Ní Bhriain, Ailbhe | Great Good Places IV | 2011 | HD Video with Colour | 6mins 54secs
Artists have been documenting and reimagining the landscape for many centuries. Contemporary artists are no different. Over on our Instagram account we’ve been sharing works from the Arts Council Collection featuring images of the great outdoors, reminding
us about the importance of enjoying nature in all its facets.
Here, Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, whose work is showcased under ‘The Great Outdoors’ theme, tells us more about the featured artwork and what it means to have her artwork as part of the Arts Council collection. Explore this and more from the Arts Council collection
This work takes its title from a Henry James short story The Great Good Place. In James’s story a character is magically transplanted from the stresses of his life to a place of perfect suspension. The place is as mundane as it is mysterious -
time and logic and sentences simply drift.
I started making Great Good Places ten years ago, a few weeks before my first baby was born, and continued to work on it for the next 16 months, at nap times, when he slept, and at nighttime, when I should have been sleeping. In the afternoons
we would circle the ‘Tank Field’ together — a local flatness of grass, remarkable in no way at all except for being the only green space for miles. Against this backdrop the film got figured out, me speaking its parts and permutations out loud and
son considering it all silently from his pram, like a therapist in a tv show.
Recently, inside a COVID-19 lockdown and with the Tank Field acting again as stand-in for the Great Outdoors and the Outside World, I’m reminded a lot of this period… the limitation… the suspension. Except back then I actually felt like I was in my own
kind of Jamesian Great Good Place. And this time… well, this time it doesn’t feel so great or so good. In the film, landscapes, museums and offices form odd hybrid-backdrops, set up like the defunct props of a past life. A scrap of plastic
provides the only narrative possibility - animated, erratic, evolving, it works to hold our attention, while overall nothing really happens. At the time I thought of this plastic as a kind of beginning-again, an endless something-from-nothing gesture,
an imaginative spark against a background of collapsed possibility. Now, adjusting to the lived-reality of absent museums, offices, landscapes, I wonder if that scrap of plastic is as likely me, us, whoever, just hanging around, flailing unproductively.
But maybe in this moment I just want the messiness of art, stripped of ready-made meaning or miracle cures. Either way, the film Great Good Places remains an important piece for me and still represents a way of working - a game of moving parts
and possibilities that I have been playing ever since. And will continue to, just as soon as I can concentrate…
— Ailbhe Ní Bhriain
Since 1962, the Arts Council has been buying art from working artists. The Collection that evolved tells the story of modern and contemporary Irish visual art in a unique and fascinating way. Today the Collection continues to grow and its more than 1,100 paintings, sculptures and other works are on display in public spaces all over Ireland for people to experience and enjoy first hand. You can find out more at: www.artscouncil.emuseum.com