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Noelle Gallagher - AIR on the Edge residency in Denmark

Galway, Ireland based artist Noelle Gallagher was artist in residence at Brogården Kulturvæksthus in Ringkøbing-Skjern Kommune, Denmark for the AIR on the Edge residency from November - December 2023.

AIR on the Edge is a one-month international artist residency exchange between Denmark, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands and Serbia. It focuses on artists professional development, creating opportunities for artists to engage with rural communities and is rooted in rural places and cities on the edges of Europe.

During her residency, Noelle shared her first impressions:

Copenhagen turned my head at every corner, so much beautiful design to appreciate, even their city incinerator has been designed to also function as a ski slope! I absorbed the details of paintings by Danish artists such as Vilhelm Hammershoi and Per Kirkeby at the SNK (National Gallery), then took the train west to Ringkøbing, a small fishing port at the edge of a fjord.

Over the course of the journey of four and a half hours I noted the unchanging flat landscape, the little copses of evergreen and deciduous trees and the extensive areas of wind and solar energy farms. It was good to get a sense of how far west I was travelling from the centre of Copenhagen. The journey was shortened by my travelling companions, the new novels by Mike Mc Cormack and Karl Ove Knausgaard, a mix of Irish and Nordic voices.

Dina welcomed me at Ringkøbing with a delicious hot meal and an invitation to go mushroom picking with some friends the following day. We wandered through the planted forest of deciduous and spruce trees, examining the details of mushrooms and cutting the edible ones with a dinky little knife designed for the purpose. It even had a tiny brush to clean the mushroom before depositing it in the homemade basket.

I’ve since experienced a James Turrell installation at Copenhagen Contemporary, explored the huge collection of artworks at the Louisiana Museum and met with one of my painting heroes, Anna Bjerger at the opening of her show at Galleri Bo Bjerggaard. It was wonderful to discuss the recent expansion in scale of her paintings and to examine the surfaces of her works, details that cannot be viewed in reproductions. The impact of experiencing so many incredible works of art in person will resonate with my practice in the years to come.

After her residency, Noelle shared her final thoughts on her experience:

Last full day here in my studio in Brogården Kulturvæksthus - am reflecting on all the highlights of my residency - the visitors to the studio, talks of community and place, culture and the arts, the natural world and our place in it.

My painting desk has a view of an oak tree. On my first day here I spotted montessori kids picking up acorns from the base of the tree on one of their nature walks. At that time the tree was still quite green but over the course of the month some of the leaves have turned golden and are beginning to fall. I am developing a series of ‘slowgram’ paintings (as opposed to Instagram) using phototransfer techniques, charcoal, acrylic and oil paints on paper, thinking about the fragility of memory and place, how it takes time to see clearly.

Meeting with artists and makers from Ringkøbing-Skjern Kommune both informally and in my workshop last week has given me a deeper understanding of life here in Denmark. Hopefully my slowgram series will build up more layers as all my experiences here filter through my consciousness when I return home to Ireland.

The AIR on the Edge residency has given me a chance to develop the ecological concerns in my work in an international context and I have found many points of convergence and divergence between the ecology of the Ringkøbing -Skjern area and that of Connemara; the forests, the fjords and the wetlands. It was wonderful to go on a field trip with Jacob from the forestry department two weeks ago to discuss subjects such as afforestation, continuous cover forestry, invasive species, protection of fjords and rising sea levels.

Seeing so many flocks of migrating geese in the sky reminds me regularly of the powerful Mary Oliver poem The Wild Geese

‘Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.’

Many thanks to Dina Abu Hamdan AIR on the Edge and Galway County Arts Office for creating this international opportunity for artists.

You can follow Noelle and see more about her experiences here:

Instagram: @noellegal Twitter: @NoelleGallagh10

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