Monthly Archives: November 2010

Tractor Rescue!

Rosies sister, Sinead and her boyfriend, Barry travelled down from Dublin today and got stranded in the deep snow on Ballybawn lane, just round the corner from the farm. Every negative has a positive; Michael went out in the tractor to rescue them and I got to go with him, thus fulfilling a lifelong dream to have a ride on a tractor! It was pretty exciting I can tell you!

Cristalline Water Ice Precipitation

We got a pretty heavy snow fall today in Ballybawn -about 7 inches. I have spent a lot of the day wandering around the farm. It looks pretty amazing and I took lots of photos. Another snowfall is expected tomorrow, and already it’s getting pretty treacherous to get about as the snow melts and freezes.

Coolbawn Castle

Coolbawn Castle is a derelict mansion about a mile away from Cow House Studios. It is one of many such houses dotted around Ireland. It is situated on farmland with no fences so it makes a fun, though slightly dangerous place to visit.

Jameson Whisky Factory

What sort of trip to the south west of Ireland would it be without a trip to the Jamesons factory? A seriously incomplete one, that’s what. We went on a tour to see the ridiculous lengths people will go to in order to get you drunk

Irish Sky Garden

We made a trip last week to see an installation by James Turrell called the Irish Sky Garden. It at the Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen in County Cork. It is quite hard to get any up to date and/or accurate information about the place, and it is unclear exactly what they are trying to do with it in terms of its usage, who should use it and why and how it makes money. The estate was founded by Claudia and Veith Turske, who are art dealers and collectors. They took it over in around 1990 with the aim of turning it into a public gardens with waterfalls, arboretums, hills, paths. They planted 10,000 trees in six weeks. This is a new age, hippy dream of a garden, so naturally, Turrell was an obvious choice to make something there. Three more installations were planned but since then, the estate has been taken over by art dealer Roman Stern and they seem to be on hold whilst he works out what he want’s to do with the place.

The trip to Skibbereen took a good three and a half hours, with all four residents packed into Frank and Rosie’s’ car. It felt like the journey to get there was part of the artwork. It was a pilgrimage and an effort is required from the viewer to see the piece, it won’t just present itself to you easily. When we got there, we had a good old wander around until Frank and Laurie discovered you had to go to a house on the estate and get a key into the crater. There is a high stone wall with an opening that leads you to a path. Eventually, you reach an entrance in the side of a hill. It is a long, narrow concrete corridor. At the end are high steps, three times as high as ordinary steps. At the top is a rectangular hole in which the sky is perfectly, tangibly framed. Climbing the steps brings you to the crater itself. It is oval in shape with steep grass sides. In the centre are granite stones, which, despite their coffin-like appearance, invite you to lie on them. When lying down, the crater fits perfectly in to the periphery of your vision. You are aware of its edges, but you can’t see them. The sky becomes tangible; the overcast sky is a grey, textured, moving, swirling dome. With all of Turrells works, you have to give it some time for the effect to take hold -otherwise you might as well not go to see them. The result, despite ones suspicion of its new age, hippy sincerity is profound. He has somehow managed to identify a phenomenon which is possibly universal –the size of our peripheral vision. Employing relatively simple devices, he uses the properties of natural phenomena without taking from them. He directly connects the work, the viewer and the landscape.


Francis Bacons Studio

Francis Bacons studio was meticulously documented whe he died and was then painstakingly moved from 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin where it is on permanent display. You can view it through glass windows. It is small and cramped, there is no floor space. Bacon was locked in a cupboard as a young boy by his nanny. “That cupboard was the making of me” he said. Hugh Lane is an excellent gallery and is well worth a visit if you are in Dublin.

Work with ice crystal formation

Much of my work on the Cow House residency has been inspired by the work taking place in the Manchester Ice Cloud Chamber (MICC) at the Centre for Atmospheric Science. I mentioned previously in my blog about a visit I made to the MICC where I spoke to Dr Clive Saunders who showed me a few experiments I could do without the need for a multi-million pound piece of lab equipment.

The basis for this experiment is that water can remain liquid at temperatures below 0°C. This is called super cooling; water at below 0°C is said to be supercooled water. Supercooled water between 0°C and -36°C will form ice crystals only if it can form around a nucleus. This is called heterogeneous nucleation. The water must form around a nucleus such as pollen, dust or even bacteria. Supercooled water below -36°C will turn to ice without the presence of an ice nucleus. This is called homogenous nucleation. The water freezes ‘automatically’. I am recreating homogenously formed ice crystals.

Clouds that form higher up in the atmosphere consist of these ice crystals. An example of such a cloud is cirrostratus. These are whitish clouds, which form a very thin layer around 5.5km high. They indicate there is a lot of moisture in the air and can later descend to form other types of rain cloud.

In my first experiment, water vapour is put into a chest freezer at between 0°C and -36°C and supercooling occurs. Air at high pressure is added with a syringe and the temperature is reduced to below -36°C. Ice crystals then form in a bubbling chain reaction. I pointed a spotlight into the freezer and this showed up the ice crystals.

After figuring out how to do this successfully in the freezer, I decided the next step was to scale it up. I hired a refrigerated transit van and built a room with fabric walls, which could be slotted into the back. I tried out a few techniques with varying success. It is very hard to keep the van cool for long enough for the ice crystals to form. Using a pressure hose and air compressor was most successful. The fabric room is now a sort of corridor in my studio.