Stones from a Gentle Place

20 Jan 24—28 Mar 24
5 DSC 0797 swords
Susan Hughes

Launch: Saturday 20 January 2024, 7–9pm

CCA Derry~Londonderry is delighted to announce, Stones from a Gentle Place, a solo exhibition with artist Susan Hughes. Susan’s practice combines video, audio, sculpture and installation to examine the mechanics and significance of storytelling in Irish culture.

The exhibition follows the artists’ encounter with bioluminescence while swimming in the sea at night, and her subsequent observation of how humans throughout history have made sense of natural phenomena, the stories associated with such occurrences, and the physical and cognitive effects on the body.

Susan’s research has expanded beyond bioluminescence (microscopic plankton ignited by movement) to fluorescent geology and Will ‘o the Wisp (phosphorescence caused by plants decaying in boggy ground). These phenomena are otherworldly, seemingly synthetic in their brilliance, independent combustion and neon colours. Alongside this, Susan has travelled across Ireland, connecting with archivists, storytellers, musicians and mariners, gathering folklore related to this natural phenomena in the landscape.

In the exhibition the artist plays with psychedelic and ambient lights, colours, materials and sounds in otherwise dark rooms. Analog and digital sit aside one another inviting the viewer to submit to a malleability of time, hard fact and fairy tale.

The compass of Susan’s traditional fiddle playing has led her to places at the edge of land and sea which have fed the conceptual and visual content of her artistic practice. For the past twenty years, Susan has repeatedly returned to south west Donegal to learn tunes and, more recently, to obsessively search for Áine, a girl from a story who disappeared into a hill in Teelin many years ago. The tiny town land of Teelin has a disproportionately high density of trance-like fiddle music, spectacular natural beauty and seductive supernatural lore and is now a focal location for her research.

Gallery Three is being used as a generative space, bringing aspects of Susan’s studio to CCA and presenting a new body of work in progress.Transcripts of interviews, found objects, reference images, posters, books and other research materials are presented in pools of light. The chairs and tables welcome visitors to spend time in the space, and to read and sift through the research materials as well as view early cuts of films and other works by Susan in her examination of folk tales, natural phenomena and south west Donegal.

Stones from a Gentle Place will be accompanied by a programme of public events and schools programme, including Tunes from a Gentle Place, a musical and conversational performance with Susan and Glenties fiddle player Denise Boyle, on Saturday 2 March 2024, 2–3.30pm.

Susan Hughes is from Belfast and is based between the North and South of Ireland. She graduated in 2021 with an MFA from the University of Ulster and is now a studio holder at Orchid Studios in Belfast. She has completed many artist residencies in Ireland and Scandinavia where she has used her fiddle playing as a bartering tool to gain access to local stories. She was awarded the Centre Culturel Irlandais residency (2023), was a participant of the Freelands Foundation Artists’ Programme (2022–2024) and has been commissioned by Ulster Folk Museum and Linenhall Library. Susan won the Platform Graduate Award as well as the CCA Derry~Londonderry Graduate Award in 2021. | @susandorothyhughes

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Stones from a Gentle Place