Washing Soot Off Stained Glass
2023 is the centenary year of the birth of Irish writer Eithne Strong (1923-1999). To mark this, Eithne’s daughter, the visual artist Sarah Strong (1949-) has curated a Washing Soot off Stained Glass, a landmark exhibition, for which Sarah has composed a series of ‘graphic windows’.
For each image, Sarah has selected an Eithne Strong poem that she has put into conversation with a selected image from her own body of practice to create a compound work of visual and textual art. The exhibition also immerses us in the sounds of Eithne’s words, read in both English and Irish, by artist Fionnuala Bates.
Eithne and Sarah’s creative careers developed independently, and Sarah did not share or even show her mother her practice: neither one made a conscious creative response to the other, and thus the exhibition creates the possibility of a reciprocity that did not happen in real time between mother and daughter.
The viewer thus meets Sarah and Eithne, not only as a mother and daughter, but also as independent colleagues, and may find paradox and ambiguity in the way that poems, images and sound relate, and in the intensity that emerges in which Sarah and Eithne can be encountered both alone and relationally.
Importantly, Washing Soot off Stained Glass extends a template that can testify to the complex and ambivalent relationships of intergenerations of women in 20th and 21st century Ireland, a series of artefacts that has the possibility to hold the multiple articulation of the history of wounding, pain and powerlessness between grandmothers, mothers and daughters in 20th century Ireland.
Sarah Strong (b. 1949)
is an Irish visual artist living in England. Her multi-media work includes painting, installation, poetry, sculpture, performance and film and a life-long interest in psychology. At the heart of Strong’s interdisciplinary practice is an intention to convey the interplay between inner and outer states of being and the tensions within and between body, mind, soul and spirit. Trained as an architect and an artist, Sarah has exhibited extensively across the UK and Ireland, and her work has been anthologised and published on several platforms. She premiered her critically acclaimed film I hear Fish Drowning at the Merriman School in Ennis, in 2014.
Eithne Strong (1923-1999)
was an Irish writer who for more than fifty years, wrote poetry, novels, and short stories in English and Irish, leaving behind what was called in Poetry Ireland Review, ‘a remarkable output.’[i] Eithne Strong’s writings include: Nobel (Coiscéim 1999); Flesh – The Greatest Sin (Dublin: Runa Press 1980, Attic Press 1993); Spatial Nosing: New and Selected Poems. (Galway: Salmon Poetry, 1993); The Love Riddle (novel) Attic Press 1993; An Sagart Pinc (Coiscéim 1990); Let Live (Galway: Salmon Publ. Co. 1990); Aoife faoi Ghlas (BAC: Coiscéim 1990); My Darling Neighbour (Belfast: Beaver Row Press 1985); Fuil agus Fallaí (Coiscéim 1983); Patterns and other Stories, Poolbeg 1981; Cirt Oibre (Coiscéim 1980); Degrees of Kindred (novel) Tansy Books 1979; Sarah, in Passing (Dublin: Dolmen 1974); Songs of Living (1961); Tidings. Dolmen for Runa (1958); Poetry Quatros. Dublin: Runa, 1943–45.