Deirdre O’Mahony has been commissioned for the gallery’s 2022 The Soil Projectcommission. The Soil Project is an annual commission at Butler Gallery which supports invited artists to create participatory projects which connect deeply with the environment,the world around us and the soil beneath our feet. As galleries and museums increasingly address social issues affecting our communities, environmental and ecological concerns are key priorities for the 21 st century.
For the past two years, Deirdre O’Mahony has been working on a project called The Sustainment Experiments and the actions and changes a different approach to farming can bring to benefit biodiversity, soil health and soil fertility. This is an ever-more urgent issue.
The impact of the war in Ukraine and the rise in fertiliser prices have highlighted Ireland’s dependency on artificial fertilisers and the need for farmers to find alternatives.
The Soil Lab Think Tank
May 2nd – 7th
Deirdre will be present in the Learning Centre during her week-long open studio in May, concluding with a visit to regenerative farmer, Suzanna Crampton. School workshops will look and listen to the life beneath the soil. She is particularly interested in meeting farmers in the county interested in finding alternatives to artificial fertilisers and soil regeneration and can be contacted directly in the Butler gallery during the week-long ‘think-tank’ or through the Learning and Engagement curator, Hollie Kearns.
if soil could speak, what would it say?
Deirdre will be doing workshops with local schools during The Soil Lab Think Tank
Deirdre will have recordings of dung beetles and other soil creatures made with sound recordist John Brennan on Suzanna Crampton’s farm in Bennettsbridge, County Kilkenny. Dung Beetles play a crucial role in the ecology of soil, breaking down manure into minerals and nutrients for healthy animal fodder, as do earthworms and she will share some of her findings from her Residency at the Earth Institute, UCD, on root systems, soil ecology, earthworms and the historical traces of farming activity excavated by archaeobotinists at the university. School workshops about soil, with a particular focus on Dung Beetles and earthworms.
Planting: Sainfoin will be planted in the Butler Gallery’s Garden.
Nicknamed 'holy hay' for its many attributes, Sainfoin fixes nitrogen in soil, increases protein uptake and has an anti-parasitic property for livestock, grows in drought conditions, and is loved by bees. The research process started last year with The PLOT at VISUAL Carlow, based on a prediction by the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination system used to ask What is the future of sustainable food production in Ireland? Sainfoin is also being tested alongside other legumes by Deirdre for Model Plot this year, a commissioned sculptural planting in collaboration with the Irish Loy Association for Field Exchange, a Creative Ireland Creative Climate action project.
Visit to Suzanna Cramptons Regenerative Farm in Bennettsbridge
Saturday May 7th
Visit Suzanna Crampton’s regenerative farm in Bennettsbridge to learn about Regenerative Farming the species rich soil which Deirdre O’Mahony and John Brennan have been recording as part of The Soil Project 2022. The tour of the farm will last 2 hours.
This is a family friendly event but be aware that this is a working farm. There are dogs loose on the farm and children need to stay with parents at all time.
Bio: Suzanna Crampton’s farm is near Bennetts Bridge, Co. Kilkenny. The farm’s species-rich meadows and pastures, woodlands, parkland, and numerous stand-alone mature trees, form a haven for local wildlife. She farms 14 acres on which she has 20 ewes and followers. They have access to a mixed sward with 17 different species of grasses alone. Suzanna practices regenerative agriculture with a rare breed of sheep that is triflective (milk, meat, fleece). She designs blankets from the wool that she has won awards for over the years. Additionally, a decades-old traditional orchard provides bountiful fruit and further herb-rich grazing for her sheep, with mature hedges that add even more habitat diversity for native plants, insects and birds. Suzanna is a founding member of Regenerative Farming Ireland. Suzanna regularly undertakes public engagements speaking to local, national and international audiences about regenerative farming. Suzanna has also written a best selling book ‘Bodacious the Shepherd Cat’ which has been translated into several languages. Suzanna was nominated in 2019 and awarded the Farming For Nature Honorary Ambassador 2019 role in January 2020.
The Sustainment Feast
14th – 31st October
Butler Gallery Main Gallery
Sustainment Experiments is a new 5 year artwork and public engagement project that considers our actions as we face ecological and climate crises; reaching a desired future means adapting habits, routines and attitudes now. Humanity’s approach has so far been about moving forward- faster, harder and better- rather than sustainability. Projects already in train include The PLOT at VISUAL Carlow, The PLOT 11 Gangwon Triennale 2021 Korea, and a dinner service in progress made at Fire Station Artist’s Studios through their 2021 Sculpture Workshop Award. Further research is currently underway with farmers in the Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary and Wexford regions and starting with scientists at the Earth Institute at UCD as Parity Studios artist-in-residence 2021/22.
In 2022, three feasts will bring together farmers, cultural producers, scientists and policymakers. Deirdre will collaborate with chefs in each location, using the affective power of the meal to encourage participants to think beyond fixed, habitual positions and collectively share knowledge and experience to address the question of sustainable food production. Meals will take place at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, the Butler Gallery Kilkenny and in Dublin. The feasts draw on the actions of 18th-century French scientist Antoine Augustin Parmentier who held a potato dinner designed to change public perceptions of food in France.
This research is generously supported through a Visual Arts Bursary from The Arts Council of Ireland, the and the UCD Parity Studios Earth Institute residency 2021 – 2022 and the 2021 Fire Station Artists’ Studios Sculpture Award
14th – 31st October
Butler Gallery Learning Centre
Feeder is a research-based installation about landscape, farming, food production and the sustainable use of natural resources. In response to the exhibition A Growing Enquiry, O’Mahony created a reading room that offers books, texts and pamphlets on food, land, art, landscape, nature, philosophy and ecology as faint sounds of the countryside softly haunt the space. She deploys agricultural devices to house the library – feeding troughs and incubation lights evoke the practical nature of farming and create a wonderful metaphor on how it fuels both our bodily requirements and our imaginations.
About the Artist
Deirdre O’Mahony’s art practice is informed by a deep interest in rural sustainability, farming, food security and the political ecology of rural places. Current and recent projects and exhibitions include Feeder at the RHA Gallery Dublin (2022) Sustainment Experiments (2021 – 2024, Ireland and Paris); The Plot 1, VISUAL Carlow (2021); The PLOT 11 Gangwon Triennale Korea(2021), Little did they know, EVA Biennale Guest Programme curated by Merve Elvern; PhotoIreland2021 and POST_(2020) for Saolta Arts /Galway2020. Other projects include Cerere, a Horizon 2020 project for Teagasc (2018); Groundworks (2017) for Grasslands Denmark (2017); SPUD (2009 – 2019) and X-PO (2007 - ) a former rural post-office revived as a social and cultural exchange space.
Currently the Soil residency artist at Butler Gallery (2022) and artist-in-residence at Parity Studios, Earth Science Institute, UCD, (2021/2). Recent awards include Visual Arts Bursary and Agility Awards from the Arts Council of Ireland (2021); Fire Station Artist Studios’ Sculpture Award (2021); the Irish American Cultural Institute O’Malley Award (2018); Kilkenny Arts Office Bursary and Residency Award at Centre Culturel Irlandais and a Pollock Krasner Foundation fellowship awardee. Her work is in the collection of the Arts Council of Ireland and national and international institutions.