Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cill Rialaig Artist Residency in Ireland

I'm heading off in two more days, to Ireland for my artist residency at Cill Rialaig. The Cill Rialaig Project, which opened in 1993, was founded by Noelle Campbell Sharp as a place where artists, writers and musicians can spend a period of dedicated time developing their own work. There are seven cottages, each with studio space, that were restored from the ruins of a deserted pre-famine village, circa 1796.  Situated on Bolas Head, a remote peninsula in County Kerry, the cottages sit on top of a cliff face overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

 I'm going to meet up in Killarney with my dear friend Rebecca Crowell , an artist from the U.S.  We'll rent a car to get to this remote residency.  It's a 3 mile hike into the nearest town of Ballinskelligs so it will be convenient to have a car, and especially wonderful to have two of us to share the driving in case one is frightened of driving a stick shift on the left side of the road!  I can't even think about it.

I've heard from other artists who have been to Cill Rialaig before me and have read wonderful descriptions of the wild, remoteness of this place.  It has been described as a thin place, where the boundary between time and the timeless dissolves.  I came across the writing of  the UK poet Sue Hubbard, who spent time at Cill Rialaig and in conjunction with the artist Donald Teskey, published a book of poems and drawings inspired by the place, called The Idea of Islands.  
Here is a brief excerpt from her poem; Cill Rialaig

"A drunken wind blew all night,
banging at doors, rattling windows
ill fitting as old men's teeth.

Now that it's day,
I understand the loneliness
of storms as the distant island

beckons in the mist
like a half-remembered dream.
This is the edge of the world."

I'll do some painting and drawing as I explore my experience of this place and I expect that part of the experience will be to write as well.  There are ideas and words lurking in my head that want to be written.  I've decided to work mostly in black and white for this period of time, drawing and painting and working between the two.
After Ireland, my travels will take me to Scotland where I'll visit with my relatives near Aberdeen.  Then I move on to the island of Iona.  Situated off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, Iona is another of those liminal places where the veil is thin.  It has a deep spiritual history and thousands of pilgrims visit every year.   St. Columba arrived from Ireland to establish a monastery there in 563.  Iona quickly became a centre of learning and is often associated with the distinctive practices and traditions known as Celtic Christianity. It is thought that the Book of Kells was produced or begun here. Iona is now a centre for those of a variety of Christian faith traditions who choose to learn, pray and work together for peace and justice in the world. 

 I'll stay for a week in Iona at the monastery, taking a program  called Winter Quiet Week which will be a time of contemplation and reflection with guided teachings and meditations.  

"Is this place really nearer to God?
Is the wall thin between our whispers
And his listening?  I only know
The world grows less and less-"
(Iona by Kenneth C. Steven).

From a website on Druidry:
"If you feel the call of Iona, then answer that call and make the journey to her.
She is like a very old Crone, rocky and barren and eternally loving and gentle
and tough and wise. She is very old. She is very holy.
There is no other place on earth quite like Iona.
Like all Shamballah places, Iona shall always be.
Iona is a Grail-lit Isle. Iona is deathless.
On Iona one finds the Rainbow which bridges Heaven and Earth."
Philip Carr-Gomm

I look forward to an adventure in liminality-at the margins-where the ocean meets the land, where the sky meets the sea, where the land ends- the thin place between worlds.


  1. Oh Janice, this sounds like a thrilling place to experience and to be inspired by. I'll look forward to hearing more about it and about your travels. I hope it is wonderful for you. It's so exciting to adventure out, to experience as much of life as possible, you embody that for me.

  2. Beautiful post--bon voyage to us both!!!

  3. Hi Judy,

    Thanks for your comment! Reading what others have written about Cill Rialaig and the stormy weather in November and the idea of living between the worlds, makes me feel like I'm some sort of swashbuckler off to conquer the unknown!