Visual Artist Gavin Porter


Gavin Porter-Blank Frank-pencil on paper, 33cmx42cm-2015 (2)The processes of etching and drawing are your chief practices, can you tell us why?

I’ve always loved the immediacy of drawing, and the mediums ability to get to the heart of the matter. Whilst etching is a much more elaborate process, it takes drawing to another level.  Both processes could be considered quite limiting, but I like the challenge of working within those limitations and attempting to push the boundaries of what’s possible. The hope is that this forces something unique from the work.

Are there particular materials you prefer working with and for what reason?

I prefer a hard ground etching with a needle for the finest line, much of my work is developed using accumulative drawing techniques, so the finer the line, the better the effect. When I’m making drawings I use the simplest of tools, graphite pencils and good quality paper.Gavin Porter-Vacare, etching, 2015

You are a member of ‘The Hermit Collective’ How has that aided your development and promotion as an artist?

The Hermit Collective was started by a friend, the poet Jessamine  O’Connor, as a platform for writers, musicians and artists to show and perform their work within the community. It began with a few small events and has grown from strength to strength.  I think it’s important for creative people from all disciplines to adopt a DIY approach to getting their work out there, and forming groups and collectives makes it easier.

Your style is very recognisable. The inspiration seems to be the study of organic matter in such minutiae that it becomes abstract and something altogether new. Can you take us through your process?

It’s true that I do refer to natural forms a lot in my work, but what really interests me are the processes and forces behind the ‘making’ and indeed the ‘unmaking’ of those forms. I attempt to visualise these ideas by applying local rules (repetition, accumulation) over a large area in an organic or indeterminate way. This kind of work is tied into my tenuous understanding of Darwinism and quantum physics, evolution and entropy

Which artists or schools of art have inspired your work, and what about them makes you refer back again and again?

At a young age I discovered the work of Hieronymus Bosch in a book of my Dads and it scared the life out of me and fascinated me at once. Soon after that it was the engravings of Albrecht Drurer, and  then Rembrandt. These artists have stayed with me over the years and I still look at them. They represent a certain sensibility or approach to art making that may still be found in the art world today, but it gets harder to pinpoint amongst the noise.. So I’ve found myself returning to the source.

You studied at Sligo IT. What was the experience like and did you forge any strong links with fellow
Relic, graphite on paper, 2013 1artists there?

I would recommend the college experience to anyone who is serious about making art on a full time or regular basis. With the right approach it can help you form good working habits. I was lucky in that I was among a group of diverse artists who formed a supportive bond. Afterwards I joined with fellow graduates Matthew Tucker, Paul Cabena and Marta Slawinska, to organize our own show, In Isolation at Broadstone Studios Dublin, and that got the ball rolling. I’m currently working with Paul on a project photographing the night sky.

What are your feelings on the promotion of the artist and how this has changed in modern times.

There is no doubt that the onus is on the emerging artist  to promote their own work and find ways to show it, The Galleries can only do so much and they are inundated with submissions. With so many artists out there, the challenge, more than ever is to make work which stands out.

Are there other activities you employ which feed your discipline?

I live in a remote rural setting so I like to be outside in the elements a lot, walking, cycling and canoeing.  I’m a keen gardener, a stone mason and an amateur astronomer. All these things feed themselves into my artwork in one way or another.

Talk us through a typical day in the studio.Gavin Porter-Forever Returns-ink on paper, 75cmx55cm-2014

I like to have a few different things on the go at the same time to avoid getting stuck at any point. Usually I will spend some time adding to a large scale ‘long term’ drawing as a way of getting into the studio environment. I will also work on plates which will be taken elsewhere to be etched and printed later. A lot of time can be spent on documenting and photographing work and on working on submissions for galleries etc. but I try to stay focused when I am in a studio or workshop, as access to these environments can be limited .

Gavin Porter is a Belfast born Artist living in County Roscommon.  His artistic output consists of drawing, etching, sound installation and assemblage, with etching being his main medium of choice. He has shown work across Ireland and in the UK.

His new exhibition, praesens Recent Graphite Work, opens at Custom House Gallery, Westport on 28th of July.

‘’ Forms depicted by Gavin Porter have a clear recurrent structure, but they seem to have no start and no end. They are in a continuous but unpredictable process of development, as if they were never to complete their forming. We can observe the same process in our everyday lives, filled with repetitive tasks performed as part of our daily routines and with efforts of which results can rarely be clearly predicted, our existence is built of patterns but is still full of uncertainty.”

Marta Slawinska, Curator In Isolation 3 emerging Artists at Broadstone Studios, Dublin











Chef Aisling Stone

Chef Aisling Stone imparts her considerable knowledge of cooking and presentation this week.

I’m originally from Arigna but my parents moved to London when I was four years old. We moved back wheDSC_0621n I was twelve and when I was twenty I moved to Spain where I lived for seven years and met my husband, Peter. In 2008 we decided to move back to Galway so that I could study to be a professional chef at GMIT. Peter and I moved to Leitrim in 2012 and have found the warmth of the people to override the rain. After working in Lisloughrey Lodge, Kilronan Castle, the Coach House and the Oarsman I decided it was time to strike out on my own. I now run a food trailer at the farmer’s market at the Bee Park in Manorhamilton and the Grass Roof cafe at the Organic Centre.

What gets you out of bed in the morning, what inspires you? 

I have ADHD and chefing has turned that around for me; I put all my thoughts and energy into what I’m going to cook this week, and the next week, and the next… my last head chef, Seamus Thompson, said that being a chef is not a choice, it is a calling and I can’t describe that any better. I get an idea in my head and I can’t WAIT to get up and put it to work. Sometimes, like this week when I have put sweetbreads on the menu, I know there might only be one or two people who will appreciate my idea but that one or two will make my day.

What was the first thing you cooked and what age were you?

From the age of four when my parents moved I spent most of the day being minded by “Cookie”, an old London lady with many stories of the war who could make a feast out of anything. I remember watching a children’s programme about pints of cockles at the beach and Cookie sent me down Streatham high street to the deli to get some and we cooked them in vinegar. I made the ladies in the deli laugh- what a weird kid!

Do you refer to cookbooks or chefs memoirs?

I have a ridiculous number of cookbooks. If they even contain one decent recipe they are worth their weight for me. I have a great one from the seventies from members of the WI which has ideas on long forgotten dishes, I love Elisabeth David’s almost novel like books that make you want to go shopping, Dirt Candy by Amanda Cohen which is in comic book style, Magnus Nilsson’s Faviken which I couldn’t put down and kept me awake thinking of how his philosophy could be applied to Irish cuisine. But my favourite is Eleven Madison Park which nearly brought me to tears with the beauty of Daniel Humm’s dishes. There is also a very useful section in the back with recipes for gels, sorbets, butters and purees which I refer to constantly. You don’t have to follow recipes in books exactly as long as you understand the ingredients and cooking processes; you can make them your own.

Your menu at The Grass Roof is very cutting edge and yet comforting, tell us a bit about how you draft up your weekly menus?cafe

My menus are normally pretty much worked out a week or two in advance. I look at the weather, current affairs, seasonality and event the general mood of the population and try to orchestrate something relevant. I have some very odd dishes but also include some plain food cooked well using great ingredients. I also love to include products from local suppliers such as Chef Sham’s Sauces, Bluebell Farm organic jams, Jordan’s Atlantic sea salt, Sean McMorrow’s burgers and locally sourced vegetables from our own land, Reggie’s Veggies and of course the Organic Centre.

How involved are you in the Slow Food movement?

I’m the leader of Slow Food North West and so far I’m the only working member of the convivium! I started the group because I could see that we in Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal have so many exciting food producers, farmers and tourism businesses that I thought we should all have an opportunity to promote ourselves and network with each other. We have had some great events and there will be a big one coming up in August or September- a cruise on Lough Gill with an island forage. Keep an eye on the website and the facebook page for updates.

You grow and utilise a lot of your own food at The Grass Roof and for the van. How much time a week do you think you spend from garden to plate at your chosen field of work?

Actually my husband does the gardening as I have black fingers of death. We only have two acres and most of that is occupies by sheep, chickens and, occasionally, pigs. We have a polytunnel, a greenhouse and some newly prepared outside beds, as well as some forest area where we have planted wild garlic and a few edible weeds. Even with such a small area it is a huge amount of work and gardeners have my utmost gardenrespect.

Is it worth it?

There are times when you get knocked down; everyone has an opinion and sometimes they don’t see the bigger picture but on the whole it’s great to see people pointing and talking about the food on their table. I like to think that I can offer them at least an experience that they won’t have had anywhere else. It is very hard work but so is stacking shelves in a warehouse, at least I am lucky enough to do something that I’m passionate about.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or Coffee shop?

My absolute favourite is Kai in Galway. The last time I ate there was a couple of weeks before I started in the Grass Roof cafe and it totally changed my thinking on what I was going to do there. Closer to home I love Miso in Sligo and Cafe An Bia Slainte in Manorhamilton. I’m also super excited to see what Ethna Reynolds will do at her new place opening in Collooney next week, Nook.

What are your five essential larder items and who makes/supplies them?

First and foremost James Jordan’s amazing sea salt from Donegal, the peat smoked one in
particular which I hope to nominate for the Ark of Taste at the Slow Food Terra Madre celebrations this September in Turin. The White Hag brewing company in Ballymote produce beers that I think reflect exactly my food; Joe Kearns makes sour ale which pairs with fish, dark, treacly stout for braising beef and smoked ale for pork. Never before have I tried a beer and immediately the little hamster in my head hops up on his wheel and starts running for his life. Wild garlic is in season at the moment for a very short time and it’s such a pleasure to harvest it on the very day that it will be served to my customers. Hans and Gaby Wieland taught me how to make kombucha and I’m having a lot of fun fermenting things with it. It’s a probiotic that works with liquids to basically make them fizzy and awesome. Lately Tina Pommer has been foraging for me and providing fantastic local roots and plants for me to use at the cafe such as wild pea, goose grass, watercress and willow herb. What a wonderful opportunity to create dishes relevant only to this place and time right now.

Talk us through a typical working week for chef Aisling Stone.

It’s not really that exciting! Monday is spent in recovery from the 2016-01-26 18.59.22weekend- normally I can’t even remember my own name… Tuesday is shopping in Sligo and menu planning,
Wednesday I write up the menu and prepare ice creams, sorbets and sauces, Thursday I’m in Carrick buying vegetables from Reggie McNulty and visiting my friends in the Oarsman (my old bosses are so very kind to advise me on business), Friday I’m at Manorhamilton farmer’s market and finalising prep for the weekend and early Saturday morning until Sunday evening it’s up and at ’em, full speed ahead and all guns blazing at the Grass Roof cafe.

Slow Food North West

Ceramic Artist Peter Fulop

DSC03294-HDRWhat inspires your creativity? 

Work born out of the desire to materialize my contemplations, my inner visions through a creative process. My teacher, Professor Koie Ryoji approach to his practice and philosophy of Gutai and Sōdeisha postwar art movements of Japan inform my visual language.

Why, as an artist did you decide to focus specifically with clay, what drew you to the material?

As a child I was already gathering clay by the riverside and made sculptural pieces which I fired in our wood-burning stove. Later on I began to work as a painter but kept the clay for three dimensional  works. As young artist I went to work in a ceramic designer lab where I got a deeper insight into the process especially the alchemy side, which made me to commit myself to clay. Clay is very accessible and friendly and allows me to work in a rapid, action way of making.

Which artists or schools of practice do you admire and why?

Abstract Expressionist of the New York School, the avant-garde movements of Japan and my recent interest in the Bauhaus School with the work of artist Laszlo Moholy Nagy. To highlight some of the individual artists who greatly influence my way of thinking includes Noguchi, Takesada Matsutani,  Jun Kaneko and Cy Twombly, Kazuo Yagi.

Your latest exhibition ‘NOBU’ was inspired by the Japanese Zen tradition. How exactly was the work informed by this and does it continue to influence your work?

The philosophical linage of my teacher and contemporaries has a deep root in zen philosophy. Through my practice I examine Impermanence,  expresses the notion that all of conditioned existence in a constant state of flux, human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of birth and rebirth and in any experience of loss.

You have travelled and exhibited work on an international platform. How has the experience of living and working with different cultures affected both you and your work?peterfulop_02

Certainly, meeting artists from other cultures, having the challenge to work in a new studio in a new country and engaging with the local community widening your approach on every level. Unfamiliar becomes familiar, familiar becomes unfamiliar making you to challenge your views, art practice and take your work further. Meeting colleges and making friends in different part of the world makes your Leitrim existence a cosmopolitan experience.

How do you prepare for an exhibition? do you take notes, sketches and plan ahead or is the process a more organic one?

Mostly I work with the space creating a body of work site specifically. I observe and especially when I am in a different culture I immerse myself into the surrounding atmosphere. Concept rise from these walkabouts and impressions of space, using the flow of energy I create work directly without sketches. Sometimes when I work on a large scale installation I use a master sketch to keep me informed all the way through the project, but the rest is improvisation.

Do you think artists are treated well in Ireland compared to in other countries? 

Comparing to all the countries I have visited during my residencies, Ireland has a huge amount of support for artists, on many levels and from many avenues. I feel very fortunate as without these supports I would not have travelled and exhibited nationally and internationally. In the recent years it become difficult to sell works or even to regularly exhibit resulting to look for new ways and new avenues.

peterfulop_04What are your thoughts on ‘the memory of clay’?

Clay is earth,  containing memories of millions of years as part of the circulation of life and death.

Do you agree with the idea of taking a holiday or time-out from creative practice?

Yes I do, disconnecting and keeping a distance helps to revaluate and recharge.

Talk us through a typical working day for Ceramic Artist Peter Fulop?

I hardly have a typical day, it depending on the project. I have intensive working periods when I work on a project. I work long hours when I have a good flow and take a break when the clay just not open for collaboration. It is a fact, we discuss this among ceramic artists that it is better to keep a distance when the clay is not in the mood.

Patrick Deeley Inaugural Winner of Dermot Healy Poetry Award

Patrick DeeleyTell us a little about yourself, Patrick

 I was born in the Callows of rural East Galway but have lived for many years in Dublin.  ‘Groundswell: New and Selected Poems’ is the latest of my six collections with Dedalus Press.  My books for young people include ‘The Lost Orchard’, published by O’Brien Press.  My most recent book is a memoir, ‘The Hurley Maker’s Son’, published in Ireland and the UK by Transworld.

‘The Hurley Maker’s Son’ is receiving excellent reviews.  How important is review and acknowledgement to you as a poet?

 Well, very important, of course.  Writing is hard work.  The biggest thrill for me is writing something that feels as if it’s caught what I wanted to say and brought a certain ‘magic’ to it.  The reward after is for others to read my work, and when a reviewer gets to the heart of what I’ve written it’s a validation.

What journey led you to becoming a poet?

That’s a journey best described in the memoir.  I was a dreamer as a child, awkward around the many machines my father used as a sawmiller, joiner and hurley maker.  Images ‘happened’ to me from the beginning, a heightened, cinematic take on the world.  The wetlands near home – thin-skinned, dangerous, primal – brought me face-to-face with nature and I exulted in that.  But still there was the language of timber and machines used in the carpentry shop which I slowly fell for, and the practicalities of life requiring to be attended to as I grew older, and the graft that I came to see as necessary in order to learn the craft of poem-making.

What was the first poem you published and in what publication did it appear? Did you celebrate?THMS1 (10)

My first three poems were published by David Marcus in New Irish Writing in The Irish Press in January 1978.  He was very supportive and published over thirty of my early poems in the space of a few years.  I pinned the first ones on the wall of my bedsit, and the landlord kicked up as he said the poems were causing the plasterwork to crumble.  Yes, I celebrated with a few pints, and I had a laugh at the good of what he said.

What poet/poets do you return to over and over?

Keats, Theodore Roethke, Padraic Fallon, Edna St. Vincent Millay.  So many of the old ones.  And, among contemporary poets, Derek Mahon, Macdara Woods, Padraig Rooney – numerous others for particular poems that strike me as truly achieved.

How do you approach your practice, are you consistent and disciplined, do you ever get writers block?

I’m not disciplined in terms of devoting time every day to writing.  But once I become hooked on an idea or image, I could spend all night working at the poem.  Previously I had a busy job as administrative principal of a primary school and this took up most of my time.  Writer’s block doesn’t arise – or so I tell myself.  I gather experiences and the poems come out of these.

Do you have a favourite place to write? (It could be a country, a room, chair…) and are you superstitious? (favourite pen/ brand of notebook)

No to both questions.

Has your writing ever surprised you, does it have a life of its own?

Yes, if writing is any good it has to surprise its author as much as the next person.  Hopefully it does have a life of its own – at least when I look back at my best work, I wonder how it came to be written by me.  But, in the long term, I’ll have to wait and see, not that the possibility of literary immortality would ever cost me a thought.

In what way has teaching informed your work as a poet?

When I started as a teacher I encouraged the children to make poems out of their own experience and to use their own colloquial expression – that was in Ballyfermot, a place rich in music and lore – and then I decided to keep the idiomatic language of my neighbours in East Galway towards the forefront of my own poems, though inevitably other influences have coloured and tempered this with the passing years.

How important is the publisher/poet relationship?

Each has to trust and believe in the other.

Talk us through a typical working day for poet Patrick Deeley.

I work mostly in the evenings or late into the night.  Lately, since the publication of the memoir and the fact that people seem enthused about it, I do what seem to be more conventionally ‘writerly’ things – draft articles, attend interviews, travel on promotional work.  I get up early most mornings, go for a long walk beside the River Dodder, visit my wife Judy in her art studio, cook meals, attend hurling matches, read books, listen to music, meet my friends or talk to them on the phone.  Any or all of these experiences can trigger a poem.  I become immersed in writing for several months on a specific book, and when it’s done I take a break.


Extract from ‘The Hurley Maker’s Son’, a memoir by Patrick Deeley

 ‘Will you go to Owenie’s and get me a few messages?’ my mother asked. ‘You can buy sweets yourself if you want.’

This was the most familiar road of my childhood – to and from school, to and from herding the cattle in Mullagh Beg, to and from hurling practice in the big field beyond Mullagh Cross. But now night was falling as I headed out, a reluctant eleven-year-old, to buy the ‘red packet’ tea – Rajabaree – my mother had requested, and the ten Gold Flake cigarettes that would last my father for a week and a half.

Things sounded louder in the dark. The breeze sighed and relented. A sudden little thrash – a bird or a mouse or a rat – stilled me for a moment, then again my footsteps echoed on tarmacadam and I heard the steady whisper of my pulse behind my ears.

Bushes and briars clung to either ditch. Primroses, golden-hearted in their radiance, seemed to shine ever more intensely as the darkness thickened. I had a sense of something strange about to happen, but on my night-walks this feeling invariably accompanied me. I could put names to all the farmhouse lights, steady and scattered in the blacked-out distance. The smells of the teacher’s pansies and tulips wafted up over her wall and her big, rust-coloured sheepdog barked. A recently installed porch-lamp bloomed whitely across the fields as I reached the height beyond the hairpin bend. There stood the Master’s house, its prize apples ripening behind a high thicket.

I came to the church and caught the faint gleam of its stained-glass windows and the pale outline of the Celtic cross that dominated the smaller monuments in the priests’ graveyard. A bat zinged past my ear, unnerving me slightly. An old woman whom I didn’t recognise emerged through the heavy oak door, gathered her bicycle where it leaned against the church wall, stepped daintily onto a pedal and eased away downhill without saying a word.

My mother had given me a five-naggin bottle for refilling with holy water but I didn’t want to be caught dead carrying it into Owenie’s. I plonked it behind the font in the church porch and headed out again. Everything held a memory. There was the ridge of tar against which I bumped my big toe in barefoot weather, and twisting above it the elderberry bush whose bitter juice purpled my lips in autumn. Beyond a rusty gate the meadow where I’d dived to catch a grasshopper and come up with a pocket watch stretched away towards the furze bushes under whose thorns I burned my mouth while smoking a crooked pipe. Across the road from the church the beech trees seemed to whisper about the windfall burrs and cupules I’d sifted through for nuts that might still be edible. Nearby, on a concrete pedestal with steps leading up to it, the pump that slaked my thirst on warm evenings after school pretended it was a dinosaur, its spout the small head and its handle the long tail not quite touching the ground.

Just as I passed the hollow where a girl lifted her dress and said she would show me hers if I would show her mine, the cables above me started their thin piping. Owenie’s grocery shop with the petrol pump and the blue and yellow Maxol sign held high on a dinged pole and the wide clean gable window came into view. I nodded at the bags of flour and the trays of chocolates and the Fizz Bombs and the Black Maria liquorices and the shelves of boxes and the bacon slicer and the array of foodstuffs in tins and the smell of fresh bread, and Owenie massaged his broad brow and said God but you’re out late, what can I get you?

He handed me the tea and the packet of Gold Flake and then took a big, square-faced bull’s-eye jar and twisted off its lid. He fluffed a brown paper bag open with his fingers and placed it on the Avery weighing scale with the numerous demarcations and the super-sensitive needle. His elbow jerked as he dug the scoop into the jar and chucked the bull’s-eyes into the bag. He studied the needle, nudged a few extra bull’s-eyes in and spun the bag closed using both hands. ‘That’s it now,’ he said.

I picked the bag up by one dog-ear, paid him and left.

The night felt colder suddenly and I remembered how Ena and Simon saw a white mist rising with a whoosh above the bushes and came home pale and frightened. I broke into a gallop and told myself it was just for the heck of it. Past the Maxol sign I ran, past the level field where the showbands played in the six-pole marquee, past the water pump, past the church before I realised my mistake and turned reluctantly back.

The oak-panelled door was hard to push open. I fumbled for my mother’s bottle and delved it into the holy water font where it filled with a bubbling noise. I looked through the porch glass, towards the long central aisle, the small red sanctuary lamp flickering as though about to drown, the greyish marble altar encircled by the communicants’ rail. A strange feeling gripped me and I peered in more closely, all but pressing my nose to the glass. A black shape appeared to be standing on the altar. I gaped, my whole body tingling now. Could it be Georgie the beggar up to his mischief for he was well known to sleep some nights in the organ-loft? But Georgie was stooped and shrunk where this figure stood tall and imposing. Suddenly the figure raised its arms – seeming to open as it did so a crinkled and convoluted fan of webbing – and lifted off the altar and glided headlong towards me down the empty, dim-lit nave. I scampered from the porch, leaving the bottle dunked in the font, and fled homeward scarcely noticing that the night had begun to spit rain.

‘Don’t you know well it’s your imagination,’ my mother said, handing me a sympathetic drink of hot chocolate after I tumbled out the story to her. ‘The church is a sacred place and nothing bad would ever happen to a person there.’

‘I saw it.’

‘You imagined it.’

There was no talking to her. But now when I look back along the most familiar road, I wonder if I imagined not just the incident in the church but everything down to the gallery of our faces, the little world that was matter-of-fact in each farmhouse out on its own with the door unlocked and no need to knock when you happened to call. I look back and see how my whole life amounts to a dream, but, for all that, I still mourn the loss of the beautiful, fiercely ‘real’ hallucinations that entranced me in early childhood.

‘You just imagined it all,’ my mother said, reasonable as could be, but in that kitchen on that particular night and for several nights afterwards I feared the dark figure and prayed with desperate fervour to be spared his reappearance.

Mrs Heagney visited on my twelfth birthday and handed me a slim, velvety box. Inside there was a fountain pen, navy-blue with a golden nib and a golden lever.

‘It’s too good to use,’ I told her.

‘You’ll get used to it,’ she said with a brusque tinkle in her voice and I caught the soft, earnest look behind the shimmer of her glasses as she showed me how to unscrew the pen at the middle to reveal the ink gut. This set me thinking of the long black insect that lived under a stone in the Callows and I told her as much.

‘Oh, indeed,’ she replied. ‘I didn’t forget to bring the jar of ink.’

We twiddled the pieces back together and worked the lever so the pen filled with a croaking sound. I found a scrap of paper and put down the insect’s name – devil’s coach-horse – and it felt as if I had tapped into something that called a halt, offered a stay, something that was meant for me.