Inis Meáin, the middle of the three Aran Islands, is a patchwork of verdant pasture and stone off the Western Coast of Ireland. A land of sharp contrasts carved over eons; of pristine temperament punctuated by moments of crushing violence. The sheer power of the surrounding ocean attested to by the boulders littered atop the island’s mighty cliffs, tossed over 150ft from the very depths of the dark waters below.
The island has been a bastion of the Gaelic tradition for millennia. The language is oft warm, occasionally harsh, with a surge and flow that mirrors the wild places in which it has been cultivated. It carries in its cadence the wind-roar and ocean-bellow of the open frontier and the joy of a rich heritage. Spéirling is the Gaelic word for hurricane; A combination of the word for ‘sky’ (spéir) and a word meaning ‘to leap or rush’ (ling).
When Hurricane Lorenzo came howling out of the North Atlantic in September of 2019, it became the Eastern most category 5 hurricane on historical record, heaving monstrous swells and gale-force winds at the greater European coastline, with particular fetch towards the Aran Islands. A Furious energy colliding with an immovable form. A singular moment of exchange between land and sea, in a war that has been raging ad infinitum.
Yet it is also more than this. A summer wreathed in ash and fire. Unprecedented heatwaves, flooding, protracted droughts, coral bleaching. Each season seemingly bringing some extreme event more threatening than the last. To continue on this current trajectory would not only limit our ability to exist and thrive, but forever alter the culture, ritual and human history that has been forged and fortified in these beautiful and unique realms.
Following on from his previous series Maelstrom and Acquiesce The Front, Shadbolt has drawn from sculptural and painterly influences to capture an intriguing frontier, creating a resonant point somewhere between art and raw nature.