Late in January 2015, Dylan Joyce-Ahearne, Fionn Rogan and Andrew Kavanagh set up a night for Dublin-based writers to share their work. They called it Cave Writings. Hoping to provide a space for people to meet, talk, share ideas and discuss their work, the Cave targeted the ever burgeoning literature scene in Dublin. Having met with great success and launched several journals, from Ireland and abroad, the Cave then turned its sights towards an inter-disciplinary space. What emerged was Cave Paintings, a project that pairs writers and artists in discourse over their individual creative efforts. After all, they felt, shouldn’t the Dublin artistic and writing communities have a greater ‘cross-contamination’ given they are in essence responding to the same surroundings?
By giving artists and writers a space in which to meet each other socially and discuss their work creatively, the Cave offers an interdisciplinary community.
To dissect the project further, I met with one of the founders, Dylan Joyce-Ahearne, and two participants, Susanna Galbraith and Ciara O’Brien. D, a final year English student in Trinity College Dublin, has found Cave Writings an incredible experience and is brimming with excitement about this next move. One of the main driving points behind both Cave Writings and Cave Paintings was the desire to have a “people first phenomenon”, he says. This is undoubtedly an important issue today given the growing dominance of the online creative social scene. Dylan worries about the effect of social media on creative relationships whereby online support, particularly through re-tweeting, forgoes actual human contact. By giving artists and writers a space in which to meet each other socially and discuss their work creatively, the Cave offers an interdisciplinary community. Thus there may emerge both a ‘creative discourse and a social discourse’.
As the development of Cave Paintings progressed, the project gradually took the form of ten Cave writers paired with ten Dublin-based visual artists (including painters, printers, film-makers and sculptors). Over the past few months these artists exchanged pieces of work with their partner in order to offer an interdisciplinary response to the other’s piece. Setting no limitations on form or content, the artists were free to reply to each other’s work in whatever way they wished. The combined effort is to be put on display to the public as an exhibition at Molloy & Dowling, with readings of the literary works on both the opening and concluding nights.
I think I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being obsessive about ekphrasis, and the contributory role visual art can play in poetry and poetry that responds to artwork.
Two of the participants, Susanna and Ciara, spoke to me about their experiences with the project. The former, another final year English student in Trinity College Dublin, has been involved with Cave Writings for a while and was excited by the prospect of Cave Paintings. “I think I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being obsessive about ekphrasis, and the contributory role visual art can play in poetry and poetry that responds to artwork, so I was thrilled to be included”, she says. Ciara, a recent graduate of Print Making at NCAD, maintains that whilst being a print artist, she has always been drawn to the power of poetry and its ability to condense so much into a few words. When tasked with replying to one of the other’s pieces they first had to choose which one – a difficulty in itself. The two pieces decided on were a drawing by Ciara, entitled ‘Hands’, and a poem by Susanna, entitled ‘(said the water to the birch tree)’. The latter has recently been published by The Honest Ulsterman.
One of the most defining aspects of Cave Paintings for Susanna and Ciara appears to be the relationship they have forged over the past few months. Getting to know each other, person to person, has been an important stimulating element of the project, helping to shape the other’s creativity. However both were adamant not to influence or distort the other’s response. Susanna clarifies that she is not trying to iterate Ciara’s original intentions, but instead to bounce off her work based on her own experience of it. The two agreed from the outset not to reveal anything of their ongoing work to the other before the opening of the exhibition. With the exhibition looming, their excitement is palpable.
Cave Paintings is both a conclusion and a beginning to the creative cross-pollination of what the Cave has been and is about.
When asked what’s next, all three reveal a fervent enthusiasm. Dylan speaks animatedly about the future of Cave Writings and the great scope available for further development of the project, and further inter-disciplinary collaborations. Cave Paintings is described as “both a conclusion and a beginning to the creative cross-pollination of what the Cave has been and is about”. Susanna is equally zealous about pursuing her exploration ekphrasis. The project has encouraged her consideration of the translation between the verbal and the visual and it is one she hopes to extend to even more mediums – “some time down the line”. Ciara meanwhile is actively delving into the print and visual arts world. As a member of the GUM Collective (a group of Dublin-based visual artists established in 2013), Ciara strives to increase the accessibility and engagement of practitioners, collectives, and audiences in the visual arts. Recent recipient of the Dublin City Council’s Young Artist Bursary Award, her own career is just taking off. Just like the Cave, Susanna, Ciara and Dylan all have a bright future ahead.
Watch this space.
Cave Paintings, will be exhibiting in Molloy & Dowling on Kildare St from November 16th to 20th, with an opening night event on the 16th and a closing night on the 20th.
Find out more here.