FieldWorks Gap Year: Spring, 2019 Final Update

It’s been just a few days since our first ever gap year students went their separate ways and looking back on our time with them, it seems as if the past twelve weeks went by in a flash. Here at Cow House, we could not have been more fortunate to host such a wonderful group for our first ever semester-long program. It has been a real privilege to witness burgeoning friendships, creative growth and real maturity develop in our students. We look forward to seeing what comes next for this talented bunch.

Our last four weeks began with everyone returning from their week-long break over Easter refreshed and eager to get back in the studio. The week began with a visit from artist Stephen Brandes. Stephen’s personal practice and depth of experience were immensely valuable for the group and his quick wit brought a levity to the week. After the first day of studio visits, it was clear to Stephen that for their gap year experience thus far, there had been a tremendous leap forward in everyone’s work. He enjoyed his time providing feedback and guidance as everyone geared up for more independent projects.

While our students spent most of the week working on individually assigned projects, Stephen kept one last trick up his sleeve. In the last few days of his time with us, Stephen introduced his collaborative practice, The Domestic Godless, the anarchistic collective co-founded by Stephen along with artists Mick O’Shea and Irene Murphy. Stephen’s challenge to the group, create a meal within 24 hours using food as a means “to convey humour, empathy and other qualities that distinguish art from purely craft.”

Working in pairs each team was given a course for our feast. Using a pantry of unusual ingredients and employing the help of Stephen, Frank and Caitriona, each team stepped up to the challenge, making wonderfully inventive creations. We were also fortunate that Ian Munro, a former student from our summer program back in 2016, was visiting for the week and so Stephen asked him to create a stunning set design for the feast. It was a great success and we think Stephen was happily surprised to see it all come together in the end. With courses such as fish lollipops and deep fried fish bones, it’s an experience we will surely recount for years to come.

After a super engaging week with Stephen; we headed to Cork for a few days to decompress. After exploring Cork’s famed English Market we enjoyed lunch at the Farmgate Cafe before heading over the Crawford Gallery to see a video work by contemporary artist Ailbhe Ni Bhriain and paintings by Mary Sawnzy. Everyone enjoyed some free time to shop and explore the city before we met at Son of a Bun to try their burgers; voted best on Ireland in 2018. They lived up to the hype! The next day we spent the morning at Fota Wildlife Park, soaking up the sun and hanging out with many exotic animals. Lastly, we stopped at Cobh on the way home; a picturesque seaside town famed for being the final stop for the Titanic.

Upon returning to Cow House, everyone met with Rosie and Frank for tutorials in the studio. The last two weeks of our first gap year program were dedicated to completing projects and working independently to create new works for our final critique. There was a tremendous range of work being produced in the final weeks. Nearly every corner of the studio was put to good use with students making paintings, books, animations, photographs and video works. It was wonderful to see the confidence and clarity our students had developed. Never standing still, we also managed to run a life drawing and painting workshop one morning as well as screen printing and cyanotype demonstrations.

Our final trip off the farm was to Dublin where we visited Library Project to see new work by Luis Alberto Rodriguez. His project The People of the Mud opened PhotoIreland this year and was created during his six-week residency at Cow House last autumn. We also managed to visit the National Gallery of Ireland to enjoy historical works and The Hugh Lane to see a new exhibition by Mark Dion and visit Frances Bacon’s studio. One last trip to The Raman Bar was definitely in order and we managed to find a spot in the snug at Stags Head for a pint. The night was capped with an epic karaoke session before returning to the studios the next day.

For the last few days in the studio, we witnessed a remarkable burst of energy. A lot of work was completed before the final critique and for our students, the art made wasn’t a “final project” but rather the start of something new. We couldn’t be more proud of the artwork made but more importantly, it really feels like our students know what steps they can make next. A quality we hope to see in all of our gap year students. We capped everything off by pulling out the fancy duds for one last dinner. As always, Caitriona delighted with a FieldWorks themed cake and an additional birthday cake for Michael who turned 20 on the last day of the program. We’re going to miss this group. We’re truly thankful for their participation and gained so much form their remarkable intellect and creativity.

You can have a look at photos from our session here…

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