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Arts and Health


By 16 August 2019No Comments

An intergenerational printmaking project at Galway University Hospitals

UHG Arts Corridor
6th August – 15th September 2019

The Saolta Arts participative arts programme allows people of all ages to explore their creative potential supported by professional artists. In Care for the Elderly and Rehabilitation contexts, this fosters what can still flourish when other things seem to be fading, whilst in Paediatrics, workshops help to allay fears and make positive memories of a child’s time in hospital. OFFSET brought an exciting opportunity for an artist to work across these contexts at Galway University Hospitals.

When developing OFFSET, artist Aoife Barrett reflected on what she had learned from her own grandparents and the enduring gifts of their legacy. They wrote to her in Irish, told her the right way to pick an apple, and taught her how a bee sting works. In response, she devised a series of participative workshops that encouraged the exchange of tacit knowledge between generations and hospital wards. An extensive family archive of notebooks, letters, and cards has informed a growing body of her artwork as well as her participative practice. The exhibition grants a privileged peek at some of these treasured items, which draw attention to the value of sharing from a distance and acknowledge the role that the post has played in connecting people. Barrett reimagined this for the institution, using the hospitals’ internal mail to send the musings and marks of different generations between waiting rooms, offices, beds, and buildings.

Employing a variety of printmaking techniques, she explored the significance of the simple postcard and its potential within the hospital context. As mementos of places travelled, messages from afar, or as bundled keepsakes bound in ribbon, postcards are portable records of places, and of our place in the world. For those away from home, they offer a sense of the familiar or immeasurable, momentary joy within a long and isolating day. For others, they are an unexpected thank you and a vital affirmation of a job well done.

Barrett’s determined efforts to make printmaking more accessible include an ingenious custom made ‘print-case’ which opens as a miniature print table complete with a pasta-maker printing press. In a series of waiting room workshops, this fuelled the imaginations of young patients as they waited for appointments and, in turn, doctors reported on the proud, smiling faces that entered their clinics. In Units 5 and 6 at Merlin Park University Hospital, the printmaking process fostered reminiscence, stories, and laughter. Alongside documentation of the process and cherished research materials, OFFSET exhibits a selection of the project’s mini-prints as a heart-warming reminder of the small gestures that can make the hospital feel a lot more human. It creates a space where strangers share their love of tractors or triangles, learning a language, or a longing for the sea, to honour the potential of a note sent from health care – even if it seems to not be saying very much.

To celebrate our relaunch as Saolta Arts and raise funds for future participative opportunities for patients, we are delighted to introduce a set of limited edition mini-prints by Aoife Barrett. Five prints have been selected from the OFFSET exhibition and are now available as limited editions of 10 from our shop. All proceeds from sales will go to the Saolta Arts Paediatrics Arts Programme and Arts for Older People Programme at Galway University Hospitals.

OFFSET was possible thanks to the ongoing support of our core funders Galway City Council, Galway County Council, and Saolta University Health Care Group; the National Creativity Fund by the Creative Ireland Programme, an all-of-Government five-year initiative which places creativity at the centre of public policy; and the generosity and insights of artists Aoife Barrett and Margaret Irwin West and the patients and staff of Galway University Hospitals. We are especially grateful to our friends in the Post Rooms, Maintenance Department, the Paediatrics Department, and Units 5 and 6.

Aoife Barrett holds a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art Printmaking from LSAD (2010), MA in Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking from UWE (2015), and a BA (Hons) Degree in Archaeology from UCC (2006). She has exhibited widely in the UK, Ireland, Hong Kong and Germany. She is the founder and Creative Director of Print Van Go and is Portiuncula University Hospital Visual Artist in Residence 2019. Previous residencies include Wom@rts (2019); South Tipperary Arts Centre (2019); Knocknacarra Educate Together National School (2018); The Control Room, Bristol (2016), Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, New York (2015-16), Kilkenny Arts Office (2012), Open Art at Killenure Castle (2012), Dartmoor Arts Project, Devon (2011), and Artsource, Australia (2010). Awards include Lloyds Social Entrepreneurs Award, Bristol (2016),
Social Enterprise of the Year Award, for the artist led space ‘Unit 10’, UWE Bristol (2015), The Peter Reddick Award, Spike Print (2014), Artist Bursary Award, South Tipperary County Council (2013), South Tipperary Emerging Artist Award (2011), Dartmoor Arts Project, Bursary Award (2011), Cork Printmakers Twelve Month Bursary (2010), Fine Art Travel Bursary (2010), RDS Printmaking Award (shared) (2010) and several Arts Council of Ireland Travel & Training Awards.

The Post Room. Image credit Ruby Wallis.

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