adventures in enamelling, stories, music and travel
Lagan Love is a novel that has many levels. On the surface it is the story of an ill-starred love affair- but on a deeper level it is about the mysterious relationship of the artist to their inspiration and on an even deeper level about the juxtaposition of the past on the present.
When I was commissioned by the author to create the Lagan Love Collection, I wanted to illustrate and evoke these themes.The author, Peter Murphy, is a friend of mine. Long ago we were in a band together playing traditional music and hanging out at sesuins. He was one of those friends who drop off the radar for years. He recently re-emerged with a published book under his belt! Re-connecting on a personal level has been important – so it gives a special significance to the project for me. These pieces are also about my past and my present.
My own love affair with enamel was sparked by a visit to Ireland way back in 1984, when I first discovered that the Celts were Europe’s first enamellists. The technique they used is now called champlevé (for champ, field, and levé, raised – because the design is created using a raised field of metal). So, the first piece that came to me was in this technique and was, inspired by the leanan-sidhe, a constant figure throughout the book of the devouring inspiration that destroys as it creates. This design came quickly – inspired by a long thin medieval figure from an early illuminated manuscript. The initial sketches will be formalized to suit the technique.
Cloisonné is perhaps the best-known enameling technique – perfected in the Byzantine era and brought to Europe after the Crusades. In this technique I saw the juxtaposition of doors – archways from the ancient Clonmacnoise superimposed on the famous colourful doors of Dublin. The piece is meant to incorporate two double meanings: of portal and threshold; of past and present. It always a challenge to take a piece from a sketch to a finished work- and I will be making a little video that hopefully will let you in on the process a little.
For the third piece I wanted to use my newest technique of grisaille (from the French gris meaning grey) dating back to the 15th c . Selkies – or the mythical seal people of Celtic folklore- seemed ideal to treat in this grey misty style. However this design did not come easy. I originally wanted to do the silouette of a full seal with a woman’s body inside it – but it just never looked right. I had to go away to the country and sit in front of a fire making endless sketches for 2 days until I came up with something I liked. I gave the human face the large liquid seal eyes which seem to emphasize her other-worldliness.
Each of these three themes in the book contains and evokes the others – so each piece is meant to evoke more than one feeling or thought, and include the idea of transformation a constant theme in early Celtic Art, as well as in Lagan Love.I will be writing further blogs on the development of each piece – so stay tuned!