Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat

Tigh Josie Cottage with the green door, Cill Rialaig
Arrived at Cill Rialaig in Ballinskelligs last Thursday afternoon to start my residency - a short two weeks but hopefully a productive one. Cill Rialaig is situated in the restored ruins of a pre-famine village, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. It perches high above the ocean on a rugged clifftop and the only sounds are the birds, the waves, the wind  and the sheep in the paddocks. The nearest town of Ballinskelligs is 7 km away and it has a population of around 600. The other town of Cahersiveen is 20km away and there are several supermarkets and other shops there for necessities.

View from the mezzanine bedroom window
There are 8 restored cottages in total, one of which is the communal meeting house, Tigh an Comhra (Gaelic for House of Conversation).  I've been inside but we have yet to have any communal gatherings or meals there. There is also a laundry, presided over by Michael who keeps everything ticking over at the retreat. Each cottage has a mezzanine bedroom which is accessed by split wooden stairs - actually much easier to traverse than single steps because the gradient is so steep! The cottages are spartan but contain everything you need - sofa, chairs, tables and basic kitchen and bathroom. The studio end of the cottage has a glass roof with views to the sky and rocky hill right behind the cottage. It is amazing to stand in the space and feel that you are outside in, if you know what I mean.
Since I have been here I have been exploring the nearby beach and surrounding towns, the magnificent coastline and the ruined abbeys and castles that seem to spring up around every bend in the road. Because of my recent injury (fractured wrist...!) I am taking advantage of being driving around, and unfortunately any adventurous hiking is also out because my hand is still in a splint and I don't want to risk undoing the healing that has been happening over the last 7 weeks.

Sunrise this morning at 5am
Sunrises can be spectacular because the warmth of the rays starts burning off the mist that has settled over everything, obscuring the nearby islands and the other promontories. Slowly the landscape is revealed as the sun climbs higher. In contrast, I have been trying to capture the moment the sun sinks at around 10-11pm, but it is so elusive.  It is not the spectacular sunset we are used to in Australia, well not while I'm here anyway, it is more a gradual sigh of release at the end of the day....you are not even sure if it is setting or if it is just a figment of your imagination. I go to bed in the light and sometimes I wake up at around 3am and it is dark, but not for long.

Sunset over the Atlantic
On Sunday there was an art opening at Siopa Cill Rialaig, the Cill Rialaig Gallery, cafe and shop in nearby Dun Geagan.  Two of the artists staying in the retreat, Jane Seymour and Bina Shah were exhibiting together. Jane is a ceramic artist whose works are evocative of landscape, mists and layering of texture and colour in monochromatic tones.  Bina uses mixed media, cold wax, printing making and painting to evoke natural and urban environments.  The opening provided the opportunity to meet Noelle Campbell Sharp, the founder of Cill Rialiag whose vision for an artist retreat has seen over 3,500 artists stay here.
Noelle Campbell Sharp introducing Jane Seymour and Bina Shah
And in an amazing coincidence, I caught up with Irish textile artist, Nicola Henley, at the opening! I first met Nicola years ago when I had an exhibition at Timeless Textiles in Newcastle and she had arrived in Australia to also exhibit and conduct workshops.  Since then she has returned to Australia many times and we had planned to catch up when I was in County Clare, but fortunately she is a good friend of Jane's and attended the opening and is staying for a few days at Cill Rialiag...small world!

Catching up with Nicola Henley
I will post again with some of the amazing coastlines I have seen on my day trips around Ballinskelligs, beach fossicking, seaweed collecting and drinking in the inspiring landscape.

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