Letters from an Empty House

Shoes:  Cement, hay, fabric, turf, felt, leaves, pva, scrim tape.  Cast.  Life size, 126 pairs approx.

Wall piece:  Oils and wax on paper stained with ink and acrylics. 120 x 180 cms.

This work developed between 1996 and 1997 and in particular through working in Co Mayo.  The number of ruined houses, disused churches and ancient monuments in Co Mayo are testament to the continual movement of peoples through the ages.  I was especially struck by the derelict cottages. Some of these houses were abandoned by their occupiers for better accommodation, some were left behind by those who emigrated and some became empty through the death of their owners.  In every case the sense of absence was very strong.

This absence has inspired the work – the feeling of people leaving – migrating and emigrating.  The letters use the words of people I spoke to in Mayo, words which have evolved into poetic phrases and expressions, creating images of their own.

In its use of materials, the work focuses on house, garden, field, road, the environs of home, the features remembered when left behind.  The different materials refer to the different backgrounds from which the migrants and emigrants have come.  There is a sadness and an optimism in the work – the trauma of leaving, the hope for the future.  The underlying issue reflects my constant concern with the human relationship with the land.  The shoes carry the mark of work and stand as a record of the struggle with the land.