It’s Sojourn

01/09/2016 – 01/10/2016  Road studio Liverpool – Cork Studio Exchange – Its Sojourn(al)  

one month exchange between Éilis Ní Fhaoláin of Backwater Artists Group studios in Cork, and Eimear Kavanagh of Road Studios, Liverpool.Sojourn(al) as a project and exhibition, is the sum of the title they created: a brief stay away from one’s regular environment and documentation of that. The name also suggests the journey they have made in all senses of that word. They have created work within the boundaries imposed by airline baggage restrictions, and both picked up threads of their ongoing work, applying them to their temporary situation.

Eimear’s work folds down flat and small to fit into Ryanair hand luggage. The folds of the paper are randomly made, but then when opened out, the lines dictate what is painted. When hung up, the folds enhance the works by lending them new texture. In a “heart” painting, the scrumpled-up shabby paper reflects the fragility of the heart, both broken and mended..

Eimear’s First Day – Backwater Studios By Eimear Kavanagh,
Cork, 07/09/2016
So here I am settling into my fourth new studio space, and third new home this year. I have to say, even though all that change can be tiring at times, i love it. No point standing still in your comfort zone too long. You’d think it would come easy but no, my first day here at BWS brought back all my feelings of my first day at school. Bit shy, a bit scared, a bit lost. It’s a fantastic space and as it turns out, as always, the people are lovely.  

Ben’s house (Ben is another artist at BWS who has so kindly gifted me his home)

is a real treat. I feel as if I have always lived here. Just feels so familiar to my home in Liverpool – no internet, no TV – just wonderful peace and solitude; and a mad collection of odd things. I have been really enjoying my yoga practice here and have had a deep and carefree sleep every night. 


I was welcomed into the family home of Éilis (my artist-exchange partner) on my first night, a lovely touch of home cooked food and good Irish hospitality. You can’t beat a good bunch of down to earth people. And food. I was left wondering about Éilis that night, how will it feel for her when she arrives at Road Studios in a few days time, without me there to show her around? It’s a pity, I would’ve liked to have been able to do that. Also was feeling, what a shame that we are both not working together for Sojourn(al) exhibition, rather than in separate cities, but I know that was the beginning of all my fears kicking in: ‘Oh my goodness, only three and half weeks to get the work together to put on show to the public’ and ‘Oh what if my work is a pile of crap and I hate it’ and ‘What if nobody comes to the PV’ etc…Useless mind babble.   


Éilis’s First Few Days at Road Studios
By Éilis Ní Fhaoláin

The first day at Road…this is my daughter, Edaein , and I (pic above)  just after our arrival at the studios. It was nice to get a sense of the place and the people involved. Tony showed us the spaces and gave a bit of background on the place. We compared notes on the running of artist-led spaces. I am sure it will make for many more conversations. There are parallels between aspects of our set up at Backwater Artists Group in its earlier manifestations. I will try to add some photos of B.A.G. here over the next few weeks , showing some of these similarities and of where we are now. Enough of admin stuff…I suppose it’s a place to start , but yes, I am here as an artist first and foremost.

Work will begin tomorrow. Second day at Road : I put together this piece…not quite finished , but nearly , called ‘Free Range ‘. The materials came to me at different parts of the day , in the slightly artificial nature of working at a different studio , different country etc. The coming together of the two components  seemed to encapsulate how I was a bit under pressure to start producing work, inspired by my surroundings and situation.   Using Bulb and Egg imagery is not a new thing for me admittedly, but I liked the link and feel I need to explore the ideas connected some more. Watch this space! I am adding a pic of a piece from last year which was part of my two person exhibition (with Annette Hennessy) at Triskel, Cork.




Getting Down to Work – Backwater Studios
By Eimear Kavanagh
Cork, 08/09/2016
First productive day in studio, creating textured backgrounds to work on. Well “Rome wasn’t built in  a day” they say. Experiencing the utter highs and lows of the typical day of an artist. The best is when I’m up on a coffee high. When the work comes out right, the look is good, the colours have mixed well, the balance is right, something new is explored and successful. When I am totally lost in the bliss of it all. Hours pass by. I forget where I am, then I exit the studios for a walk and feel the freshness and excitement of being in Ireland again every time. That feeling of aliveness. The unknown, the anticipation and adrenaline felt pre-exhibition. But then when the artwork comes out wrong, flat, dull, crap, it’s the worst feeling in the world. Carpet pulled right from under my feet. “Not so easy is it Eimear?! C’mon, lets the challenge the hell out of you. Work harder girl! think! think! THINK!!!” Instant mind blank. Artist’s block. Frustrating and depressing as hell. Oh but I love Ireland so much. I really do. I hope there will be so much more opportunity to do this here, though there are things I would do differently next time, mainly that I would include some time out to spend with the family in Kerry, and have days out walking the coast or camping in the wild. But best not to focus on the lack. Actually I would highly recommend to every artist that they find a way of doing something like this once in a while. It’s a real gift to wake up every morning knowing that you have the entire day to create art without any other distractions. I am so grateful for this. It’s a far cry from what my life had turned into a few months ago. It’s a good thing to shake things up a little.

Nature & Nostalgia – Backwater Studios
Eimear Kavanagh 13/09/2016,
Cork   Today’s pallete of greens and pinks look very edible. It is pissing it down. Feeling really nostalgic playing the Gaeltacht radio. I want to go see my fam in Kerry. It’s weird being in Ireland this long without visiting. So many beautiful memories as a child. Ireland makes me think of where I come from and where I am going, in a strange way a sense of both longing and belonging. I know that I am most happiest when I am closer to or surrounded by nature, and I see that a lot of the time, I live a life that is so far cut off from these. I wonder if I am shortly approaching a mid-residency slump? Getting to a point this afternoon where I am stepping back from my work and analysing the hell out of it. Like all the time. Or, truth be known, I am probably hungover from one pint of the good stuff

Need Time Out in Cork
Eimear Kavanagh 15/09/2016
Cork OK OK OK… I need some time out of studio space. I’ve hit a block. Tomorrow is Culture Night and I need to have some fun and schmooze with the people. We have a full evening of events here at BAG and it starts with my demo on experimental mark-making techniques. I’m looking forward to visiting the other artists in their spaces very much. It will be an evening of discovery and inspiration to visit them all tomorrow. Cork’s Culture night is very much like Liverpool’s Light Night. There is a lot to see and do. I would really love to get to the Camden Palace Hotel where they are celebrating 40 years of punk rock, with art and a performance by local character Kenny Morris (from Siouxsie and the Banshees – I heard an interview on the radio with him). UCC radio has become my loveable companion at Ben’s house, mostly 80s and 90s tunes are played. There’s not much to be heard about current local bands but they love to visit the old punk bands and the likes. There was an awesome tribute to Mick Lynch one night, whom I’d not heard of before. Then some interesting programmes on local history etc. It’s helped me to feel like I’ve got to know Cork a little bit more, despite not really getting out of the studio since I arrived. Yeah I need to get out. I don’t want to work anymore.  

Day Off – Backwater Studios
Eimear Kavanagh 16/09/2016
Day off yessssssss! Pottered around in the house all morning, catching up with the chores, the washing and cleaning etc. It’s so nice to do that, it helps me to feel at home. The windows open, radio is on, incense is burning and the freezer defrosting. The weather’s doing it’s thing outside. Fish has been fed. Funny, although I’m not in studio, I am still obsessing about ideas all the time. It’s so hard to switch off. Mindful of the voice in my head and the continuous thinking. It’s as if I am still working. I’m seeing the shapes and colours I am using in everything all around me, everywhere I go. A nice reflection back at my thoughts. I am getting this feeling all the time that a friend of mine (who I lost when I was around eighteen) is watching over me. It’s weird, why here? It’s lovely! He keeps popping into my head for no reason, and three times when I’ve been out and about in Cork, I have heard a B52’s song play which has always reminded me of him (Thank you for joining me on this trip Macky, I love you).

Culture Night, Cork
Eimear Kavanagh   17/09/2016

Cork Last night was brilliant. Cork hosted its annual Culture Night and it was the bees-knees. I want to be here for it next year. Gosh can’t be in more than one place at any given time. What a pity, there was so much I wanted to see. My demo went really well I think, I got a round of applause at the end – that was very cool, I wasn’t expecting that! How strange to receive gratitude and flattery in the form of a clapping sound. Not a familiar experience for a person who struggles with talking in front of a crowd. Listening to the talks given by other BAG artists either about their work or experience was so amazing, I could’ve spent all day doing that. It’s so nice to hear others living the same familiar experiences but told in their words. Was off to Camden Palace Hotel to see the art and music performance named Modern Raze hosted by Kenny Morris. OMG I honestly don’t know how to describe it, it was the most entertaining thing I’ve ever seen. Celebrating PUNK in true style, it was a mix of improvised music and spoken word/poetry on art/music/politics. It was a bit like walking into someone’s living room after they’d been on a 10-day bender. I was so intrigued I could’ve watched for hours but a woman alone at night and all that, I toddled off home like a good girl. Today was really brilliant, I went to the Crawford Art Gallery saw Harry Clarke illustrations for the third time! And caught some more art from the Perceptions trail with a very inspirational film on the making of their stunning abstract works, which I will squeeze in one more visit to for before I leave.

Falling into Place – Road Studios
Éilis Ní Fhaoláin The very next day I went into the local Chandler/Hardware/everything store on the Allerton Rd to pick up some things I needed. I also get inspired in places like that. There they were- dishcloths. I could print onto dishcloths! I was satisfied. Next to find the person to print them- who turned  out to be a t-shirt printer working downstairs in the same Crown Building that houses ROAD studios! Thank you Billy. Things falling into place.

Parallel Lives – Road Studios
Éilis Ní Fhaoláin
I was invited to dinner by Eimear’s mum, Eileen. I arrived at her house in Garston and we talked non stop from that time till I had to get the bus back to Sheila’s. She is Irish but has been here for a long time. There are parallels along the way in our stories…we both have two girls and we both had gone to boarding school when we were younger. She was keen to hear how things work in Ireland, health provision, the cost of living etc. I had a lovely time.

Liverpool Food Festival – Road Studios
On my second Saturday here, Kirsten, from ROAD studios, kindly took me to the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival in Sefton Park . We had a really good natter , with some lovely nibbles on the way. The place was thronged with people having a good time in the September sunshine. What a lovely day. Kirsten was lovely , easy company. That Sunday, a friend from Birmingham , Ruth , came up. I took her around Liverpool on one day and the next,  we went to Birmingham and she did likewise for me there. I lived there in the late 80’s and was interested to see where all the arts groups and studios were now. Unfortunately between it being a Monday and also installation day , most of the exhibitions were closed. Bad day to visit Brum but I did catch up with a few friend that evening and had a laugh. I was also pleasantly reminded of that gentle lilting, kindly Brummie accent. How dare I talk of another city!

Sticking Point – Road Studios
Éilis Ní Fhaoláin Back to Liverpool and into the studio. The stick piece is developing well. I have been documenting it at different stages, like it’s ‘how to operate on a branch.’ Its thoroughly absurd, but at the same time, so many connotations and co-incidences are occuring. It looks like a broomstick…ok …forget that for a minute …but its a broom too. Domestic stuff again and I am cutting it up to put it away and then put it together again…and here’s me …away from my domestic situation. My nest. With all that comes the decision of how to display the documentation. Initially, I thought to go the beaten track and mount good images in mountboard- but that’s not me! That has no relevance to all these thoughts that have been connecting while I have been working on the piece.  I went searching.

Back Home from Home – Backwater Studios
Eimear Kavanagh 24/09/2016
Cork Yesterday I packed up my artwork ready for the travelling show. It was soooooo amazing to do this, the end of an intense creative project – always feels great to wrap up. When you finally wash out the colour palletes and throw away all the rubbish that’s been getting under your feet for weeks. There’s still lots to do in my last few days here, now gotta put the hours in on the computer promoting show, writing statement etc. Sam came by asking me if I wanted to see some pics of Éilis’ work she was producing at Road Studios, I was like NOOOO!!!!!! No no noooooo!!!! Don’t wanna see yet! I think it’s time for Éilis to return now, Sam’s looking a bit more and more forlorn as the weeks have gone by. There’s no better place than Ireland to bring me awareness and appreciation of where I come from and where I am going.  I love to seek ways of exploring and celebrating the world I live in. There’s something about here that makes me feel a strong connection with my heart, the land and skies, night time and day break. Something stirs up within me which brings up past. I remember when I went to see the Dubliners in England when I was in my late teens, and I cried the whole way through, and couldn’t even explain to myself why I was crying. It feels like a bit of a whirlwind the past few weeks. I feel like I’ve been in this big massive time warp. I’m not sure I can even properly digest it till I’m back in Liverpool. After a lifetime of visiting my Ireland I’m just over the moon that I finally got to produce some artwork here. I’m not finished. Barely even started.

Continue not Conclude – Road Studios
Éilis Ní Fhaoláin

Final day before installation then! I am looking at some of my pieces and deciding on their level of finish. I did always maintain that I would be driven on this exchange by thought and making rather than producing the end ‘product’ in time for the closing Exhibition. I want it to continue. Not conclude. I feel I have achieved that.