Beginning Beginning Again Again.
Writing is still like heaving bricks over a wall… I should like to growl to you about all this damned lying in bed and doing nothing, and getting up and writing half a page and going to bed again. I’ve wasted five whole years (I count) doing it; so you must call me 35 – and not 40 – and expect rather less from me. Not that I haven’t picked up something from my insanities and all the rest. Indeed, I suspect they’ve done instead of religion. But this is a difficult point. Virginia Woolf
My name is Sara. Although I’m twenty-seven, nearly twenty-eight years old, on reflection of what it is I stand to have achieved in life, I rather feel as though I shouldn’t be. I should rather, as Virginia Woolf did, to have a few of those years over again and to make a little better of them. Nevertheless I accept that there is no knowledge so hard to acquire as the knowledge of how to live this life well and naturally. And the most barbarous of our maladies is to despise our being. Michel de Montaigne
‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’ F. Scott Fitzgerald
So although I am not fiercely successful and although my existence is not always so straightforward nor plainsailing as I might once have willed it to be, I recognise my advantages. I live on a seafront in a village where everybody waves, in a house with yellow walls and numerous animal figurines, with a marvellously strange dog and a tirelessly kind man, both of whom tend to show me rather a lot more affection than I actually deserve. I have all of my limbs intact and 20/20 vision and just enough responsibility for it to represent encouragement as opposed to burden. And I achknowledge my weaknesses alongside my advantages. I hope that I will be able to learn something from this cocktail of circumstance to one day be of use to other people.
Here on the virtual pages of this blog-site are the things that I make, but mostly, the things that I write. Here I place them down for anyone, but always in the awareness that with life’s events one must win ones own approval. There is no-one to show anything to, no-one who will say well done. Gerard Donovan
Because I want people to begin here, I feel that I should use this page to contextualise the site as a whole, to outline who and where I am and what I do. The first ‘beginning’ that I wrote, see The Best Reason I Have below, annoys me now. So I guess I am beginning ‘beginning’ again.
This site started as a means of self-promotion, I suppose. A virtual place to which I could direct people interested in seeing my artwork or reading my art writings. Now when I look back through it, I am ashamed of its Me Me Me-ness. I thought that by avoiding the inclusion of a checklist of my friends and acquaintances, pictures of myself thumbs-ups-ing inanely to the camera, then it would not be like that. But it still seems to me a little like ‘here is a list of my achievements and here are all the pretty things my life comprises of,’ so I apologise. I don’t actually believe that I am all that great. I feel bad that I am so self-absorbed, so useless to the world.
I am not trying to sell myself as an artist anymore, so I no longer feel the need to explain myself, to recite my qualifications and achievements. The first time around I described myself by ironing out all the humdrum-ities and twisting my background and lifestyle into something quirky and unique. But I am just another aspiring eccentric, really. It took me a while to figure it out, but the only way left to be different nowadays is to just admit you’re the same as everyone else.
Suffice to say, I am Sara, I am twenty-five, I am not all that great, I am just the same as everyone else. At the moment I am doing an M.Phil in Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin. This site used to link to essays and short stories, but I took them all down one day in a fit of creative meltdown. I am no more trying to sell myself as a writer than as an artist. When this qualification is through, I want to go to Northern India and live simply somewhere where I can see prayer flags in the trees and Himalayas in the distance. I used to have all kinds of more conventional ambitions, but over the past two years since I finished art school, I have been busy shedding little pieces of everything I thought I knew and was. And I have changed my mind.
The Best Reason I Have.
In the North of England, in the county of Lancashire, in a town called Billinge, at the very beginning of the scorching summer of 1984, I was born. I came out the colour of carcinogenic smarties, the umbilical chord wrapped tightly about my slimy neck. For a moment or two I had almost certainly exited worldly existence just as soon as I had entered it. But then the maternity nurse diligently unstrangled me. And so here I am.
We lived in a caravan. But then we moved to the pretty Irish countryside and bought a creaky old house. As the youngest daughter of a quarry foreman and an archaeologist, my childhood was full of elemental things like rocks and bones. It was the eighties, so we were poor. My Dad grew vegetables. My Mum used to gather up those free copy-books they would give out in the supermarkets approaching September, and my sister and I would spend many a magnificent hour filling them with pictures and stories. I adored watching Make & Do programmes on our rickety old black & white TV set. We would make space rockets out of loo-rolls and rag dolls out of old socks. In later life I figured out that I could, pretty much, make a career out of re-imagined loo-rolls and recycled-sock dolls. That was how I discovered sculpture.
I was in the nerdy crowd in school, and I aced the Leaving Certificate. I was not really so clever though, just good at exams. I figured out what needed to be delivered, and delivered it. I forgot every bit of it as soon as the school gates swung closed behind me. Dad wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor, but I flew the nest to the capital city and spent five years doing PLCs and BAs and BA (Hons) in Fine Art.
In college, every picture painted and object fabricated was considered pointless fluff unless you were able to contextualise it with a social, political, theoretical or art historical reference of some description. My art work became much more ambitious in scale and scope, but diminished in sincerity. I read No Logo and set about starting a sculptural rebellion against the scourge of commercialism and the evils of consumer society. I converted a 9-foot industrial conveyor-belt into a scroll of acrylic-on-canvas advertisements, their catchy slogans cleverly twisted into subversive messages. To mimic a prismatic billboard, I rigged a manual exercise-bicycle on to a metal frame. The pedals rotated eight rectangular panels that flashed promotional imagery for weight loss products at the viewer as they cycled.
Straight after graduating I went to Venice to work with the Irish Pavilion in the Biennale. Then back up through continental Europe with some friends on a grand art trek to Documenta 12 in Kassel and Munster Sculpture Project. Back in the real world I set up a studio (the shed), did workshops and studentships and invigilated in galleries for a while. I spent nine months in Dublin doing a curatorial internship in the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College. (See link to DHG piece.) During this period, I started to write on visual art, and bits and pieces began to get published both online and in print.
Since October of last year I’ve been making stuff and writing full-time. I don’t know exactly what it is I do all day, but I am constantly busy and there are never quite enough hours, although I probably dawdle more than I ought. I’ve got a bunch of reviews on recirca.com, (see links) plus a number in print. I have also been doing project profiles and articles for the Visual Artists Ireland Newssheet. I was contributing to Dublin’s Event Guide (see Interview link) until the recession put them out of print. I’ve been in a few group shows in Dublin with Monstertruck Gallery & Studios, and I spent two weeks at the start of June involved in an art project in a dis-used orphanage in Gorzow, which is a city on the Warta River in Western Poland. I am still involved with curatorial projects and talks and suchlike in the Douglas Hyde Gallery. (See ‘home page’ and ‘project page’ for more details of what is current.) In October I will be returning to the sanctuary of the education system to do an M.Phil in Creative Writing in Trinity College Dublin.
I know that there are lots of bright and sparkly wordpress sites out there just like this one, painstakingly assembled by optimistic so-called ‘artists’ just like me. I’m not going to pretend to be so wonderful or so original or so special. Sometimes I watch the girls I went to school with get nice pensionable jobs and 40-year mortgages and engagement rings. And I wonder how it is that I never borrowed that particular book from the great lending library of life. I never figured out how to negotiate full-time employment or remember the Rules of the Road or sustain a serious relationship. Years of comparative solitary-ness have made me self-absorbed and over-thoughtful. I love other people’s words and objects and pictures. I love whiligigs and Russian folk artefacts, Flannery O’Connor quotes and Tove Jassen‘s moomins, Annette Messager‘s ‘Mes Amis’ photographs and Tibetan thangka paintings. I just can’t see any point to things if I am not leaving a trail of words and objects and pictures. That’s the best reason I have.