Artist of the Month – Helen O’Connell | Cassandra Voices

Artist of the Month – Helen O’Connell


Stone can only offer you its stillness, The fact of its materiality. Its quiet unobtrusive existence that just is. It will never clamour for your attention. It could never hope to gain it anyway, competing with the hyper-stimulating technological landscape in which we dwell.

As an artform scultpture has none of the bells and whistles of music, dance or film to seduce the senses and arrest the emotions, drawing them wherever the artist may please. It does not even have colour to manipulate you with. But it is there, never too far away if you care to notice it. Solidified, petrified, compressed life from millions of years ago. Asking us to zoom out beyond our brief turns on the merry-go-round to contemplate geological time, the endlessly slowly, subtly-shifting ground beneath us. Ireland was still attached to mainland Europe when this Kilkenny limestone was being formed from compressed marine life. Cosmic time.

A nunataq is an Inuit word to describe a fissure in a rock edifice where life can survive. Recent DNA tests show that a strain of sandwort arenaria ciliata found exclusively on Ben Bulben’s limestone plateau has miraculously survived the Ice Age nestled in a nunataq for over a million years. These extraordinary rocky refuges have captured my imagination and inspired the body of work I am presently engaged in. I have papered sheets of gold leaf into the crevices, places where what is precious might survive the ravages of the outside world.

What essential internal golden  nugget of me will survive as the harsh realities of a marriage breakdown buffet me about? What precious forms of life will survive this merciless Age of Extinction and wanton ecological destruction? What precious vein of natural material will be saved in this time of accelerating technological advance and algorithmic reduction? What can be saved? Where will the nunataqs we need be? I stay nestled in the gold-leafed crevice and hope the harsh winds will blow past, allowing me to survive.


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