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Morrison's, Ferns

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Vallum
alder cone, oak gall ink, iron water on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

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Small Finds 

 

Small finds is a series of works on paper by David Begley created as part of his Ancient Connections artist Residency in Ferns, County Wexford, Ireland. A selection of these paintings will be exhibited at St David's Cathedral Refectory, Wales from February 23 - March 29 2023 and at County Hall, Wexford County Council from April 17 - May 19 2023.

Inspired by medieval manuscript making
 David began foraging materials from farm hedgerows in Ferns in 2020. He brewed these with rainwater, water from St Mogue's well, Ferns, and seawater, to make inks.

 

The Irish for Alder is Fearna from which the village of Ferns, derives its English name. Alder cones when boiled produce a rich, transparent, amber colour. When allowed to oxidise and reboiled with sea salt this colour deepens and darkens. Becomes more opaque. Like oak gall, its tannins react with iron water to produce a permanent black.

 

'Dowsing paper in water and brushing or pouring ink onto this surface produces pools. Colours form rivulets and leave residues. I am fascinated by the images that arise from this process, how they shift and settle, how they mirror percolation in land. Dipping paper in ink forms strata. Blotting creates light. In these layers and shapes I find the soft open slopes of Ferns. I see monks, pilgrims, crones, beasts.

 

Leaving image-making to chance is unpredictable but in this I discover, and I learn. By treating the paper surface as a laboratory, witnessing chemical reactions unfold, some small wonders occur. The surface becomes volatile, colours evolve and cure. Ink dries and leaves its stain. It reminds me of how we have treated land.

The title of this series relates to discoveries made throughout this project as well as the materials, objects and processes found along the way.



David Begley 2023

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Field
alder cone, oak gall ink, bleed on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

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Where the river ran
alder cone, elderberry, oak gall ink, bleed on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

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Keepers of the earth
alder cone, elderberry, oak gall ink, salt on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

Sold. Private collection.

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Relict
oak gall ink on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023
Wexford county council collection

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Companions
alder cone, elderberry, oak gall ink, iron water, salt on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

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New ground, old ground
alder cone, elderberry, oak gall ink, iron water, salt on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

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Salt marks
alder cone and elderberry ink with bicarbonate of soda, gum arabic on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

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You saw, I saw
elderberry ink with bicarbonate of soda, gum arabic on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

NFS

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Peregrinos
elderberry ink with bicarbonate of soda, gum arabic on paper
29 x 41cm

© David Begley 2023

NFS

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Fossil
alder cone, oak gall ink and iron water on Fabriano Rosaspina
25 x 35cm

© David Begley 2023
Reserved

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Letter from the ground
alder cone, oak gall ink, salt, iron water on Fabriano Rosaspina
25 x 35cm

© David Begley 2023

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Terra nostra
alder cone, oak gall ink, salt, iron water on Fabriano Rosaspina
25 x 35cm

© David Begley 2023

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Aed’s vision
alder cone with watercolour on Fabriano Tiepolo
20 x 25cm

© David Begley 2023
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Small finds a journey into ink
Written, directed, edited and piano by David Begley
Filmed by David Begley and Hanneke van Ryswyk
4:30 minutes

© David Begley 2023

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Imbolc
alder cone, cramp ball, elderberry, oak gall ink, bicarbonate of soda on Fabriano Tiepolo
21 x 30cm

© David Begley 2023

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Arch
alder cone, cramp ball, elderberry, oak gall ink, bicarbonate of soda on Fabriano Tiepolo
21 x 30cm

© David Begley 2023

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Origin
alder cone, reboiled alder cone and oak gall ink on paper
30 x 21cm

© David Begley 2023

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Riverbank 
oak gall ink on paper
21 x 15cm

© David Begley 2023

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Ditch
oak gall ink on paper
21 x 15cm

© David Begley 2023

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Mogue 2
oak gall, sloe, nettle ink on paper
21 x 15cm

© David Begley 2023

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Ink Making  

 

David began making inks in 2020 by foraging oak galls, acorns, elderberries, sloes and gorse flowers from hedgerows on Morrison's farm, Ferns, County Wexford. Below are some images from David's studio. 

Join David for an ink making workshop here

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Patina: ink pan, elderberry and calcium carbonate

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Residue, nettle ink

Nettle ink

 

 

 

Boiling ingredients to make ink requires patience. Like making a sauce, it can go lumpy, evaporate, or burn and spoil. All that stirring for nothing. Take your eye off it and your liquid and work, may be lost. 


I have just peeled apart notebook pages trying to decipher notes scribbled while cooking nettle ink. Before I began, I imagined deep Hooker’s Green or Chromium Oxide. A mute khaki perhaps, but the ink I produced has the colour, consistency and covering power of sputum. An amazing green in its way but would I want to paint with it? 

Hilarious to think of the efforts I made gathering the ingredients: gloved in tight pinks picking nettles, arms out with funnels catching rainwater, airing Chardonnay dregs to vinegar, panning the sea for salt, clawing at a cherry tree for gum, and then, finally, standing over three hours of steam to reduce a gallon of nettle leaves and rainwater to two 60ml bottles of ink. One of which spilled in the bottling. 

All was not lost. After a deep sigh, I peered into the empty pot to find a most wonderful abstract bubbling at the bottom. I stole it from the stove, took it outside and let I cool. Held it up to the sun. The sun approved.

I stared into the pot, angled it to the light. The scum at the bottom shifted. A dozen bubbles popped to form an ochre crust. Images erupted in the tondo: Atlas held an ancient world aloft. A monkey dangled from an arc. 

Heat has a profound effect on colour. Ochre turned bright yellow. The last of the liquid rolled and dried into golden rivulets, leaving clusters of amber behind. I tried to scrape and gather the colour. It was too thin. I was too impatient. I let it cool and took it to the studio. 

Sun poured through the sky light and illuminated the yellow pot. I photographed it and realised that this stain, this unimaginable image, futility made manifest – all that remained of my nettle brew – was the reason I had spent the afternoon simmering. Not the ink nor my spoon made yellow. 

 

I believe images pre-exist. They wish to be witnessed, that is their purpose. Ours is to find and reveal them. Our hands move so that images can materialise. I try not to judge the pictures that come to me. If I pay attention, I learn from them. Without all the gathering and caring and taking time, there would have been no surprise ending.

© David Begley 2023

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Elderberry dye

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Foraged inks from Morrison's Farm, The Harrow, Ferns:
Sloe, elderberry, holly berry and gorse flower, 2021

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Small finds is part of David Begley's Ancient Connections Artist Residency in Ferns, County Wexford, commissioned by Wexford County Council. 

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