A contemporary Irish Art Exhibition opens in London from 23rd January to 1st February 2019 entitled ‘St. Brigid’s Day’. It is part of the Irish Embassy in London’s St Brigid’s Day Celebration of Women and creativity. Organised by Hamilton Gallery, Sligo, Ireland, with the support of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Irish Embassy to Great Britain.
The inspiration for the 90 women artists participating in this exhibition was the poem ‘St Brigid’s day 1989’ written by Leland Bardwell which was circulated to the artists in advance. Even if you cannot be at the exhibition you can read the wonderful daily blog and view each of the paintings on line, communicating something of Brigid in our times and the deep resonance her life has in women’s lives today. See https://hamiltongallery.ie/st-brigids-day-london/
Who Brigid is today
The artist Emma Strude describing her work ‘Follow’ says:
“ ‘Follow’ centres on the notion of womanhood and the sisterhood women share regardless of nationality, culture or creed. Brigid is found in many cultures. For me she signifies intelligence, courage, determination, nature and creativity. My choice of model for the portrait embodies all these qualities communicating them to us via her gaze. She is old enough to be a mother but young enough to be a daughter subtly suggesting the passing on of these strengths through the generations”.
Maureen Quinn another artist writes, in relation to her Icon of Brigid:
“History tells us that St. Brigid was an inveterate traveller around Ireland, driven by her faith in God and love for the poor. That image of an all action woman, contrasts with my icon depiction of her in quieter moments, which in contemporary parlance would be referred to as being in the now”.
And, Leonora Neary writes:
“My piece, ‘blest by everything’ takes its inspiration from St Brigid’s close bond with the natural world, reminding us of our duty of care to our environment”.
This is only three of ninety rich inspirations that bring Brigid into our lives today through this exhibition.
St. Brigid’s Day is on 1st February each year marking the beginning of the Celtic Spring and reminding us of a woman whose inspiration we all need in our lives. She is one of Ireland’s patron saints, along with Patrick and Columba.
There is a lot of myth interwoven with any factual details to be found about St. Brigid. Oft times she is at once Saint, Goddess and warrior woman. However, what can be said with reasonable certainty is that by 650, there was a widespread memory in Ireland of an abbess named Brigid who was the daughter of a petty king and a slave. She had a powerful personality with a reputation for holiness, and she established a large religious foundation in modern Kildare before her death around 525.
St Brigid’s Day 1989
The women’s calls
go up across the lake.
On this still day their voices
whip the air – staccato notes
behind the reed-hushed margin.
Winter is writing out its past
before its time
while they trail the shore
anxious to garner reeds
for Brigid’s Cross, bending
in all their different flesh-shapes
like shoppers to admire a bud,
an early primrose, a robin
shrilly calling to its mate.
Although I gather rushes
like these strolling women
I’m made conscious
of the decades that divide us
and that I should be celebrating
Brigid in her strength
of fruitfulness and learning.
I can only offer her the satchel of these years,
I too, will make a cross, for luck and irony.
Amongst the witches coven I will raise my glass
so my children’s children’s children
will gather rushes for her turning.
~ Leland Bardwell
To get to know another ‘Woman of Our Times’ Nano Nagle – See link: HERE
Note: Leland Bardwell was an Irish poet, novelist, and playwright and a member of Aosdána. She died in June 2016, aged 94.