Fired Ground by Seán Ó Flaithearta

Dreach Dúloiscthe
An Fód
Gearrán Iarainn 1
High Nelly II
Machaire Loischte I
Dúchiúnas
Talamh Dóite / Fired Ground.


When you walk in the bog at springtime you can see, feel and smell the growth of plants and flowers and you hear the song of birds from the undergrowth and high in the sky. After the land is fired in an act of destruction and vandalism the bogland becomes silent. What is revealed is a deathly black landscape stripped of all its natural clothing. You can view the land’s naked contour in its eerie silent blackish beauty. It is a place where life has stopped.

Objects and ways of living are revealed which may have been hidden away for generations, walls of fields are exposed, fragments of homes appear from the black, lazy bed patterns in the ground, bogs marked and cut by some unknown sleán. Kitchen utensils, once used to prepare food for a family, beside some castaways from more recent memories. High Nellies reveal themselves, reminding us of a time when the pace of life was measured by the bicycle.

A warlike wilderness covers an untameable landscape in the wasteful futility of the slash and burn method of destruction, in some sentimental recounting of old farming methods when controlled burning was common practice. Man’s violence and abuse of his sense of power is amplified in this senseless devastation. The burning of our earth is an act of war. Leaving a place without life, a clearance of living things.

The work considers our relationship with the environment and what we are prepared to do to impose our will. The aftermath and what is presented to us is the focus of this collection of work. The apocalyptic landscape left behind is a mirror of our human nature.

The annual practice of burning bogland to clear the ground is the starting point of this new collection of multimedia works. It brings together local and international themes of warlike destructiveness. By working with the bog, both as a subject and as a medium, the raw elements are been incorporated in the creative process to give a closer and tactile response to the burning of the land. The fired ground exposes layers of history, time and meaning; a palimpsest of the potential of the human condition.

A native of the Aran Islands where he lives and works, Seán Ó Flaithearta is a graduate of NCAD, Dublin. He also studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre in Belgium and at Pennsylvania School of the Arts in the United States. He has exhibited nationally and internationally. Ó Flaithearta is also involved as designer and director in contemporary Irish language theatre. He has received bursaries from the Arts Council and from the Belgian Ministry of Education and French Culture. He was the first artist in residence at Áras Éanna in Inis Oírr. Ó Flaithearta’s multimedia exhibition Dúch-Liv-Encre was selected to represent Ireland in the International Celtic Festival in Lorient, Brittany in 2009. His most recent exhibition Go bhFeicfidh Tú Dán - Ó Direáin [So you may see a poem - Ó Direáin] was a specially-commissioned series of intimate drawings in response to the lifetime work of Aran poet Máirtín Ó Direáin, for inclusion in Máirtín Ó Direáin - Na Dánta, published by Cló Iar-Chonnacht.