04 Jul 2022

Blessington library announce art exhibition based on local landmark

Blessington library announce art exhibition based on local landmark

Blessington library announce art exhibition based on local landmark

Blessington library announce art exhibition based on Poulaphouca resevoir, Wicklow. Three Irish artists will present the new work about the local landmark.

The project, Púca in the Machine, will be shown at Blessington Library from February 17 to March 5 2022. Artists Shane Finan (Valleymount, Wicklow), Niamh Fahy (Bristol, UK) and Alannah Robins (Inagh, Galway) began working on this project in 2021, brought together by Finan to study the reservoir from the perspective of myth, ecology and the non-human.

Poulaphuca means “the púca’s hole”: The púca is a mischievous creature in Irish folklore who is able to take many forms. Local lore tells that it swims as a metre-long pike in the King’s River, Wicklow.

After Kings River and the River Liffey were dammed to create the hydroelectric power station in the 1930s, the valley was submerged, giving the púca more room to spread its mischief. As púca gained space, many people were evicted. Their stories  have been well documented by publications and documentaries through the years. To tell a new story, the artists focussed on the voices of those that are often not recorded in the history of the reservoir: The trees that were cut down, the animals that were displaced, the algae that had new places to grow. 

Shane Finan is an artist and project coordinator based in Valleymount, Wicklow. He uses interactive digital media, electronics, installation and painting in his work. Working with Blessington Library, he began a project about the reservoir in 2020, later asking Robins and Fahy to work on a joint project, Púca in the Machine.

Robins is an object-maker and artist working with ecology and myth. Fahy, originally from Galway, is a PhD student in the University of West England, Bristol, working on the concept of ‘slow violence’. Supported by Wicklow Arts Office, the three artists have created a new body of research from the myths, ecology, history and culture of Poulaphuca.

Finan said of the project: “It’s such a rich area, with so much diverse history and culture. We wanted to tell the story from an angle that it hadn’t had before. Sometimes by looking beyond the human you end up seeing the human stories in a new light. What if the púca could swim right into the electrical cables? What if that’s where all the trouble started?” 

Blessington Library were pleased to host the new project in the first event of 2022 after pandemic restrictions have been eased. Head Librarian Deirdre Priestly had the following to say: “Blessington Library is delighted to have this opportunity to host this unique exhibition – We are very pleased to have artists present new work relating to the area around Blessington Lakes, particularly artists who use research as a main part of their practice. This work will be of great interest to the local community and further afield. Now that we can have an audience for indoor events we look forward to welcoming our patrons back to the library space.”

West Wicklow is an area of importance for the Wicklow Arts Office. County Arts Officer Jenny Sherwin commented: “We are very pleased to be able to support Shane’s initiative with Strategic Project funding and his practice is a wonderful addition to the Arts Ecology in West Wicklow.”

Art from the project will exhibit for the first time at Blessington Library, opening on February 17 2022 and running until March 5 2022 before touring to other venues in Ireland later in 2022. All three artists will give a talk on February 17 at 6pm, explaining the concepts and ideas that led the work’s development. Although restrictions have eased, there will be a limited capacity for the launch event and tickets are available through Blessington Library.

A book documenting the project will launch at Blessington Library on March 3 2022 at 6pm. Púca in the Machine received support from Wicklow Arts Office Strategic Projects Fund 2022.

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