Enniskillen Arts Trail

Treasure hunt of intriguing art winds around Enniskillen

Schoolchildren mill around the Erneside shopping centre in Enniskillen on a Friday evening, drawn by the warm conviviality of trendy chain stores. Most of the shoppers seem oblivious to the presence of The Art Trail exhibits on display on the upper floor at the top of the escalator. To be fair, the trail is not signposted.

Like the Sacred exhibition earlier in the year, there is a strong cross-border element to this Art Trail, set up in conjunction with the Enniskillen Arts Festival. An open call to artists north and south resulted in 15 exhibits being displayed in 12 different locations around the town. It feels more like a treasure hunt as one moves from the Waterways Ireland building to Fermanagh House, to the bus depot, the tourist information centre, the library, the Forum leisure centre and various shops and restaurants.

Nuala O’Sullivan’s stylised posters are inspired by the ways advertising and the mass media influence our shopping habits and our sense of self. Tara Moran Woods’ flamboyant ‘Forgotten Loops’ brings a blaze of colour to the window of Clive Alexander’s hairdressing salon. The multicoloured wools crochet their way around a Carmen Miranda style figurine, coiffed with exotic fruits.

Aiming to prove that the handmade is superior to the mass produced, Moran Woods crocheted all the loops herself. In a county where crochet and lacemaking have been a hallowed tradition, this work is particularly apt. Nowadays, even the famous Belleek pottery factory in the town where Moran lives is outsourcing some of its newer lines to China.

At the Clinton Centre, the Supersense exhibition is a series of video installations by the Belfast based artist, Susan MacWilliam. The absorbing tale of Irish medium Eileen Garrett (1893 – 1970) is told from New York by her daughter Eileen Coly and granddaughter Lisette. The talk is of travel on transatlantic ocean liners, residences at prestigious Manhattan addresses, the cocktail hour, the building of the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station and Radio City.

Album photographs reveal 1930s penthouse interiors, cloche hats and designer clothes. Incidental music enhances the period feel. MacWilliam, who filmed the sequences herself, concentrates on content, and obviously feels that jittery pictures or lengthy fixed frame shots do not detract from what is indeed a fascinating story. Rather she makes an artistic virtue of them.

For diners in Franco’s restaurant or Cafe Merlot it is undoubtedly pleasing to contemplate the work of Zita Reihill or Ellie Irvine’s kaleidoscopic glass constructions. Art trail visitors who attempt to view the exhibits while other people are eating, however, feel decidedly awkward.

Paul Tierney’s contemporary colour photographs taken in Enniskillen’s high street shops invite the viewer to look again at places they may have taken for granted. Tierney sums this up in his artist’s statement: 'Photographers photograph the world to see what the world looks like photographed'. Especially eye-catching is the photograph taken in the hardware store, Home Field and Stream, where fly fish baits are displayed in neat rows behind the counter.

Chris Boland’s sculptured installations at the Forum Leisure Centre boldly reproduce a musical horn that could just as easily be an old-fashioned gramophone loudspeaker. There is an Alice in Wonderland feel to Louise Wallace’s pencil drawing of a mother and child. The mother’s head has metamorphosed into that of a rabbit hinting at changes in her psyche and lifestyle.

In the Ardhowen theatre foyer, the theme of childhood is taken up by Emily Robyn Archer whose delicate animated drawings, accompanied by an old fashioned musical box soundtrack, are seen through a round hole bored on the front panel of a disappointingly drab white wooden box.

In a corner of the Mad Hatter’s café, an even larger white box conceals Ellis Murphy’s gyro. It reproduces a short sequence which was projected like a modern day screensaver before every film that was shown at the now defunct Star cinema in Ballyhunis, County Mayo. Seen from the projectionist’s viewpoint, its Mary Poppins style figures in period costume gaze at the passing clouds, a hot air balloon, a motor car or an airplane.

The Partners exhibition at the Castle Museum combines the work of three couples. Jeremy Henderson’s bold canvasses are on view alongside Patricia Martinelli’s touching floral tributes to her late husband. Denise Ferran’s luminous landscapes delicately define lake, land and sky hinting at her Fermanagh roots, while Brian Ferran’s representations of Devenish Island and other early Christian sites use his hallmark crosses, circles and gold leaf decoration.

In 2008, Miriam de Burca and Seamus Harahan drove through what remained of the Maze prison, which WAS closed down in 2000. Their separate film records are shown concurrently on a split screen.

The Visual Arts Trail will remain open in various Enniskillen venues until October 31st 2010. See enniskillenartsfestival.com for more details.