Some images from the studio and things I am working on.
The overall project is titled Magnes.
Magnet’ is derived from the legend of Magnes, or from the territory of Magnesia. Pliny states that Magnes, the shepherd, discovered it, and the legend told of him is that while carrying a message over Mount Ida he felt his feet clinging to the earth, to the iron ore which lay thickly upon the hill. Hence the name of the Magnet. But Magnesia was a territory whence this native iron was for hundreds of years exported, and the name “Magnet” is, no doubt, due to this place.
I have always been a Rock Hound, I cannot resist having a rock or pebble in my pocket. Later as a Adult I realize how those simple acts were a way for me to understand the world I inhabited. I guess I am a hobby geologist. This has been informing my practice and research and output since 2016. While I am in AIR I am researching the invisible forces that created the planet and their importance throughout the ages.
Magnetite crystal sculptures are Tetrahedron in shape with eight sides.
Guest Blogger: Liz Coman, Assistant Arts Officer Dublin City Council & VTS Facilitator – Blog No.3
Artist Kathryn Maguire with artwork by Anita Groener
Coman is an Assistant Arts Officer with Dublin City Council. She is a
certified Visual Thinking Strategies facilitator with VTS/USA and has
completed training to coaching level. She is responsible for monitoring
the quality of Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder – an EU project for Dublin
City Council that is testing the VTS training pathway with educators in
classroom and gallery settings. Liz has a background in History of Art
and Museum Studies and fifteen years experience in designing innovative
projects that support arts, education and learning. She has led
trainings in enquiry led approaches to mediating artwork for visual art
facilitators in The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children, The National
Gallery of Ireland, and The Turner Prize, Derry and offers ongoing
mentorship for individual artists, arts educators and teachers.
“We Are Mirrors” – Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder – Blog 3
A Conversation with Visual Artist, Kathryn Maguire
Visual Thinking Strategies is a research based method, founded on the
doctoral work of Abigail Housen(Co-Founder of VTS) and her research on
aesthetic development. Housen’s research focused on the question – ‘What
Happens Cognitively When You Look at a Work of Art?’ Her
methodologydevised an ‘Aesthetic Development Interview’ to understand
how a spectrum of differentviewers understand and interpret the same
artwork. With this data,and drawing on constructivist learning
theories, in particular Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget, she designed a
stage theoryfor aesthetic development. Her stage theory tracked common
features of five stages. According to Housen, each stage is inherently
important. No stage can be rushed or bypassed. Growth occurs with
repeated and regular exposure to viewing art. In her collaboration with
Philip Yenawine and MOMA, New York, Housen’sresearch identified that
the majority of visitors attending the museum and its programmes were
stage 1 & 2 viewers. Stage 1 & 2 viewersjudge an artwork is
based on what they know and like, their observations may appear
idiosyncratic and imaginative, and they have their own sense of what is
realistic and this standard is often applied to determine value. Stage
1&2, as aesthetic learners, are storytellers. Storytelling is a
universal means of making meaning. Meaning making requires critical
thinking, personal reflection, the consideration of multiple
possibilities, communication and respectful debate.
Part of the challenge for me was unlearning earlier teaching
practices. I had to…learn a new paradigm, one that put people ahead of
art, one that focused on enabling not just engaging people. I had to
step back from what I thought people should learn, to create a
teaching/learning method that would help them realize their full
potential at any given moment. – Philip Yenawine
Professional visual artists, that have trained in Visual Thinking
Strategies with us, tell us that VTS can offer them a useful framework
to critically appraise their own artwork in development. It is a tool
that can inform their understanding of a diversity of interpretations
that audiences will bring to the artwork. This can be a valuable input
into an artwork’s development before it arrives into the gallery or
public space. Visual artists that have trained with us, and been
implementing VTS as part of their practice, specifically in schools,
report that the neutrality and rigour of the VTS method is their biggest
challenge. For me, this is completely understandable. When you love
art and have dedicated your life to its study and practice, you want to
share all your knowledge and skills with your audience. The visual
artists we work with are very generous and committed to sharing with
their audiences. However, the time and appropriate support to do this
is usually very limited.
Within schools, there may only be one shot – the one class visit to a
gallery in a year. Or a school or artist might get support for a suite
of sessions or a medium-term residency. Following Housen’s theory, we
can propose that more consistent and supported time for art and artists
to work with students allows greater opportunity for embedding aesthetic
growth and learning. In addition to the time limitation, there are
very few training opportunities for artists in understanding pedagogy,
curriculum and developmental stages of children and young people
according to age, ability and cultural tradition. Therefore, the skill
of facilitating meaning making with visual art and children and young
people, for many artists, is based on their own process of discovery and
how discovery emerges in their practice.
practice is inspired by science, history and the social world. She
works in the field of socially engaged art, therefore, contrary to
making an artwork in isolation, she develops artwork with a community in
a way that honours both her areas of inspiration and a community’s
vested interest in their neighbourhood. Kathryn has effective
collaboration skills that allow space for experts and knowledge from
varied backgrounds and sources to inform the development of her
work. She is a sculptor, and in particular, specialises in social
sculpture. She uses mirrors regularly in her work and understands the
value of using mirrors as a reflective tool, that can work equally well
in the gallery/museum and also outside, in nature. An example of this
is Kathryn’s artwork is ‘Us’ Again – a floating mirrored shed, created
in 2013, in collaboration with the Men’s Shed Group based in Rialto’s St
Andrew’s Community Centre as part of Maguire’s residency at 468, Common Ground.
Image of ‘Us’ Again -Kathryn Maguire
The shed, made completely of mirrors, journeyed along the Grand
Canal, Dublin, to celebrate the impact the waterway has had on labour
and leisure in Rialto and as demonstration and reflection on community
and commonality. Kathryn’s mirrored shed informs her practice today, as
she continues to investigate what is the common between us and our
What do you find VTS brings to your practice as an artist?
As an artist, I feel like an investigative journalist in some ways.
I gather knowledge and information and transfer it into an artwork. VTS
is a powerful tool for me, as a learner. I’m constantly learning so VTS
allows for my knowledge to be fluid. It is really important to me, in
my life, and as an artist, that there is more than one answer.
Facilitating VTS allows me time to listen to the different ideas coming
from each person, to stay neutral, and not buy into one opinion or
another. It is really important to stay listening to all the different
facets of the conversation. We all come with so much ancestral
knowledge. Perhaps allowing time and space for different perspectives,
hopefully we can find our way to some common ground. This is what
ultimately keeps me motivated – the search for our commonality. It’s why
I still work with mirrors – we are mirrors. As an artist, I feel now
is an important time. Artists have an incredible opportunity to look
more closely, then take that knowledge and make it into an artwork and
then take that artwork and go to the audience – it’s a gentle, fluid,
What have you noticed happening in your work with schools and galleries in VTS image discussions?
I am currently Artist in Residence with Rathfarnham Educate Together National School (RETNS). I recently did a VTS facilitated discussion the school’s 5th class children at The LAB Gallery
and Anita Groener’s incredible exhibition ‘The Past is a Foreign
Country’. I observed that the children were highly environmentally aware
and were able to articulate very clearly their understanding that if
our environment is not harmonious, then that is not good for us either.
They mirrored, for me, my own thinking that we are all part of the same
ecosystem. This is an emotionally charged exhibition, exploring
migration and the migrant crisis in Syria. I didn’t have to tell the
children what the work was about. I didn’t have to give them a script.
The script was inside them already. It just needed a gentle prise
open. VTS allowed us time, and slowing down, deep looking, being
comfortable in the silence. There is so much chatter, phone or screen
time in our lives that just listening and communicating with each other
is an amazing thing. This amazing thing happens when we communicate in a
VTS session and I’m still not sure what the ‘thing’ is. This ‘thing’
is what Permission to Wonder has given to me as a person and as an
Can you recall a favourite VTS Image Discussion?
I have been testing the VTS Image Curriculum and the Permission to
Wonder images for the project image bank. I have been practicing VTS
with test images in Scoil Mhuire, Marino and St Vincents BNS.
Some feedback on the VTS sessions with Kathryn from the 3rd class
boys of Scoil Mhuire, Marino, gathered from teacher, Jennifer Gormley
‘It was very enjoyable and I liked that it wasn’t just based on
one artist. I liked the way we got asked to say what we thought of the
‘It was really nice and I liked the way it was arranged, like the questions we were asked.’
‘It was really fun. I liked looking at the pictures and telling what I thought of them.’
‘I thought the paintings were really good and it was fun answering questions.’
Another memorable experience was a Wonder Club session with a Patrick Scott artwork in The Hugh Lane Gallery.
The discussion went from a very religious metaphorical discussion into a
more polarised religious and political debate. This was surprising as
the beautiful abstract painting was a vehicle for adults to vocalise
knowledge, and equally prejudices, that the group and I had to
negotiate. Perhaps most valuable with adults, you get to access
people’s wealth of knowledge due to their lived life.
** Wonder Club is monthly VTS sessions for adults that take place in Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane and The LAB Gallery
How did Erasmus+ Permission to Wonder support you to develop your VTS practice?
I would describe VTS practice like muscle that needs to be
exercised. In Permission to Wonder, the trust within the group of
educators, and the care within the partner group was really special.
There was a silent strength in this support that was very nurturing for
me to help me push me out of my comfort zone and become more confident
in how I facilitate a VTS session. The logistical supports that were put
in place for me were really important. Financial access to the
training in Europe and then also being supported to practice at home in
the schools and galleries allowed me to build this confidence. On foot
of it, opportunities for me to work with galleries and schools have been
increasing. In the past year, I’ve been really lucky to work with The
LAB Gallery, The Hugh Lane Gallery, IMMA, The Butler Gallery, Kilkenny
and all have been very supportive of me using VTS as a strand of my
sessions with school groups. I use VTS at the beginning of my sessions
almost as a way to bring students into a space where they will absorb
the artists’ intentions by osmosis and then the session will evolve from
there. I usually do a VTS session, followed by an observational
drawing, followed by more formal object making in the education room. I
find that the students, when they are sketching after the VTS image
discussion, are not copying each other, they are more confident in how
their own ideas are coming out of the artwork.
What would you like to work on next in your VTS practice?
The most important thing that I feel I need to work with most is
staying neutral. I think that art can bring up a lot of stuff for
people, very strong opinions are aired, a lot of debate and also
emotional responses. I have to be careful to manage my own assumptions
about why somebody might make a particular remark. I have to remember,
that it’s okay if a group member does not want to contribute or may
pull back or be quiet in the discussion. The strength of the silence
may indicate that there may be a reason why somebody remains silent,
something may be triggered for that person within the image or the
discussion. There is learning in discomfort, but also learning to keep
in mind safety and care for the group, and also keep in mind self care
for me. I will always talk to a teacher at the outset of a session to
find out if I need to be mindful of a member of a group. It’s that
communication that needs to happen between us as educators – between
teacher and artist – in order that the viewer is allowed to be silent or
to be heard, depending on their need.
I would envision that I would like to push my VTS practice further.
To move my VTS facilitation outside of art, into other areas such as
science, history, mathematics. That I can move it out of the artworld
and into other areas of education. I think VTS sits in the artworld but
also has the flexibility and ability to move beyond the artworld.
We had fascinating chats led by Visual Thinking Strategies tour led by myself and the group had so much to say. It is incredibly evident that Educate Together is a Green School – their knowledge of Climate Change and migration is profound.
Anna o Herlihy’s 5th Class went to see Anita Groener’s The Past is a Foreign Country with me.
The Past is a Foreign Country
May 24 – July 27 2019
The Past is a Foreign Country asks what is it to be human today?
Through orchestrating immersive site-specific installations, film, and
drawings, Anita Groener explores the tissue of trauma and loss rooted in
this question, experimenting with both figurative and abstract
geography. The deliberately modest means of the work speak to the
fragility of life and society that refugee crises expose. Her art asks
questions about the ethics of witnessing and aesthetic response.
The title of the exhibition The Past Is A Foreign Country and of the
largest installation in this show draws on L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The
Go Between, which speaks of the loss of innocence of a young boy.
Hartley’s novel expresses how we cannot remember the past or find the
correct language to describe it. It is the account of a specific
experience of trauma and loss and the failure of words to capture it in
memory. Groener’s exhibition begins where Hartley ends…” **
“One of the most shocking sights of recent years, a time when
shocking sights seem to pile on, was tens of thousands of migrants
crossing Europe on foot in the summer and fall of 2015. Men, women, and
children with no other recourse, most fleeing the war in Syria, left
their homes behind…The spectacle stunned the world, not only for what it
said of the sheer desperation of the migrants, but for the way it
brought us up short, face to face with the limitations of the present.
For the images and scenes we saw on our screens not only set off alarms
for the world around us gone terribly wrong, but also woke deeply
slumbering memories of other times and other masses of people moving
through a landscape…echoing back through all of history…” ***
”For an indigenous population of a country, the notion of home, will
always be bound up with a sense of the past and a shared history and
culture, often to the exclusion of outsiders. Home is deeply connected
to ideas of history.” ** The artist reminds us that the history of
placelessness is everybody’s history, examining archetypal and
psychological resonances and tracing urgent connections between the
experience of people uprooted from their homes and communities, and her
own life and family.
This exhibition received an Arts Council Touring and Dissemination
Award, initiated by Limerick City Gallery of Art in 2018. It toured to
The Dock, Carrick-on- Shannon earlier this year. After The LAB Gallery
in Dublin The Past Is A Foreign Country will travel to Uilinn, West Cork
Arts Centre in Skibbereen in October 2019.
After many conversations and online research and a very resourceful trip to Plant Life on Cork Street.
I gathered the following items to create the Kokedama
Fern – Indoor, Fern – Outdoor, Moss from various locations, twine, Earth/Clay, spritzer with water and scissors.
1. What you’ll need
need a suitable plant, florists’ wire, string, secateurs and wire
cutters, a piece of hessian and some sheet moss, plus a mister for
misting the plant and moss at the end.
2. Form a root ball and wrap it up
the plant from its pot, water it so it’s moist, and then mould the
compost surrounding the roots into a ball. Wrap the root ball in a
little bit of hessian, securing it with string or a piece of florists
wire. The hessian will keep the compost in place.
3. Use string and wire for hanging
string and florists’ wire, make a loop from which you can hang the
kokedama. Tie the string to two pieces of wire and attach them to the
hessian on both sides.
4. Roll out your moss
“I think it’s best to use sheet moss, which you can get from most florists. It’s moss that’s more knitted together, so bits aren’t going to drop off. You can use sphagnum moss but you have to bind that in,” Dunster advises.
Note : Do not take from the Forrest as it is now endangered and important for the Forrest – instead of using Round up just use it from your pavement / backgarden.
Sheet moss is harvested from woodland areas in
the countryside and comes in big pieces. Roll the moss out with a
rolling pin before wrapping it around the hessian, trying to keep it
intact so the moss remains in one piece.
5. Secure it with florists’ wire
Once you’ve secured the moss around the root ball with florists’ wire, trim the overlapping excess with sharp scissors.
You can then put it on a table in a saucer, or fashion it so that it’s suspended with some bits of wire or string.
6. Don’t overdo the watering
“You only need to mist the kokedama every
now and again. If it starts to dry out, sit the whole thing in a bucket
of water overnight. They’re not difficult to look after. You just have
to keep an eye on them,” says Dunster.
Depending on the plants you
use, some kokedama can be taken outside during the warmer months to
create a display. But at this time of year they come into their own