Barbarians at the Gates, oil on linen, 50 x 60cm, 2016
InktoberFest in Wicklow Town
2 November 2016
Before endeavouring upon the drive from Skibbereen to Wicklow, I must
first persuade the AA Route Planner that it’s a town as well
as a county. When at last it gets the point, I’m shown that
the quickest way is via Dublin. This is somewhat prescient, as the
new festival of visual art I’m travelling to see had its genesis
in the fact that Wicklow Town currently has “no cinema, no theatre,
no music hall and no gallery for contemporary art,” and so,
when it comes to cultural enterprise, the route planner’s advice
holds true: you’d probably be better off going directly to Dublin.
I’ve heard a lot of late about Ireland’s returning emigrants
– the pharmaceutical engineers and marketeers and cloud solution
architects – and their impact on economic growth. But what about
the returning artists and their less easily enumerated effect? InktoberFest,
which took place from October 1st – 3rd , was organised by Paul
McCann, a NCAD graduate who recently came home after several years
in London, studying in Chelsea College of Arts and working in the
Barbican Centre. On settling in Wicklow Town, he noticed an absence,
and set out to address it.
The festival – brief in run, rich in detail – brought
artists from elsewhere together with artists from there – in
two vacant shop spaces and an assembly hall. There was no umbrella
theme – McCann’s aim was to showcase what was going on
anyway, wherever, unimpeded by umbrellas.
From Conor Walton’s old-master style oil painting of dinosaurs,
warriors and a phosphorescent Eiffel tower to Ronan Tuite’s
digital print of a mandala composed entirely of cartoon mice, InktoberFest
was characterised by a certain candour, a note of devilment –
the demeanour of something that really shouldn’t be there, but
is. I drove back to Skibbereen with the feeling that perhaps the most
interesting cultural enterprises are going on in the hinterlands of
established institutions, publications and funding budgets –
making up in sprightliness what they lack in polish.
Sara Baume is a writer based in West Cork.
InktoberFest, various locations, Wicklow Town, October 1 – 3.