Drawn From Borders is a project led by artists for artists that explores the concept and reality of borders, specifically the border created 100 years ago by The Partition of Ireland.
The project supports the Artlink Members participating in the project to research and develop work collectively and independently that was initially planned to be exhibited in 2020 at the Tower Museum Derry~Londonderry. A key element of the project was to meet face to face as often as possible. After the lockdown we started to meet online with the view to creating a virtual exhibition of the participants’ work. This will be in addition to the ‘real life’ exhibition at Artlink Fort Dunree which has been rescheduled for 2021.
On Thursday 21st May at 12.30pm the exhibition preview was published on a Facebook Live event on Artlink’s Pagee as part of Culture Ireland’s #IrelandPerforms.
Ireland Performs is presented by FACEBOOK Ireland and Culture Ireland, Department of Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and delivered in partnership with First Music Contact and Poetry Ireland and in association with RTÉ. The programme is intended to support Irish artists (in English or Irish) and ensure that the arts continue to be enjoyed online during the Coronavirus crisis.
Drawn From Borders is a free creative engagement programme exploring key moments in Ireland’s history, delivered by Artlink, Nerve Centre and the Tower Museum.
The programme is part of the ‘Understanding the Decade of Centenaries’ project being delivered by the Nerve Centre in partnership with the Tower Museum and supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Browse the exhibition catalogue
Rewatch the preview of Drawn From Borders Live on Facebook on Thurs 21st May in association with Culture Ireland program #IrelandPerforms
Meet the Artists
Anna Marie Savage
Túir Faire (Watchtowers)
I grew up in the border town of Newry, Co. Down in the 1970s and 1980s and am fascinated by the Army Watchtowers of South Armagh and in particular the iconic imagery that has been left behind, now that the Watchtowers have been dismantled.
Túir Faire is part of an ongoing body of work exploring the concept and reality of borders, specifically the border created 100
years ago by the Partition of Ireland and my response to these Watchtower ‘structures’ that once commanded such a presence.
tend two graves
I walk the walls that enclose my memories of life so long ago when there were no threats to my
my old school, First Derry Public Elementary preserved forever now, a thriving Verbal Arts
St Augustine’s Church where I was christened and within whose pews I learned the Catechism
and got the wits scared out of me as I tried to keep the commandments
Laws and more laws from Christianity to Westminster from European Union to the White House
How am I to live now when all I know is going up in smoke
Will Ireland be united in my lifetime
Will there be no borders ever again
This grave is in Waterside, Altnagelvin Cemetery
This grave is in City Cemetery, Derry side
Turning and Turning
I am a ‘border’ artist; I live in Donegal but my studio is in Derry. Idrive across the border every day; a line that was recently made visible again, when Brexit posters started to appear at the crossing point. When the red lines of Partition were being drawn on the map of Ireland a hundred years ago, did politicians imagine the issue would still be with us today?
In a time of frenetic, chaotic debate the words of Yeats, from a hundred years ago, have an unsettling resonance ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;’ His poem ‘The Second Coming’ was first published in 1920 – the year the ‘Government of Ireland Act’ was passed.
I have used the first verse of Yeats’ poem as the inspiration for my video ‘Turning & Turning’, which was filmed at Grianan of Aileach, a stone fort on the Derry/Donegal border. From here you can look across the border, across an imagined line which creates an inside and outside, an invisible gateway from here to there to be opened
and closed; somewhere around here is the line of dispute, here is where the argument spins round and round and round.
In preparing for this work which was to reflect on the partition of Ireland 100 years on, I spent a fair amount of time reading about the larger political events that led to the creation of a border on the island of Ireland. But for my part I have always been interested in the way, through focussing on an individual, we can show a new perspective on history, an alternative to the more remote approach of traditional histories which don’t necessarily reflect the lived experience and nuances of life.
I was imagining the 100 year old border represented by a 100 year old person. I thought that through sharing memories of the changing nature of the border over the course of a lifetime I could say something new; give an insight into how the border has shaped life here. So I had a conversation with Maureen Farren, a woman who began her life 100 years ago in Strabane and spent the best part of her life across the border in Buncrana.
What began to emerge from listening to Maureen’s stories, from a life woven around border crossings over a long period of time, is the absurdity of the border, illustrated well by Maureen’s recollection of an hour-long argument between an eccentric Buncrana woman and the customs man about the status of a trowel – agricultural versus horticultural. I’m thinking that this story could act as a representation of this absurdity and the way people in their ordinary lives tried to diffuse the power of the border situation with humour and irreverence.
Mrs Farren’s view of the border seems to be that you just got on with life and accepted this farcical situation as normal. Since for anyone alive now the border has always existed, people here don’t have any other reality to compare it to.
Báinín Dearg, Red Cloth
In this project I was interested in how the border is visualised as a drawn line. Looking at the original Border Commission maps from 1925, I noticed the strong red line across the country, a border drawing which has become so familiar to us, we hardly acknowledge it any longer. On this 1925 map there are the records of indecision and uncertainty, marked by dotted lines. However, we are conscious of living within these irregular demarcations of space and within different jurisdictions. Our lives continue along and through these borderlines. My mother was born in 1928 and her life was spent crossing the borders between home in Donegal, Northern Ireland and Scotland. She has died in this strange Spring during the Coronavirus Pandemic, yet her life and rich culture will continue through following generations. Báinín dearg is the red cloth which she kept at home, to help sore shoulders or an aching back. We need its healing properties more than ever and our human capacity to connect rather than divide.
Tearmon River Border: Donegal and Fermanagh
Sally Patton is an artist, originally from Glasgow, who has been living in Donegal for nearly 25 years.
I am influenced by many sources in my work, but most notably I am concerned with landscapes and nature, at both the macro and the micro level. My work involves painting with oils and acrylics, while my printmaking output involves collagraph, lino and etching.
For the exhibition, Drawn from Borders, I have produced an etching of the border at Pettigo, south Donegal and Tullyhommon, Fermanagh. The border is in the centre of a bridge, which crosses the Termon River. When the water is low, the dividing border can be seen as a thin grassy ‘island’ running vertically down the river.
This etching, ‘ Termon River Border: Donegal and Fermanagh ’ was inspired by a photograph I had taken from the bridge several years ago and also by the discovery, through research, that Pettigo is the only village in the island of Ireland divided by the border. ‘Tullyhommon’ is the portion of the village that is now in Northern Ireland – known locally as ‘High Street’.
annehhouse at gmail.com
Both Sides Now
These three etchings portray locations on or near the border, where the view takes in both N Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The beauty of the location is created by both sides of the border working together and is indivisible.
The etchings show:
Culmore Country Park looking towards Muff (pictured)
Magilligan Strand looking over Lough Foyle to Inishowen
Lower Lough McNean near Belcoo
Caroline Kuyper is a founder member of Action North Waste. Their campaign aims to preserve the health of the swans and other migratory birds on the Inch Wildfowl Reserve, as well as the health of humans, fish and other animals in the wider surrounding area.
Action North Waste wants to raise awareness about the illegal waste dump at Bridgend, County Donegal on a site directly adjacent to the Border of County Derry and Northern Ireland.
In excess of 150,000 tonnes of waste, some of it highly toxic, from Northern Ireland was illegally dumped in the Republic of Ireland. Despite action from locals, reports by environmental agencies and an investigation by the national broadcaster in ROI, authorities have not responded in any meaningful way nor taken any effective action as yet.
This image aims to highlight the way the border as a liminal space has been used to blur legal responsibilities and in this case led to health risks that do not recognise political boundaries.
Grey Wolf Zine
Drawing inspiration from historical accounts of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as musings on the topic of the border’s current state and future developments in respect of Brexit, a series of gouache and watercolour illustrations were compiled. Transformed into a zine (which is often a propaganda medium) and using humour within the layout of its images as a coping mechanism for the current political landscape.
Unfolding into a central poster that features a cropped image of a Grey Wolf oil painting, which was created as a result of investigating the negative impacts that colonialism has had on Irish biodiversity.
Seen as rabid and wild, the wolf was eradicated towards the end of the 18th century, largely as a result of the persecution and widespread culling that took place during and after Cromwell’s conquest. Overall, its demise was brought about by a number of factors including deforestation, the expansion of agriculture, and direct persecution.
Just as the border resulted from centuries old events, so too is the complete absence of Ireland’s only natural predator. The wolf as a symbol of strength, power and freedom is lost to the Irish people
todaystasktoday at gmail.com
Late to Reinstate
photo by Eamonn O’Boyle
Hit the border and bounce back-
Or plough on through.
Pretend it’s just a suggestion, failed or otherwise-
A bad joke and a compromise,
That never truly legitimised,
A flat faced lie.
Sit on the fence,
Spit from a height.
Bag the best view of the ghosts in the fight.
Dredge it all up and dig it a grave,
Marvel and malice for the fools and the brave.
By Jenny O’Donnell
Photowork and poem (20”x16”)
Poetry on film (3 minutes)
This piece of work has its origins in my first workshop with the Drawn from Borders group at Fort Dunree. In discussion with my fellow artists I shared the realization, and indeed made the admission to
myself, that I only existed because of the creation of the border. My father was an English soldier stationed in Belfast in the late 1920’s. He met my Irish Republican mother at a dance at the British Army Barracks in Holywood. They married and lived amongst her family in the mill streets off the Falls Road, then in the 1950’s moved to Andersonstown, the massive new housing estate in the west of the city.
They remained there until her death in 1972. Shortly after, my father returned to England and died there in 1982.
I am the youngest of twelve children and wasn’t born until 1954, which explains the generational discrepancy, and makes their first meeting seem to me such distant history. The poem imagines that meeting and invites the reader to be implicated in the re-writing of that small piece of history.
An Tearmann: a place of sanctuary
A Short Film (4 minutes)
Photowork triptych (each 24” x 24”)
This work was filmed and photographed from the bridge over the River Termon in
Pettigo, after a day of thunderstorms. I cannot remember how many times I have crossed that bridge in the past twenty years, and it holds many memories and a great significance for me. The river at that very point marks the border and on that day the turmoil beneath me seemed to capture the fury of the Brexit debate that was then raging. Yet working with the recordings and images back in the studio I was transfixed by the energy and painterly beauty I had captured. The river refused to be governed by the shadow of politics, and it offered me a force of creative optimism I had not expected.
Remains of Murder Weapon 1921
When I first encountered this object I was shocked, learning that it had been used in a
fatal shooting during the War of Independence. My first reaction was disbelief, then horror, not just at the realization of what this object had done, but that I could be so attracted to the visual impact of the thing itself. It seemed to resonate with the words of W B Yeats, ‘a terrible beauty …’ from his poem, ‘Easter, 1916’.
It is subject matter that leaves me very uneasy and conflicted.
My image does not celebrate the awful act, but the transformative process of history, a
‘troubled’ remnant redeemed by the elements.
Mary Joyce Davis
My diptych canvases narrate my interpretation of the imaginary borders of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Being a non-native of the country allowed me to approach the history of the borders in an abstract way, influenced by an amalgamation of my Mauritian heritage, years spent living in Africa and the Middle East.
My approach to this project is from a multicultural point of view where religion, race and colour is of little importance and therefore I explored the use of contrasting bold vibrant colours (as a collision of my tropical influence and the cool greens of Ireland), textures and stitching. I used the darker colour as the past and the lighter colours as the present and future as we explore the breaking and merging of borders as a metaphor for cultures and diversity.
The abstract circular shapes overlapping and intertwining are all about our experiences and efforts in trying to explore a better future. I incorporated some abstract stitching to portray a mending process that I felt Northern Ireland is going through with continuous changes and new challenges. It is the building of bridges across cultures, reinforcing our similarities and differences as one nation.
Along the Line (Sample work)
Oil on wood
As with this sample work, the main piece borrows its palette from the landscape, culture and events that have played a significant role in shaping the lives of the people connected with the border over the past 100 years.
Although Ireland is not unique as a country with unresolved tensions, its political wrestling exists as an ongoing conundrum of disinheritance and allegiance predicaments. Although the contentious border is historically bound up with religious affiliations, that appear to fester on, into a power play, losing original context.
My signature symbol of the locust is summoned to mind again to unravel thought. I chose to convey the divisive border as a somewhat ridiculous construct. The fact that many prefer to continue a worn out tug of war into adulthood evokes images of childhood jostling for position.
Sound would now be required; In order to imbue the right ominous note. The culture clash of different drum beats will represent tribal sounds alternating at intervals to reference a grappling for position.
Growing up along the border you knew the warren of wee roads that could be used to cross from the South to North or vice versa depending on the journey’s needs.
My etching combines an ordnance survey map of the area where I grew up with the borderline cutting through the countryside representing the labyrinth of roads. The tree I photographed with its unusual labyrinth bark blends with the contours on the map. The Keeper, a monk in the middle is either the keeper of peace or the divider of faiths that bind the residents on both sides but also a bow to older times before dividing lines were drawn.
As a visual artist, I like to express myself in all forms of visual media, in particular, Photography and Film. I work intuitively as it is often the less obvious in people, places, and nature that interest me. My work exposes a hidden aspect we wouldn’t normally see.
Whether it’s professionally or creatively, I strive to capture that which is unnoticed by others. For me, Photography and Film give me the opportunity to step back and take time to truthfully document my mind’s eye.
Nature Defying Borders
The futility of borders to nature arose as a recurring theme, during a number of meetings by the ‘Drawn from Borders’ group over the past year. The image captures nature growing through the man-made construct of an artificial border; an interface barrier in Derry/Londonderry, where the branch is oblivious and undeterred by the structure. The
colours scream at each other, although from the same family of warm hues. The image challenges our perception of different threats old and new, such as ‘the other’, climate change and most pertinent in recent times, the global pandemic, ironically holding the potential to unite segregated and separated communities in a joint effort against imminent perils.
Over the next few years…
The painting is a montage developed from photos I took when climbing Slieve Donard and Carrauntoohil, the tallest mountains in Northern and Republic of Ireland respectively. It is built to the fibonacci sequence, but split into a diptych along a border line that is not where you would expect it to be following the golden section; as Northern Ireland/Ulster relates to the older province of Ulster. As the mountains have overlapped, so too are they divided yet still connected conceptually and physically.
I used to think of the border as a missed opportunity; if Ireland had stayed as one political unit (as part of the UK/devolved/independent, it doesn’t matter) then the catholic and protestant states would have been prevented or at least kept in check, by powerful dissenting voices, to the betterment of most ordinary people. But of course perhaps instead it would have led to a different, and more vicious, civil war with no better outcome.
Focusing on two of the highest features of the landscape calls attention to how they meet; where the sky of the future may have more storms brewing. I hope looking at a mountain gets you thinking about how arbitrary, unnecessary and futile the old politically manipulated differences of religion and national identity were, and it will just turn out to be a passing cloud.
This Border It Fidgets
I’m not a writer. This bumf has been a struggle truth be told. I doodle and mess about with computers for the most part. Somewhere along the line I might have scribbled a line or two but it’s rare and it’s rare!
This film came from a writing workshop during the Drawn for Borders experience. Asked to write a poem about the border I was thinking of a time me and a few friends went to a town in the north. I’m being diplomatic not mentioning its name. The poem’s about the underlying tension at the time especially in bars and especially among young men. Thankfully, in the real experience, no aspiring poets/filmmakers were harmed. The film portrays the alternative. Will we ever see change really?
Anyway! From the project a workshop, the workshop a poem, the poem a film and the film to an exhibition. Hope you enjoy. We had wild craic making it!
Facing The Future
Tina found her love for painting in 2013. She began by mainly painting on Killaloe Slate using acrylic paints. Tina began studying art full time in 2016 and her work has evolved over the years. She has an aptitude for ceramic sculptures, working in 3D and oil painting. Having grown up in North Clare, she likes to reflect on her childhood and how it differs to her own children’s childhood growing up in this environment.
Tina has always been interested in the history of Ireland, and growing up “I heard the stories, the songs and poems of Irish men and women fighting for a United Ireland.” She believed that this was the only way and the right way for our country. A realisation occurred when she was 16 years old and experienced the reality for teenagers her own age in the North, when she took part in a project called ‘Cooperation North’. She found the brutality of their lives overwhelming. She came to think that “a United Ireland was not worth innocent lives being taken, families being torn apart, just for our own pride in the south”.
The project “Drawn from Borders” appealed to Tina because it meant she could see how the removal of the physical border has affected people’s lives.
Image by Jordan Hutchings Bbeyond Belfast
Thank you to ALL of the Artlink Members involved in this project. Thank you to the exhibiting artists for your resilience, persistence, willingness to adapt as well as your talent and professionalism.
Thank you to Artlink for putting me forward to facilitate this project. Thanks to Nerve Centre especially Paula Larkin, David Lewis and Bernadette Walsh at Tower Museum for their support.
Thanks to the guest speakers, workshop facilitators and community groups,including Karen Friel, Adrian Grant, Bernadette Walsh, Barry Lafferty, Eamonn Lafferty, Marcus O’Niell, Johhny Kerr, Caroline Lubberhuizen, Trish Lambe, Kate Nolan, Garrett Carr, Paul Barwise, Rory McSwiggan and Bernie McGill whose input was so valuable.
Thank you to Mark Cullen for designing and making the 3D gallery, installing the work, creating the websites, designing the graphics and well everything.
Thank you to Martha McCulloch for photography.
Thank you to Paul Cairns for creating the catalogue and Anne Loveday for proof reading.
Thank you to Janet Hoy for her assistance with marketing.
Thank you to the funders, PEACE IV, Derry City and Strabane City Council, Arts Council of Ireland, Donegal County Council. Thank you to Creative Ireland for choosing us to be part of Ireland performs.
Funded and supported by the European Union’s Peace IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). ‘Drawn From Borders’ was delivered by Artlink Fort Dunree in partnership with The Nerve Centre and Tower Museum, Derry~Londonderry.
visit the exhibition here: artlinkonline.ie/drawnfromborders
watch the FACEBOOK tour at facebook.com/Artlinkfortdunreepage/
get more project information at, drawnfromborders.com/