Golden Fleece Award 2021

Melody in the kiftsgate, 2019 Lorna Donlon

Michael Greene

“It has always been my wish that those with talent be encouraged to develop their talents, particularly in Ireland”

Lillias Mitchell (1915-2000) Founder of the Golden Fleece Award.

All her life Lillias Mitchell displayed energetic enthusiasm for the practice and teaching of art, craft and design. She studied painting for two years at the Royal Hibernian Academy School and did sculpture courses at the National College of Art. In 1940, she won second place in the RDS Taylor Art Award for her very fine statue, ‘St. Patrick Struggling in his Soul for Peace’.
In 1951 she was appointed to open a Weaving Department in the National College of Art & Design, Dublin where she taught spinning, weaving and dyeing until her retirement. She then opened her own weaving workshop where she first developed her personal Golden Fleece emblem.
The Golden Fleece Award was born from a trust fund she established and devoted much of her later years to. Today the Award is managed by a Board of Trustees, drawn from both family members and experts in finance management and the arts.

“I am very conscious of the fact that many artists cannot develop their talents because their art does not bring in a steady income for them and yet they need to support themselves financially.”
Lillias Mitchell.

Normally the Golden Fleece Award prize consists of around €20,000 overall, separated into smaller prizes, but as this year they are celebrating their 20th anniversary and because these are some of the most challenging times to be an artist in a struggling sector, they have decided to give the very generous prize of €60,000 which will be distributed across six €10,000 prizes. The Trustees work closely with the specialist Advisory Panel who draw up the annual shortlist for their consideration and are the final arbitrators of who receives the awards.
Former winners of the Award include film and photographic artist Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, John Lee, who experiments in wood, and sculptor and artist Marcel Vidal.
This years shortlist is as follows:

Aideen Barry (multimedia / sculpture / installation)
Aideen Barry is a multidisciplinary artist whose work in video, performance, sculpture, installation, drawing and text attempts to deal with anxiety and the persistent feeling of monachopsis (the sensation of being out of place in the world or a particular environment.)
Barry uses a clever mixture of visual trickery, fiction and slapstick as devices through which to simultaneously attract and repel viewers. Among her notable works are In between, Moleskins, and Strange Terrain.

Bassam Al-Sabah (multimedia / CGI filmmaking)
Dissolving Beyond the Worm Moon, 2019, solo exhibition at Solstice Arts Centre, Navan
Al-Sabah’s idiosyncratic and experimental multimedia work references feelings of displacement juxtaposed with nostalgia, representations of war, resistance, and personal mythologies are channelled through the medium of digital animation, painting, sculpture and textiles.

Fiona Byrne (glass)
Seven Sister Series, 2020

Byrne describes herself as a maker, educator and researcher, and as a creative practitioner. Her background is in traditional techniques of glass blowing, and her work is closely connected to process and materiality. The concept of knowledge drives her work: what it is, how we categorise it, what types of knowledge we value. Recent pieces are inspired by the art of divination, or scrying, carrying messages broadcast but not understood.

Izzy O’Reilly (fashion design)

Delia_s Prizefighter – Glass Jaw, 2019
O’Reilly is a fashion designer who combines couture with art. Her work focuses on high-quality conceptual pieces utilising both established tailoring practices and a sculptural approach to garment design. She adopts a tactile and humorous approach to experimental pattern cutting, employing unexpected material contrasts to create absurd hybrid images.
For example, In Delia’s Prizefighter design the artist gives a nod to the ‘stereotypical gender polarities of an earlier era’, contrasting the soft feminine fabrics with the bulky boxer attire.

Jennifer Hickey (ceramic sculpture)
Hickey describes themes of fragility, ephemerality and translucency as central to her work, with porcelain often her chosen medium. “The rituals of making, the physical rhythms, the process and time involved are important aspects to my practice.” Her work explores the delicate and ethereal properties of porcelain and has developed a uniquely intricate approach, a good example is the 2016 bone Entwined.

Laura Fitzgerald (painting / installation / video)
Fantasy Farming
The work of Laura Fitzgerald encompasses drawing, painting, text and video, focusing on the rapid changes she and others are experiencing in the modern world. Her works include Portraits of a Stone, Brian Rock, and a mini DVD of prickly yellow furze and gorse humorously named A Way to Clear My Head.

Lorna Donlon (tapestry weaving / collage / installation)

Melody in the kiftsgate, 2019
A tapestry weaver, textile and installation artist, Donlon combines the scientific practices of collecting, categorising, labelling and displaying objects, managing to marry these two diverse forms in her art world. Her work acts as a storytelling device that connects the worlds of art and science. Her most recent works are inspired by The Lady and the Unicorn, a famous tapestry from Flanders (see image) which is said to represent the five physical senses and the soul.

Maria McKinney (sculpture / multimedia)
McKinney works through a range of media including sculpture, installation, photography and video, and combines craft techniques with materials that respond to context. Hers is a multimedia context-specific work, including handcrafted material that can be worn on the body. Very often her work explores themes of agriculture, including cattle, and animal genetics, which she is currently doing research into.

Sinead O’Dwyer (fashion design / textiles)
O’Dwyer’s work operates at the intersection of fashion and art. She investigates the flawed patterns in which female-identifying and femme bodies privately relate to their bodies as visible objects. She uses life-casting, fiberglass mould making and silicone casting to trace the body and pattern-cut garments, and is collaborating on a movement piece exploring bodily autonomy in the context of dance, fashion and public space.

Tamsin Snow (sculpture / installation, CGI filmmaking)
Waiting Room, 2018
Snow makes CGI films, sculpture and immersive installations using the aesthetics and intrinsic values of modernist architecture and the spaces she exhibits in. She uses crowd-sourced 3D models of existing buildings, those portrayed in cinema and corporate language to create strange yet familiar locations. She is currently making new CGI animations and sculptural works for her first solo exhibition in Ireland in autumn 2021.

The arts embrace all aspects of our lives, from entertainment, film, music, art and books to the everyday objects that we use. The Golden Fleece Award is a perennial support for art in all its diversity, and particularly new emerging artists and creators. The winner will be announced in November. NewsFour wishes all the nominees the best of luck.