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Shores of Belfast Lough beyond the Long Hole

By Bangor on the shores of Belfast Lough

Born in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, Eileen grew up by the town of Bangor on the shores of Belfast Lough, within sight and sound of the sea. She obtained her initial Joint Honours BA in Art and Italian from Aberystwyth University, attending the Academia di Belle Arti di Ravenna during her year abroad from September 1973 until early July 1974. At this time, she specialised in Etching, Lithography and History of Art.

Eileen returned to Ireland after her graduation and worked in Belfast at the height of the Troubles from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. Her posts here included as Student Nurse in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, Italian Translator and Interpreter for Mackies Textile Machinery Firm, Art Therapist in the Geriatric Unit, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and a short period of work in the Fine Art Department of Belfast Central Library.

Her marriage in 1981 led to a move to England and she began working as a Freelance Artist  working to commission and for exhibition while bringing up a daughter and son. At this time, she specialised in pen and ink drawing and pastel painting. The onset of a neurological illness affecting her muscles led her to explore embroidery as an art form and in 1993 she started on the path to stitch as principal form of creative activity.

At this time, besides her involvement in visual art, she also wrote poetry, and had poems published in volumes including two anthologies of poetry by women, The West in Her Eye and Her Mind’s Eye. She also had an illustration in Images for Africa published by Water Aid. She continues to write and to be published in both writing and artwork.

Now working with stitch as her principal visual medium, Eileen continued to pursue her work as freelance artist and from the late 1990s began exhibiting her stitched pieces. She began with framed wall pieces and has since expanded her portfolio to include mixed media textile hangings, artist’s books and installations with sound.

With their children grown up, Eileen and her husband, Arthur, moved to North Wales in 2006 where they have made their home near the beautiful Mawddach Estuary. In 2009 she returned to Aberystwyth University and obtained an MA in Art and Art History and she now continues at the university to study part-time for a PhD in Fine Art. Within this, she is exploring the symbiotic relationship between stitch, sound and word through the prism of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s.

She continues to write poetry and this forms an important part of her work. In addition, Eileen has been involved with music in various ways throughout her life and she recently had the great pleasure of working with her son, Ed, on the musical element of a projected installation. She was awarded funding from the Arts Council of Wales for developing this music which she has now used within her work onconflict. Eileen and Ed worked further with this music on their film ‘Continuum’ which accords with both a poem and artwork of the same name. Ed filmed Eileen stitching and edited this with shots of her artwork as the music ‘Come, Stay’, in which he sings, plays in the background. Eileen wrote the melody and words for this music which Ed harmonised for male voices in the Russian Orthodox style with female soloist and Eileen reads her poem in rhythms with the music.

Her exhibition work continues and she is a member of Prism Textile Exhibiting Group. To date, her work has been seen in galleries including the Mall Galleries, London; Mid Wales Arts Centre, Caersws, Powys; the School of Art Gallery, Aberystwyth University; the Arts Centre, Aberystwyth; MOMA Machynlleth, Dyfed;Willow Gallery, Oswestry; the Cloisters Gallery, St Davids Cathedral, St Davids, Pembrokeshire; Newman University, Birmingham; Hoxton Arches Gallery, London; Roe Valley Arts and HeritageCentre, Limavady, Co. Londonderry; Linen Hall Library, Belfast; Détissages at the Festival of Linen, St Thélo, Brittany; Studio of Anne Guibert-Lassalle, Ploumanac’h, Brittany, France and Thoreau Gallery, Franklin Pierce University, New Hampshire, USA.