PRESENTED AS part of this year’s just-finished Cúirt International Festival of Literature, the fine group exhibition, Mind Has Mountains, is continuing at the Town Hall Theatre bar until the beginning of June and well merits a visit.
Curated by the indefatigable Margaret Nolan, Mind Has Mountains features work from Lisa Molina, Jane Williams, Aoife Casby and Mags Duffy all of which have been devised in response to Geraldine Mitchell’s poetry collection Mountains For Breakfast, published last year by Arlen House.
The framed introduction at the bar entrance sums up the show perfectly; “Think of this exhibition as a silent conversation between five artists around a collection of poems one of them has made. Five different approaches, five separate languages – all five of the poet-makers feeding into one another, and feeding off each other.”
Mitchell’s book explores themes of loss, grief, and endurance and also evokes the landscape, weather, and wildlife of her Mayo home in Killadoon, overlooking Clare Island. The poems often display a painterly eye in their descriptions; ‘Sudden sun flushes /Clare Island, low/cloud dapples/its flanks’ (from ‘Discredited Form, Discredited Subject Matter’ ), ‘An agitated day, the wind/not knowing which way to blow,/clouds stacked in tattered ranks.’ (from ‘Locus’ ).
Furthermore, Mitchell’s landscapes are not just physical spaces but emotional ones, all of which makes her poetry a rich source of inspiration for the four visual artists who engage so rewardingly with it in Mind Has Mountains. The first sequence of works which greets the visitor to the exhibition is by Mitchell’s daughter, Lisa Molina (who also provided the cover image for the poetry collection ). Most of her pieces are beguiling black and white drypoints and etchings, though her series commences with a woodcut illuminating the ‘Clouds Stacked in Tattered Ranks’ line quoted above.
Jane Williams contributes nine paintings of oil on paper. With their figures in flight (both bird and human ) and russets, blues, and greens they reminded me at times of Chagall. The ‘human’ figures in flight might not be an exactly correct description as those images draw on Mitchell’s lines from ‘Nocturnal Visitors’ ‘I have come/to believe in ghosts//those clothed shadows/that crowd the bed’ – let’s say ‘humanoid figures’!
Aoife Casby transforms Mitchell’s words into sculptural shapes and sounds. Pages with lines of the poems are incorporated into floating kite frames that sway gently from the bar ceiling while Mitchell’s verse is also incorporated into an accompanying sound recording.
Finally, Mags Duffy brings a mixture of luminously lovely large and small oils. A resident of Mayo, like Mitchell, she shows the same feel for the quality of its western light and the same finesse in catching and expressing it. The watery evanescence of sky melding with sea in her large pieces has a Turneresque quality. No less gorgeous is the ‘Diary Sequence’ of small pieces depicting treescapes in different seasonal settings from stark winter to warm summer tones. Taken altogether, these five artists deliver a five star show.