Turf are a female-led art and design collective hailing from Ireland, who recently launched their debut exhibition TORN in the John Doe Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. Their aim is to highlight emerging Irish female artists in the global art community.
There are two predominant traits that distinguish Turf from other creative collectives. Turf is composed of nine female artists and designers, the curator explains “as females we have a lot to prove to the world and we want apperception and recognition”. Turf also represent a conglomerate of artists and designers who flocked to the land of opportunity to secure their destined career path.
Artists and designers exhibiting in TORN consist of Ellen Egan, Georgie, Twamley, Ash Burke, Elsa Brightling, Ashleigh Merrin, Stephanie McDermott, Fiona Fitzpatrick, Robyn Carey and the curator of their latest exhibition, Hannah Whelan.
NYC is more accessible as there is so much happening. If you can think of an idea or a job that you have interest in, it exists here. Unlike back at home I found it to be quite difficult to find a company or a studio that suited my aesthetic and practice.
Hannah is an NCAD Textile design graduate who repatriated to New York City to find a role more attuned to her aspirations; “NYC is more accessible as there is so much happening. If you can think of an idea or a job that you have interest in, it exists here. Unlike back at home I found it to be quite difficult to find a company or a studio that suited my aesthetic and practice”.
Hannah sourced inspiration from her fellow artists and designers who deigned to mark their territory in the city; “the idea sparked when I realised I had such a strong and talented group of female artists and designers form Ireland… As their time is limited I wanted to mark this milestone of our lives together by showcasing our talent”.
As Turf Collective’s time in New York remains ephemeral, it instills a reoccurring theme of neither here nor there, with a number of the artists currently surviving on J1 visas. Ellen Egan is a designer whose exhibit I’ve To Go Home provides insight into the rich cultural offerings in New York in contrast to the fear and eventuality of returning back to Ireland.
Robyn Carey’s Foreign Terrain provides a snapshot of her “state of mind whilst living away from home”, merging vibrant prints and digital collages. While Something Borrowed by Elsa Brightling documents a series of photographs inspired by stories of immigrants who tied the knot in the US.
The exhibition creates a visual narrative, providing insight into the perspective of the Irish Diaspora in New York. An essential driver behind the work is “each artist’s response to life in New York whilst being away from home. Most of us are TORN with the decision to leave a life, a lover and the land of opportunity”.
As an art college graduate, I have witnessed first hand the challenges faced by artists and designers in Ireland – with an over saturation of unpaid internships and a severe lack of paid roles in the arts, it becomes daunting for creative graduates to envision a fruitful future in this country. It becomes evident that the path to success lies in inevitable emigration, in order to gain experience and potentially secure that “dream job”.
This outcome may be even more prevalent for female graduates, when you consider the 75:25 statistic, stating that 75% of the design workforce in Ireland is currently dominated by males, a point which Above the Fold previously addressed in our past event “Women in Design: Breaking through the Glass Ceiling”.
Hannah identifies the challenges faced by creatives in Ireland but considers that there may be hope on the horizon; “in Dublin in particular, there seems to be a growing amount of opportunities emerging. It is improving on a daily basis but it lacks the bigger companies that will provide experience to enable the younger generations to flourish and potentially build their own businesses”.
TORN took place in The John Doe Gallery in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday 23 June. Expect to see more from Turf as they plan to spread further afield by hosting pop-up shops and exhibitions internationally. Further updates can be found on the collective’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Words by Jane Gleeson.