The Wren
All the Before
The Wren (Gach An Roimh)

"This film is a response to a year of being stuck online as an artist, and the disconnection from the performative exhibition and the aura surrounding installation. This is a response to the digital screen turning my art into nothing more than a few pixels on a screen. I longed to be outdoors and interact with space, aura, materiality, and the physical – and so I did."

The narrative follows research into the wren chases of St Stephen’s day in rural Ireland, following wrens and collecting money for their burials (not always, but traditionally the wren would be killed by young children through either being chased to exhaustion or stoned) – rather than a wren, this film will follow the resting of my ‘obituary’ box under a rag tree. You tie a rag for a purpose – whether to leave a memory behind, or to remember something – it is a recalling of mind, a catharsis, and a making of peace with suffering or a memory. The rag tree exists as a space of acknowledgement and a space to turn suffering into something unique and beautiful, with catharsis emerging from the physical tying of a memory, and walking away from it.

The Wren, a short film written and directed by Chloe Heffernan / Song written and produced by Samuel McKie and Chloe Heffernan / Vocals, banjo, mandolin and tin whistle by Samuel McKie /Editing and cinematography by Chloe Heffernan / Technical support and camerawork by Samuel McKie

Bio

Transgressing from symbolic folk imagery into computerised embroidery depicting scenes of home care, Heffernan combines these to form powerful, eclectic images – the stark aesthetic of a receipt alongside a detailed illustration of a country cottage, or the detailed textures of an embroidery depicting cold, clinical scenes from a hospital bedside. With her childhood years split between Manchester and the idyllic Irish countryside of Mayo, it becomes apparent in her work, showing a fusion of brutalist linework and organic forms and subjects, drawing upon natural, pastoral, and industrial themes. Taking influence from everyday experience and the associated memories allows for interrogation into intricate details and hidden beauty of the moments we overlook.

Heffernan's main interests lie in memory, which is always contextual. Memory hangs off moments and objects like the rags hang off the trees – it references moments, people, and places. Nodes connect within our brains in a network of contextual reference, forming a tapestry of associated memory. Heffernan’s work focuses on trauma, illness, grief, and rebuilding. Using a broad range of mediums, Heffernan creates a universe of her own in her work, rebuilding from the debris left behind by suffering and death, creating honest illustrations, with a hopeful undertone.

Distilling a moment or refining a message, Heffernan is inspired by illustration’s potential to record the colloquial and its application as a documentational method of notetaking through art. Heffernan sees our lives as our own tapestries, built of inherited identity from our experiences, and our ancestors, with acknowledging the connection between our bodies and the earth, can we begin to grow.

 

Framed with an oak wooden box, this is a small box lined with red velvet. Within it is a hand-bound book in a dark green, with the gold letter-punched text "OBITUARY" on the front. On top of this scattered are flotsam from the beach - a fossil, a puffin skull, a gannet skull, stones, and burial coins.
Obituary
Obituary

The concept of Obituary was to focus on the deaths of these creatures I found on walks and collate them into a hand -bound book, with a coffin to act as a Celtic burial tomb, with dedications and objects to celebrate them as kings and queens of the sea – much like the burial sites we find in archaeological digs. Each creature has had a poem written for it. This piece acts as a respectful ode to the sea – an obituary. Looking at themes of death, sitting quietly while the deaths were announced on the radio once a week, and newspaper obituaries for lives now departed from our world. Death is apart of our world as much as we may deny it – this has been more apparent than ever in mainstream existent and lives this year, with many people becoming aware of their own mortality, and the mortality of their loved ones.

 

Death is also apart of nature. The triquetra – birth, life, and death. Death is in religion. Death is in the seasons every year as a tree loses its leaves and flowers die – death is in the sea with its might, strength, and will. She claims as she wishes and is the giver and taker of life. Obituary is a hand-bound stab-stich publication with bespoke illustrations of flotsam which washed up on the beaches of my home during the February storm of 2021. The book is bound in handmade Himalayan paper, and the cover text is hand-stamped in gold ink with metal letterpress tools.  The artbook is surrounded by found skulls, and 3D printed replica skulls, produced by https://www.chapelprints.co.uk. The coffin has been handmade with an oak finish.

Dependant Alarm

The intention of this series is of memory, recalling, catharsis, and a working through of quite a difficult period of my life and my mother’s. Each drawing has been from memory rather than reference, as experiences as this are burned into the back of the retinas of those who experience it. 

There is very little information or support available on a public domain for child carers, as is the focus of this zine, they’re left to their own devices until the last possible seconds when intervention is utterly necessary between life and death.

I have used a blue and red colour scheme as they work in unison, but also as opposing forces. With the topic of this being home care with little support from the outside world, the blue and red act as manifestations of the insular building of the home/house, and the outside. The blue writing is dialogue and thoughts from my mum and my side, meanwhile the red is outside of our bubble. The choice of blue for our side of passivity in the suffering is in relation to the Catholic idealism of the passive symbol of Mary as a woman – shrouded in blue, she stands, and waits, and takes what comes her way  - a symbol of quiet existence through suffering with no intervention to stop it, or ability to fight it. A statue of Our Lady of Sorrows watched over my mother and I.

I have included the Greek imagery of the Bowl of Hygieia.  Associated with medicine and pharmacy is the Rod of Asclepius, with the snake Caduceus. I selected the lesser used, which is more relating to Hygeia, the goddess of hygiene, and daughter of Asclepius.  I selected her symbolism as it felt more feminine and less clinical, since the household was essentially just myself and my mum, however, I would use the Caduceus version, but in red markings, to portray the more clinical, and ‘domineering.’

An embroidered image of an oxygen mask and a blood pressure monitor, with logos from stoma care companies, and hospital gown patterns. The text "HYPOXIC" and "STATEMENT OF FITNESS FOR WORK", with the speech "so, when are you going to get a job?"
Embroidered image with a stoma bag, and repeated imagery of the patterns on a hospital gown, with the text "dependant alarm"
Red and blue embroidery of a medical dispensary box with medication in.
"darling, can you lift my legs out of bed?" a commode, a dining room table, and a statue of mary
An abstract embroidery with the cup of hygeia, goddess of hygiene, a hospital measuring jug for water, a zimmer frame, and medication, with the text "I've had a fall... they can't get me up, you have to come"
The Cup of Hygeia
Embroidered image of a child leaning over their parent on a bed covered in blood, saying "darling, i'm in a mess"
embroidered image of a cardboard box delivery, with harsh erratic embroidered zig zag lines around it, teardrops, and hospital gown patterns, and a A-B location saying "71 MILES" with text "YOU NEED TO COME IM SCARED AND ALONE AND I CANT COPE"
An embroidered image of an oxygen mask and a blood pressure monitor, with logos from stoma care companies, and hospital gown patterns. The text "HYPOXIC" and "STATEMENT OF FITNESS FOR WORK", with the speech "so, when are you going to get a job?"
Backing of the embroidery
Land Identity

A project exploring variations of modern Celtic identities and my experience of such. It has thus far developed into illustrating simple moments, and odes to the everyday - this is what identity means to me; a value placed on the fragments which make our everyday existence.

This developed further into more abstract studies of traditional portraits and representations, which has led to a trickle-off project about Rituals. Land identity is close studies of places and landscapes in a respectful manner, which I am now abstracting into collage, using harsh lines and tears of modern pattern and design using contrasting forms as representation of a modern context to traditional Celtic identity. 

These include studies of objects and black and white photographs from Irish database websites and objects which surround me at home which act as a statement of identity and expression, such as St Brigids crosses, or foliage from the garden to mark midsummer. 

Three generations of women stood outside of a thatched irish cottage, one with a sickle in hand
Mna
Album of Memories

Please, be gentle with my memories.

Our psyche is a collected membrane of memory, experiences, loss, tragedy, belief, and the bittersweet. We seek purpose in the void whether that be through a god, or through repetitive behaviours of comfort. This project has focused on the ritualistic natures in which I have interacted with suffering and death, the things I hold onto, and the experiences which shadow and comfort me.

Documenting the processes of my research over the last year, this is a photo series of moments, places, and memories which have informed this exhibition. Illustration and photography are documents of my soul - this album acts as interactive look into the before; gach an roimh. We are tapestries built of the past - in our suffering, experiences, smiles, and sorrow. All of it weaves into our present identities today, and makes us who we are. 

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