Eamonn McCann - Derry day on the Burren

Artist Locky Morris
Artist Locky Morris

It will be Derry day on the Burren this coming Saturday as an array of top local painters, photographers, video-makers and others take the richness of indigenous art for display in the county Clare.

Every year, the Burren College of Art selects an individual to mount an exhibition of pieces of their own choosing, so as to offer a particular and distinctive individual perspective. The appointment is seen in the art world as a high honour. This year’s curator is Maoliosa Boyle of the Void.

The Burren provides a perfect setting for her exhibition. One of Europe’s largest and most spectacularly beautiful karst landscapes - formed by the dissolution of limestone and other soluble rocks, names taken from the Burren-like Carso area of Slovania and Italy - its 250 square kilometres are enclosed within place-names of pure poetry - Kinvara, Tubber, Ballyvaughan, Corofin, Kilfgenora, Lisdoonvara - and bounded in the west by the Atlantic, in the North by Galway Bay. You need only sing the place-names to make a song.

The eight artists chosen by Maoliosa are all from Derry - four by birth, four by adoption. That’s another thing about Derry outsiders often fail to understand. We may have a jealous sense of local identity, but anybody can join.

The eight artists showing at the Burren are Locky Morris, Susanne Stich, Sara Greavu, Blaine O’Donnell, Paola Bernardelli, Damien Duffy, Pascale Steven and Conor McFeely. The work - paintings, drawing, photography, video and light installations - conjures up and comments on both the day-to-day seemingly drab concerns of mundane existence and those sudden feelings, thoughts, experiences which can illuminate and throw into new relief the history and culture of a place.

Locky, from Creggan, is probably best-known of the group. He’s the man who imagined and made that glorious, huge, mind-spinning assemblage of telegraph poles that greets you on the way into Letterkenny, maybe the best piece of public art in Ireland. But I most vividly remember his meticulous, small-scale work from way back - helicopters hovering menacingly over the Creggan with rotor blades made from ice-pop sticks, the coiled, sad, silvery scrapings of a lottery card seen through a microscope, an interactive installation comprising a chair screwed to the floor and earphones emitting news or views on the Troubles stapled to an amp just out of reach and earshot, presented in a disused bookies at the corner of Chamberlain Street and what used to be Eden Place.

All of the others are formidable practitioners in their own right. There’s one whose work I don’t think I’ve seen. But Maoliosa’s eye is testimonial enough.

If you find yourself wandering in the wild-flower profusion of the west any time between now and October, call in to the show in Ennis and enjoy a swelling pride. And make a note in you mind to remember back home to call in more often to the Void and the Context.