A timely reminder

SPARK Bailieborough artists collaborate on Lockdown book

Many of us are glimpsing at Lockdown through the rear-view mirror as we hastily try to get our lives back on track – although daily updates of ‘confirmed cases’ suggest the virus is gaining ground.

For two Bailieborough artists the period served as inspiration for a new book. ‘Time’ is a collaboration by conceptual photographer Julie Corcoran and poet Fidel Hogan Walsh featuring 16 images and 15 poems.

Back in March, as the pandemic’s shadow drifted ever closer to Ireland, Fidel had no intention of writing anything. Not in the right “headspace” she didn’t wish to dwell on what lay ahead. Fidel was thrilled when her adult son decided to return home to Bailieborough to pass Lockdown with her.

“It was absolutely brilliant,” says Fidel, beaming with the recollection. “Through the fear, the chaos, I had this blissful happiness - you don’t get your grown up son home for seven weeks. My world consisted of him and I.”

The comfort Fidel gained from the unexpected company, and the structure it brought to her life, empowered her to unfold her laptop.

“Some of the darker stuff was in my head and I would say that was from what was happening out there – all families and everybody were beginning to get that,” she gasps melodramatically, “fear!”

“On the 1st of April I wrote Omen – a very, very dark poem. This was: now we are in Lockdown, now the fear is real.”

Blind Prophet by Julie Corocran

Having met through Bailieborough Creative Hub, photographer Julie is a trusted sounding board for Fidel’s verse. Her friend’s response to reading Omen was immediate: “I have an image for that!”

It seems most appropriate to their project that the two never met during Lockdown; they conducted their entire collaboration remotely.

“It was serendipity,” Julie says. “We just kept freaking each other out. She’d be writing poems and I was coming up with images at home to keep challenging myself. She’d read something and I’d say, ‘Hold on I’ll send you something’. That’s where the seeds [of the book] were sown.

“It was nearly like a tennis match – every week there would be one or two things done.”

A ‘conceptual photographer’ Julie creates other worldly compositions from numerous original images. She describes herself as a problem solver and rather than struggling with the constraints of Lockdown, creatively, she thrived in it - one of her works is titled My Beautiful Confiment.

“I think sometimes if you have the whole world in front of you it’s too overwhelming.

“Sometimes confinement can be very liberating in a weird kind of way. When your options are limited, well, all I can do today is come up with an image, then that’s what you do. Whereas if there is no Covid and you can go here there or anywhere – go hop on a plane to Spain. Suddenly you’re too busy to do anything.

“It’s nearly as if confinement becomes an actual safe space for your creativity.”

The work they achieved is an authentic response to what they were experiencing at the time. As Fidel observes, “We couldn’t do it now.”

Julie agrees: “It’s special because all the contents in this book has been created during lockdown when our mindspace was locked down. These are images and poems that got us through.”

They tentatively plonked a poem and image up online in April, and the feedback gave them confidence they were on to something. Given that live art events in the main are still under lock and key, and their assertion “online’s not the same” they decided to give expression to their work through a book.

“It would be closure as well. Full stop. End of project,” said Julie.

The book idea was supported by Cavan Arts officer Catriona O’Reilly who also arranged for a launch at Bailieborough Courthouse to be included in the Culture Night programme.

Some of the photographic composites were inspired by Fidel’s poems, and vice versa, but Julie insists that each artwork stands on their own merit.

“My pieces have their own titles as Fidel’s poems have their own titles – they are independent of each other. It’s not an illustrated book of poems.”

The book’s title was prompted by the recurrence of the word time in the poems “or a sense of time”. While it refers primarily to a reflection on those specific weeks, it also hints at the extra time we shared with loved ones, and the seeming elongation of time that many of us felt.

While they are clearly proud of the work they have come up, the work also stands as a testament of that most unique periods of time.

“We came up with it ourselves to keep ourselves going through the whole Lockdown process, knowing that it was quite a unique situation. Hopefully no generation has to live through Lockdown again.”

One photo composite they are both eager to share is titled ‘Grace’. Used to close the book, it depicts an anonymous female holding onto a trapeze and reaching out to grasp the hand of another who has let go of her own trapeze. The position of their hands is an homage to Michaelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’, that spark of creation.

“That to me is the trust and the love between me and Julie,” says Fidel of the beautiful image.

“That’s the collaboration that can work,” agrees Julie, who laughingly adds “And I’m hoping you’re going to catch me - that’s the whole thing.”

2020, Memories

by Fidel Hogan Walsh

Blinded in a winter’s dread no prophet foresaw.

Spring’s new life erupted into a chaos of fear.

Desolation replaced the warmth of a hug.

Children banished from our everyday lives!

Ahh, the blessings - a swift journey home

to the unexpected happiness under one roof.

Chatter, laughter - a family enduring dark days come what may….

Time, the pickpocket of memories stood still.

Watching, new ways of keeping our spirits alive,

to be remembered, cherished.

Lost moments recaptured before Summer’s end….

An invisible killer started a war, so much pressure on our frontline.

But it would be, ‘Love and Stay at Home’ that had their backs.

Death came at a fast pace.

Isolation, the enemy of a treasured last goodbye - grief mourned in silent lockdown.

And now, the road to healing shattered hearts and souls begins!