My trip to Inishark and Inishbofin and the
4 Bothies Gallery
In the first week of August 2022 my friend Fiona, her dog Sugradh and I set off on an expedition to the islands of Inishbofin and Inishark off the Connemara coast of County Galway. Our aim was to make some site specific artwork to install in the 4 Bothies Gallery on Inishark. The 4 Bothies project was set up by artist and film maker Luke Franklin and it's worthwhile having a good look at the website to get an idea of the scope of his amazing undertaking and then go to the Inishark Gallery page to read about our destination.
We travelled with little in the way of tools and media, so we could improvise and be inventive in using what we found on site.
Fiona and I camped at the Inishbofin Hostel, arriving in pouring rain and high winds on the Inishbofin Ferry on the Bank Holiday Monday. We had a few sleepless nights with the wind and rain buffeting the tent, but the days were grand, and by Wednesday there was a bit of sunshine. The first two days were spent exploring and preparing our work, while we waited for a calm sea to get to Inishark.
We walked many miles on Inishbofin, looking out towards Inishark and sourcing materials for our separate projects. I had done a bit of research into local folklore which inspired me to gather some plants from which I intended to make a nature print. We went to a beautiful beach, Trá Gheal, overlooking Inishark where we found soap stone which is easily carved and can be ground into powder.
I found a nice red and a sea green soapstone, which I ground to make 'ink' for my printing process.
Fiona was busy working with local clay, but didn't reveal any plans at that stage!
On the Thursday we were all set to travel to the island which turned out to be a rollercoaster ride on a rib. We arrived at 12.30pm and had until 5pm to make our work and install it as access to the island is very dependant on the tides and the swell.
Inishark has been uninhabited since 1960. There's a small ruined village and some walled fields. The pier was washed away in a storm. It's like another world on the island and the weather was glorious when we were there.
The Bothy Gallery, built by Luke and his team, fits snugly into the old schoolhouse.
Martin, a fellow artist, joined us for the trip, and we started with a lovely picnic lunch on the hillside. Once we got to work we went our separate ways.
I made some black ink with soot and mixed my red and green before setting up my print block in the gallery to be in out of the wind.
I printed one test print, and then looked at my watch and it was 4pm, eeek! So I only had time to make one good print and this is now on the wall in the gallery.
It is called 'Portal'. The idea of a wreath of herbs came from two stories from Inishark which I gleaned from A Study of Folklore on the Coasts of Connacht, Ireland by Thomas Johnson Westropp (1860 - 1922), which mentioned stories of magic powers of herbs and flowers. In one a young girl's lover is killed at sea. An old woman offers her a wreath of magical herbs to look through. Perhaps she could see her lover, or join him through this portal to Tir na nÓg.
Inishbofin and Inishark were seen as 'other' from the main land, the customs of the inhabitants separating them from the rest, thus adding to the mystical essence of these remote islands. A local story tells of the islands floating, appearing and disappearing in mist or myth.
We managed to get our pieces installed in time to meet the rib to return to Inishbofin. We'd love to have made another trip out but it didn't work out. Maybe next year!
The weather turned out to be wonderful during the last few days on Inishbofin so we wandered all over the island looking at the dramatic coastal features. The landscape is very beautiful and we found lots of plants we hadn't seen before.
We visited the blow holes on the Westquarter, where a poor unfortunate Minke whale was stranded and had died a few days before. In honour of the whale we painted a mural on the wall of the blow hole using turf as our medium.
Our trip was rounded off with a refreshing swim at the beautiful beach at East End Bay, white sand and the clearest water, a delight.
We were sad to leave Inishbofin, but we had a brilliant time there. Sugradh had become a proper sea dog by the end!