Making the invisible visible


CREATIVE HUB Six artists, a curator and a composer make up Na Cailleacha (background image by Maria Levinge), a collaboration at Ballinglen Arts Foundation that will generate talks, film screenings and an exhibition.

Eight creatives collaboratively respond to womanhood, ageing and the arts

Ciara Moynihan

The sudden disappearance of the arts scene and arts events and the concurrent societal sheltering of older generations has meant that collective older voices may perhaps have been less to the fore in the creative sphere in recent months. A new multifaceted, multi-artist creative initiative in north Mayo is therefore a particularly welcome appearance on many levels, focused as it is on the exploration of ‘being female, older and hopefully wiser’.     
Under the moniker ‘Na Cailleacha’, six visual artists, one jazz musician and a curator/writer are collaborating at Ballycastle’s Ballinglen Arts Foundation, between them sharing over 500 years’ experience of being women, as well as, variously, of being an artist, a curator/writer/historian and a composer.
The artists involved are Helen Comerford, Co Kilkenny; Maria Levinge, Co Wexford; Therry Rudin, from Switzerland and based in Co Tipperary; Barbara Freeman, Belfast; Patricia Hurl, Co Tipperary. Joining them is jazz composer, pianist and saxophonist Carole Nelson, Co Carlow, and curator and art-writer Catherine Marshall, who bases herself between Dublin and Co Kilkenny.
‘Na Cailleacha’ – which means witches or divine hags – and together they will draw out their own each others’ perceptions of and learnings around ‘what it means to be women who are getting older and arguably becoming invisible’. Significantly, this is not solely exploring to passively observe and report; strategies to overcome emergent negatives will also be considered and devised.
The programme, which runs for the whole month of September, includes a host of free, audience-limited talks, panel discussions and film screenings.  

Collaborative explorations
As a group, Na Cailleacha has said that all those involved are seeking to make art that allows them to explore their collective experience. This includes, they say, ‘our attitudes to ageing, our bodies, our place in the artworld, and how we relate to a different culture and heritage’.
“Central to this developmental opportunity in this phase of our careers is working collaboratively, enabling us to do what women have always done – mentored and supported and argued with each other – so that we can share the fruits of this time together with other people in Ireland during 2021.
“We plan to live, work and explore ideas and issues that are relevant to us now and also whatever is prompted by being together for the month of September 2020 at the Ballinglen Arts Centre, Co Mayo.”
The eight women will create artworks in the form of paintings, performance, video, music, an artist’s book/installation/journal and an online blog. After the residency is completed, all participants will be filmed in their studios and asked to share their thoughts on the experience.

Exhibition and talks
The group plans to present an exhibition of the work that has been created during the month-long stay at Ballinglen, and then take themselves on the road, presenting exhibitions, workshops, and symposia in venues in Kilkenny, Callan, Carlow Visual, Wexford and at the Centre for Gerontology at Saint James’s Hospital, Dublin, in 2021.
But before the month is out, the stunning new Ballinglen Museum of Art will be hosting a series afternoon tea sessions, during which the pubic can join the artists for a cup of tea and an informal chat.
Today, Tuesday, September 15, will see Helen Comerford and Carole Nelson in conversation, in an event entitled ‘Charcoal meets Saxophone – a Dialogue between a Painter and a Jazz Musician’.
Later in the week, on Thursday, September 17, visual artists Maria Levinge and Gerda Teljeur will be in conversation with curator, Catherine Marshall, exploring the topic of ‘Connecting to the Landscape’.
Then next Tuesday, September 22, visual artists Barbara Freeman and Patricia Hurl will dive into the subject of ‘Art and Loss’, while Thursday, September 24 sees filmmaker Therry Rudin and Catherine Marshall in a panel discussion entitled ‘Collaborating. Curating. Documenting.’.
The film ‘One step ahead of the Crack/Craic – Na Cailleacha’ will then be screened in Ballina Arts Centre on Saturday, September 26, at 3pm. This event will include a panel discussion with Helen Comerford, Barbara Freeman, Patricia Hurl, Maria Levinge, Catherine Marshall, Carole Nelson, Therry Rudin, Gerda Teljeur, as well as the screening of two short films by Patricia Hurl and Therry Rudin: ‘Night, Black to Blue’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’.

Places to any of the free Na Cailleacha events mentioned can be reserved via For more information contact Mayo Arts Office at Mayo County Council, or visit