Meghan shines light on hidden history
A silk embroidered collar and headpiece worn by Countess Markievicz was the inspiration for an exhibition called 'Silken Inke' by the artist Meghan McLachlan which is currently on show at Kamera 8 gallery in Rowe Street, Wexford.
The collar which was hand woven by Elizabeth and Lily Yeats and worn by the renowned Irish political figure around 1920, was borrowed from the County Wexford Archive and placed on public view in the gallery for the opening night before being returned to its permanent storage.
The silk floss threads of the collar, hand stitched in a Celtic knot work design, are explored by Meghan in a series of large painted Cyanotype prints which are displayed on the gallery walls.
Inspired by the obscured history of the Yeats sisters, the Cyanotypes were made using the light of the full moon.
The process was invented by the astronomer Herschel in 1842 and it is Meghan's favourite way of working. It involves mixing different powders such as red prussiate crystals in order to make a liquid light emulsion.
Meghan creates the work outdoors under a full moon, as it is a highly sensitive emulsion. The cyanotype process embeds deep within the fabrics that it touches. She said that each time she paints, she thinks about the astronomer and she also thinks about Anna Atkins, who was considered to be the first female photographer and she used this method in 1843 to create the first book on Seaweed and Algae.
Lily and Elizabeth Yeats, sisters of the poet WB Yeats and painter Jack B Yeats, formed the Dun Emer Guild in Dublin in 1902, employing 30 other women to work with them. One of their objectives was to provide work for Irish women crafting art objects.
The Guild created works such as the collar and headpiece made for Countess Markievicz, by combining traditional craft skills and design motifs, in a display of pride in Ireland's past.
Each print in the exhibition is unique and hand painted, focusing on honouring and exploring the stitch marks made by Lily and Elizabeth Yeats.
In her response to this single historical object, Meghan worked closely with the Wexford County Archivist Gráinne Doran.
She made her own delicate imprint onto each print in the exhibition, by using blue ink to highlight and pop out some of the individual stitch marks.
'I wanted to get as close as I could in capturing the stitch marks made by the Yeats sisters and I wanted to make huge prints to show the stitches', said Meghan, a graduate of the Wexford College of Art and Design at Carlow IT who is based in Curracloe.
She is currently studying for a Masters Degree at the ARC art and research collaboration programme in Dun Laoghaire.
The title of the exhibition comes from an old sentence written in the 1800's which described embroidery as a form of life-writing, stating that embroidery is like 'using a Pen of Steele and Silken Inke'.
Just like the memory and story of the Yeats sisters has been obscured and hidden in Irish history, each print in the show aims to represent the faded, mysterious and overlooked contribution of Lily and Elizabeth.
'It was an honour to have the embroidered piece on display at the exhibition opening, even if it was only for a few hours. I think it added to the obscurity and mystery surrounding these women', said Meghan who is fascinated by historical Irish women during the Celtic Revival, and women who have been left out of history.
She bemoaned the fact that there is no museum in Wexford dedicated to historical art pieces such as this.
'Wexford has a very rich history but nowhere really to view and learn about its culture, history and interesting historical objects', she said.
The exhibition which was officially opened by the County Wexford archivist Gráinne Doran continues until April 29.