Artists' Takeover: Ashleigh Downey

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I love this time of year - full of abundance. Enchanted by the autumnal air…. A bounty amidst a spectacle of colours and crinkling textures. Enlivening our senses.

A sensory explosion. A taste sensation. An illumination prior to dormancy. ’A period of maturity verging on decline’ (Farlex). A bittersweet _____________ .
- Ashleigh Downey
"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
- W.B. Yeats



Taking a walk…in the garden of Ireland…
A delightful spot for a beachside stroll, a woodland ramble, or wild forage walk… & while you wander…listening to: Skovvandring (Woodland Ramble), Op. 40: 1. Echo And Narcissus. From the album, Tower of Babel (The) / Forest Walk, by Ludolf Nielsen.
A foraging wild creature, intent above all upon survival, is as strong as the grass…”
- Richard Adams (Watership Down)
Celebrating harvest timean abundance of berries, apples, and all sorts…
This month I have been foraging food and gathering seeds. Having made dandelion syrup earlier in the year I thought I might try my hand at a rose hip syrup…(helps the immune system to fight off foreign invaders and out of control cells)
Water, Wild rose hips
sugar or local honey
Bring to a boil. Strain to remove unwanted plant material. Add a little spice (optional)
"The destiny of nations depends on how they nourish themselves.”
- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Food sensations
Cooking is an art, eating a pleasure. Published in 1825,Physiologie du Goût, (Physiology of Taste) celebrates the joy of food. A collection of recipes, ruminations, reflections, and anecdotes by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826).
“Tell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you are”
- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Salvador Dali, known for his opulent dinner parties - Theatrical events more than gastronomy; guests dressed in extravagant costumes, wild animals roaming free.
I was given a present of his cookbook Les Diners de Gala. Published in 1973, this rare book was republished for the first time in 43 years by Taschen (2016). I am yet to try one of the recipes…
Art Cooking : Salvador Dali. This series by The Art Assignment also explores other artist recipes / cooking methods…Well worth a look.
Donated by AIB, to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2002, The Luncheon, by Caroline McCarthy is a favourite artwork of mine. As relevant today as when it was made. If not more so! “…As the ideas of abundance, excess, desire and consumption have historically been intrinsic to still-life painting, the similar associations of today’s toilet-papers enable it, as material-of-choice, to slip naturally into the traditional still-life mould”.
Promise (2003), also by Caroline McCarthy, is a climate conscious piece that draws attention to our disposable consumer culture and manufactured ideas of freshness and naturalness.
Can the history of consumption guide us to a wiser future? History of Ideas - Consumerism, by The School of Life, examines the role of vanity in an economy.
Food Future, Trend Tablet, by Lidewij Edelkoort
A Song of Our Warming Planet (2013), by Daniel Crawford. A composition based on surface temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.
Insights from the collection
Metamorphose (in der art von Daphne), 1935,
by Paul Klee
Klee believed that
“reality is a never ending metamorphosis”
Decaying Sunflowers, 1965, by Bourke, Brian
Have you ever observed a dying sunflower? Bright yellow petals fade to a delicate translucent. Dying, yet enlivened.
Communing with nature
exemplification…human-nature Interconnectedness.
The Sense of Wonder (1965), by Rachel Carson, is a beautiful meditation on the outdoors…
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
Also, there is the documentary A Sense of Wonder - two interviews with Carson during the last year of her life.
Walden, life in the woods, by Henry David Thoreau
“Our life is frittered away by detail. . .
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”
Nature, an essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The sense of wonder, that is our sixth sense.”
- D. H. Lawrence
“How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?" (Plato)
“The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration - how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?”
-    Rebecca Solnit (A Field Guide to Getting Lost)
Rebecca Solnit: What If We Forget How To Be Lost?
A song to help you navigate the way… Happy Thoughts, by Vyvienne Long, from her album Caterpillar Sarabande
Questioning what constitutes one’s identity. Somewhat separate to the themes above, but for the times we are living in I include this piece of music by Nitin Sawhney
…simply because I think it is exquisite.
Beyond Skin (REMAINS ONE)
“In this year where Brexit negotiations, political turmoil and chaos have brought issues of identity, nationality, race and religion into focus once more, the themes of Beyond Skin are more relevant than ever…”
- Nitin Sawhney
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
John O’Donohue
Excerpt from To Bless the Space Between Us
About the Artist
Ashleigh Downey is an environmental artist living in Ireland. Formally trained as a textile designer, from Central St. Martins, London (1995-98); she holds a masters inSocial Practice and the Creative Environment from LIT (2018). Ashleigh has exhibited internationally; with work in the permanent collection at Richard F. Brush Gallery, Canton, NY. Received the Outstanding Artist Award, imPRESSions Biennial (2016).
Ashleigh is a member of the Hugh Lane Artists, Guides and Lecturers panel.
Forthcoming shows include: Metamorphosis, Dublin 2021, & Sensorius: Where the skin meets the eye, Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada 2021.