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Oileáin - The Island Project
Oil Painting and Printmaking
2023 - 2024
In his book, The islands of Ireland, Thomas H Mason suggested that the earliest inhabitants of Ireland lived on the shores and adjoining islands, as the mainland was probably covered in forests and swamps. It was this statement and my own enduring love of islands from childhood, that inspired me to research them further and to visually respond to them.
Islands hold a fascination for many people. Mason suggests that nowadays a variety of people seek refuge on isolated islands to find there “a retreat from the clamour and din of modern civilisation, where their spirits can expand… The early Celtic church realised the soul value of these lonely places and on many of the islands off the coast of Ireland the remains of their early settlements can be seen”
The reality of life on the islands off the Irish coast is very different from Masons romantic view. Diarmuid Ferriter, examines the fate of cultural and linguistic identity communities on the margins in his book On the Edge, (Ireland’s offshore Islands, a Modern History) Island life means different things to islanders and those viewing them from the comfort of the mainland. The dwindling population and the ultimate abandonment of many of the islands is a reminder of the harsh life and ultimate reality of life on an island which was often cut off from the mainland, for weeks at a time. On the other hand islands are paradise for archaeologists, historians, geologists, tourists and for those pursuing an Utopian ideal of escape from oppressive urbanisation.