is critical of claims to supremacy and hierarchy.” As such, she sees her whole practice as concerned with the historical, social and political conditions of my environments with a particular focus on ethical engagements.

How to Live Here is a film that explores the motivation to move from urban to rural environments as a trajectory of queer lives. It occurs through the artist’s own experience and is a reflection of our connection to histories both known and unknown. The work speaks to our movement through spaces and histories as we come to terms with our identities but are also seeking knowledge for our future. In ways this work speaks to Vanta’s viewpoint in Fire Station as she moves through different critical points of space and time in artists lives. A witness to us being made and unmade as our arts practices evolve.

3. Blaine O’ Donnell, Untitled (Monument to Failure), 2017, quartz, sand, rock, card, paper, wood, resin, wood glue, strontium aluminate, potassium aluminium sulfate, glass test tubes, height approx 35cm 

Blaine O’Donnell is an artist working primarily in sculpture. Taking an experimental approach to the materials and debris of photography, architecture and geology, he investigates the art object as a starting point for tracing networks of relationships between objects, humans and places. O’Donnell is currently in residence at Fire Station Artist’s Studios, Dublin. He received the 2019 Emerging Irish Artist Residency Award, followed by exhibitions at the Burren College of Art, Clare (2019) and 126 Gallery, Galway (2020). In 2021, he created a permanent sculptural installation at Void, Derry, for Office of the Rest, a Forerunner project commissioned by Mary Cremin. Recent exhibitions include hinder/further, The Complex, Dublin (2022) and Things To Do With Photographs, Gallery Augusta, Helsinki (2023). Recent residencies include the The Temple Bar Gallery + Studios / Helsinki International Artist Programme Residency Exchange, Finland (2023) and the The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, USA (2024).

During the 19th Century, photography’s early practitioners experimented with a vast array of animal, vegetable and mineral materials in an effort to create fixed and lasting photographic images. In this series of site-responsive sculptures, several of these substances, including eggshell, bitumen and phosphorescent compounds, find new life in geological form, commemorating their earthly origins and foregrounding material properties.

Untitled (Monument to Failure) draws upon Louis Daguerre’s (1787-1851) unsuccessful experiments with phosphorescent substances while attempting to create a fixed photograph. The glass tubes contain strontium aluminate, absorbing light from their surroundings and glowing gently during the hours of darkness.  Formed from eggshells (the waste material from albumen prints popular from 1847 onwards), Untitled (Rock with Oculus) forms a simple ‘proto-camera’, focusing light or allowing a blurry camera obscura image to transverse its interior over the course of a day.  Bitumen of Judea is a type of naturally-occurring tar used by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) to create the first fixed photographic image. In Untitled (Bitumen Pool), the material is repurposed to line a pool of water, supporting a more fugitive and colourful image – a reflection.

4. Brian Teeling, Arch of Eyes (Vanta, Once), 2024, mirrors, acrylic

Brian Teeling (b. Dublin, 1987) is an Irish multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Dublin. He has no fine art qualifications and is entirely self-taught.

The work is two mirrors. One at a standard height, with a portrait of Vanta painted in a facsimile of VANTABLACK paint. The other is a blank mirror, at a height Vanta can see herself in. Inspired by ideas present in the work of Félix González-Torres, specifically the work Untitled (Orpheus, Twice), this work looks at Vanta’s life versus the artists who live/have lived at the studio. Our time at Fire Station is temporary, while Vanta stays in situ. We see ourselves reflected in and with Vanta (during our time at Fire Station), whereas she can only see herself in the mirror. We (the artists in residence) are absent. Vanta is ever present.

5. Evelyn Broderick, Two social, interactive works: Vanta – this is your life 2024 and Two súgán chairs 2022

Evelyn Broderick is a multidisciplinary artist and currently the recipient of the inaugural FSAS residency award for artists with a socially engaged art practice. Her praxis MAKING|THINKING is an open dialogue that evolves through the interactions of the communities she engages with. Evelyn develops socially engaged structures to combine sculpture, printmaking and sound together in order to question the role making has in a both social and collective context. As a traditional Irish flute player, Evelyn’s sculptural work draws on the performative collective experience intrinsic to Irish traditional music. In 2020 Evelyn was artist in residence at UCD’s Parity Studios at the College of Social Science and Law. She has just completed an 18 month residency at Studio 468 in Dublin 8 as part of Common Ground’s community based residency where Evelyn further developed her project The People’s Shed. Evelyn is 2023’s recipient of Create’s the  Artist in the Community Scheme Bursary.

You are encouraged to take a seat with a friend or a stranger to sit back to back and tell one another how you know Vanta. Do you know anything about Vanta? I will also be gathering these stories in writing which will become a small red book presented to Vanta as ‘this is your life’.

6. Maria Maarbjerg, Working Cat, 2024, analogue photo on paper, 45 cm x 36 cm

Maria Maarbjerg is a Danish visual artist. Working primarily with photography and text. Her practice revolves around questions of national identity and societal changes. She is a former student from Fatamorgana– The Danish School of Photography. Renowned for its unique focus on individual language in photography, the school continues to inform her practice and style. Her photos are leaning towards documentary photography, and are characterised by a strong attention to composition and form.

Maarbjerg holds a Bachelor in Fine Art from TU Dublin. Her graduation piece in 2020 was recognised with an RDS Visual Art Award, and she has since won multiple awards and residencies, notably A4 Sounds Studio’s We Only Want the Earth Studio Residency and Fire Station Residential Studio Award. She has been exhibiting in both Denmark and Ireland, In 2022, her solo exhibition titled “ode to changes” was exhibited in the RHA in Dublin.

Vanta is without a doubt a cute little fur ball. However, one would now and then find her with remains of bird feathers between her claws, reminding us that not only is she successful in being Fire Station’s little darling, but she is also a very successful “working cat.”

7. Mieke Vanmechelen, Imposter, site specific performance and Imposter, 2024, digital video video, 2.30min 

Mieke Vanmechelen, originally from Antwerp, Belgium, has lived in Ireland since 1981 and is normally based on a hill farm on the Kerry side of the Beara Peninsula. Currently a resident at FSAS, her practice intertwines elements of film, visual art, and philosophical inquiry. Delving into themes of identity, territory, and belonging, she explores the interactions and boundaries between living beings and their environments, with an emphasis on the intricacies of marginalised subjects. Vanmechelen co-directed an Arts Council-funded film called Hungry Hill, which premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in August 2023, and later screened at the IFI Documentary Festival, as well as at international festivals. Her research trip to the Isle of Eigg in the Hebrides in 2024 allowed her to explore possible alternative ways of living, enriching her ongoing research into urban anthropology, supported by a DCC Bursary Award.

As part of the Vanta-themed show at Fire Station Artists’ Studios, I will perform as an “imposter” by wearing a mask of the neighbour’s cat and a t-shirt labelled “Imposter”. The notion of territory is intrinsically tied to identity, and Vanta’s strong territorial instincts are a fundamental aspect of her identity. By stepping into this contested space as an “Imposter,” I aim to provoke questions about how identities are formed and defended, both in the animal kingdom and in human societies. By impersonating the external cat, I seek to disrupt Vanta’s established territory, creating a temporary coexistence that challenges the status quo. This performance invites viewers to reflect on the possibility of coexistence and the potential for new dynamics within rigidly defended spaces.

8. Paul Hallahan, Good spirit, 2024, Acrylic on canvas 160cm x 115cm, Little Vanta (Buddy), 2024 Acrylic on canvas, 60cm x 50cm 

Paul Hallahan’s artistic practice primarily focuses on painting, but commonly brings in moving image and sculptural elements to his works and projects. Hallahan’s work is based in the abstracted interpretations of the world around him, delving into various subjects but mainly exploring human interaction and relationship with nature and civilisation. Over the years, Hallahan has exhibited his works extensively, winning the Golden Fleece Award in 2018. He has exhibited his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions with recent solo exhibitions including Hang Tough Contemporary (2023), The Dock (2022), The Complex (2020) and Roscommon Arts Centre (2020).

The two works I have made for this very unique exhibition in Fire Station studios are abstractions of images I have taken over the past year of living at Fire Station of our little cat. Vanta instantly welcomed me in and from there even though I am not a cat person she warmed my heart from every interaction. An over looking eye of calm that wanders about Fire Station connecting people without them even knowing it. Her calmness is something that I feel is a special thing for Fire Station in general, be it with the residents, the staff or the various people that utilise Fire Station on a day to day occasion.

9. Samir Mahmood, Rag Bush, 2024, mixed media assemblage

Samir Mahmood’s work focuses on themes of body, transformation, transcendence and cultures surrounding queer existence. In his practice, he uses the queer body to consider human vulnerability and assess its connection to the world. In doing, the work is an attempt to offer a liberating new reality. Samir is the recipient of the Next Generation Artist Award from The Arts Council, Ireland (2023).

FSAS’s Rag Bush

The rag bush beckoned her
To beautify, glisten and adorn

The offerings this time, are art fragment/s/ed
Protoplasmic pieces, absorbing in its bed
With hopes of arising as light, in light

A being presents somewhere
Along the spectrum of meaningful to meaningless desire

Another one,
Tiptoeing, deep purrs

The visitors at the rag bush are diverse, bipedal or quadrupedal
But each with a single thumping heart
Seeing, smelling, desiring
Basking in the chilling sacredness

Round and round we pilgrim the rag tree
Dropping, depositing offerings

And leaving traces, which exist, and get erased
And exist again, some day, some where, to be erased again…….

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