Trio of shows at Westport’s Custom House

Going Out

ON SHOW ‘Brian’ (detail), oil on canvas by Freya Payne, one of the artworks in the Ballinglen Arts Foundation collection chosen by patients and staff of the Sacred Heart Hospital to form part of their ‘Lockdown Choices’ exhibition.

Our galleries are open once again, and Westport’s Custom House Studios Gallery is celebrating with not just one but three engaging exhibitions: A selection of work from the prestigious Ballinglen Arts Foundation collection, as chosen by the community of the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar; ‘Move to Sharpen’, by Westport-born artist Saoirse Wall; and the much-anticipated annual end-of-year Winter Exhibition. All shows will run until January 17.
‘The Sacred Heart Lockdown Choices’ is a show curated by a diverse and eclectic group of people, all united by this lockdown experience and a love for art. “A selection of paintings was brought digitally to the patients and staff of the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar,” explains Facilitator artist Tom Meskell. “The enthusiasm was infectious and the joy as people made their choices was a real revelation. This is the importance of bringing work of artistic excellence to those in a health setting.”
Meskell has worked as an artist in residence with the Sacred Heart for over ten years. “I facilitate the patients in making their own works of art, which are then hung on the walls of the hospital or curated into art exhibitions that appear in art centres and elsewhere,” he says.
“Due to the lockdown the arts programme has been put on hold so this opportunity to engage with the arts from a curatorial perspective was grasped by the patients. The staff, who have been great supporters of the patients’ art, have missed seeing the regular arts activities within the hospital and were very excited to get involved.”
‘Move to Sharpen’ is a film consisting of a description of a landscape painting by James Arthur O’Connor, a plan for a film responding to this painting, and a hopeful mantra towards learning from the landscape. This work is a sensory exploration of ways to consolidate learning in the body, incorporating footage of Croagh Patrick, the Bohea Stone and a point-of-view journey through a forest, up a hill and out to its joyful summit. Moving is learning; touch is acknowledged as both playful and serious. Simultaneous to this depiction of the pleasure of feeling one’s body in nature, it warns of the danger that fascist attitudes pose to our ability to grow, learn and move with each other.
Wall works with moving-image and performance to articulate experiences that lack representation in social narratives of gender, health and the body. Scale, immersive sound, and suggestive gestures are manipulated to disrupt and discomfort. The artist’s work has been purchased by the National Gallery of Ireland, and has recently been screened and exhibited in Scotland, Belfast and the Netherlands.
The third show, ‘Winter Exhibition 2020’ is a group studio exhibition featuring the artists wjp worked at Custom House Studios during 2020.  It marks is the end of the 18th year of full programming at Custom House Studios, which provides practical and tangible supports and facilities for artists in the Westport and Mayo area, as well as access for the local community, and visitors to the area, to fine arts.  
This year’s exhibition features works by Tom Brawn, Sheelyn Browne, Breda Burns, Kate Cuddy, Bryan Gerard Duffy, Betty Gannon, Pauline Garavan, Claire Griffin, Marliese Hertfelder, Sarah Kelly, Trish Kelly, Genevieve King, Anna Rose Lowry, Maire Maguire, Marian McGing (RIP), Maggie Morrisson, Gerry O’Malley, Grainne O’Reilly, Susie Quinn, Benita Stoney, Melanie Whelan and Ian Wieczorek, among others.

The Custom House Studios and Gallery at Westport Quay is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm to 4.30pm. It will be closed for Christmas Holidays from December 24 to 29.