Last week, Limerick School of Art and Design graduate Louise Wallace won two prizes at the prestigious 2019 RDS Visual Art Awards for her work “Hidden in Hazel”, including the top prize, the RDS Taylor Art Award of €10,000. Louise Wallace also took the RDS Centre Culturel Irlandais Residency Award, giving her a three-month artist-in-residency in Paris for the summer of 2020. Louise’s award-winning multimedia installation was made in collaboration with men living off-grid in the Burren, Co Clare. Through her work she documents their lives and desire to live an “analogue” existence, which she did using film photography, 16mm film and cassette tape to record interviews, in keeping with the lack of digital engagement experience in the subject’s everyday lives. Speaking about the winning work, Chair of the judging panel, Patrick Murphy, Director of the RHA said: “Louise Wallace’s triangulated video installation deals with what we think of as a disenfranchised community. Men living in abject conditions in the County Clare countryside. But remarkably her work transcends our stereotyping of them, revealing insights and their humanity.” The three film pieces explore hidden stories from three different characters. They are projected onto three screens on a free-standing triangular frame and accompanied by sounds of the dawn chorus.
Below, Louise Wallace speaks about the inspiration behind her latest project.
Tell us about the inspiration of “Hidden in Hazel”
I have always had a strong interest in photography and documentary, which probably stems from my Dad, who has instilled a great sense of human empathy within myself and my sister. On a Sunday, Dad and I would hop into his old Subaru and head off on an adventure, visiting the bachelors and “alternatives” who lived in the Burren, between South Galway and North Clare. These visits would normally consist of tuning guitars, playing a few tunes and telling stories. Perhaps it’s this cosy nostalgia that sparked an interest in the hidden stories that exist in the most unlikely of places. It is also a reflection on the world in which most of us currently live, a digitally mediated world far from the “analogue” experiences of the past. My intention was to create more intimate human connections through a collaborative process with the various protagonists who feature in the work. By capturing their private worlds created among the “safe” confines of the Hazel Scrubs, the intention was to invite the viewer to engage with these characters rather than expose them.
When did you become interested in multimedia installations?
During my four years at Limerick School of Art and Design, I was fortunate to have the time and space to test various installation concepts. I am curious to explore ways to bring more traditional filmmaking methods into contemporary gallery spaces, and how the spectator experiences the moving image in a contemporary context: how the means of presentation remains faithful to the “soul” of the work, and can both involve and sometimes surprise the viewer.
Can you tell us about the protagonists and their stories?
“Hidden in Hazel” holds a personal significance, having grown up in Kinvara, Galway. The Burren was on my doorstep and it has always fascinated me. It is a place to escape to, a place that attracts creatives of all types. The individuals that I have worked with are wonderful people, who let me into their lives. They are all creative people in their own right – musicians, poets, craftsmen and artists – and I have great respect for them. Suffice to say, they have all been generous with their time and I feel privileged to know them and call them friends, who have invited me to reflect on our responsibility and contribution to creating a rich and rewarding society.
Where will the installation go next, now that RDS Visual has ended?
It’s difficult to give you an answer to that. I’m hoping it might resurface in Paris next year in association with my residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, but who knows, I’m open to any opportunity that emerges.
How and where do you work?
I live and work from a small studio in Kinvara. It’s really beautiful and inspiring to live close to the sea and the Burren. I really love the wildness of the landscape. I find much of my inspiration and motivation comes from there, the people I meet and the landscape that surrounds me.
Do you have any ideas what you will spend your prize on?
It has been a dream for a while to own a medium format camera to work with. I have been very fortunate over the years to have lovely friends, tutors and family that I have borrowed equipment from – for which I’m truly grateful and appreciative – but it would be lovely to own my own. Other than that, I’ve already a number of projects in the pipeline, and ultimately I want to continue on to do a Masters.
To see more from Irish artist Louise Wallace visit www.louisewallacevisualart.com
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