Spoilt Broth & Ground Up Artists Collective

The Ground Up Artists' Collective, initiated in 2003 by Fiona Woods with the support of Clare County Council Arts Office, significantly contributed to the local art scene. From 2003 to 2007, this collective witnessed a dynamic period involving 22 artists, resulting in a series of public events and 11 temporary public artworks. This creative surge culminated in the publication of a book documenting the group's formation and activities. Following this productive phase, Vinnie Wall was appointed to develop a subsequent group project, aiming to continue the collective's legacy of artistic innovation.

A Shift from Collaboration to Isolation

Initially, the Ground Up Artists' Collective thrived on vibrant face-to-face meetings and collaborative projects. However, as members became geographically dispersed, the once lively collaborative environment shifted to solitary late-night sessions at computers, with artists catching up on group emails from their dark kitchens. Despite this change, the group still drew upon the rich experiences of collective creativity that had characterized their early years.

The Birth of Spoilt Broth

In 2008, amidst this period of isolation, the Spoilt Broth project emerged as a testament to the challenges and possibilities of remote collaboration. The project title, "Spoilt Broth," bluntly encapsulates the difficulties faced by an art group attempting to collaborate while working independently. The 22 artists were tasked with capturing their individual experiences of North Clare through images that resonated with them personally. These images were then shared via email and compiled into an innovative installation designed to illuminate the dark night-time kitchen scene that had become symbolic of the group's new working reality.

Illuminating the Dark: The Kitchen Installation

The Spoilt Broth installation transformed everyday kitchen elements into a canvas for artistic expression. Fifteen of the emailed images were processed into photographic stencils on silkscreens, which replaced the kitchen press doors and were back-lit from within. This ingenious use of light and common kitchen features created a striking visual effect, bringing a warm glow to the otherwise solitary and dark kitchen environment. Additionally, seven more pieces adorned the countertop as sculptures or images on lightboxes, further enriching the installation.

From Art to Everyday: The Spoilt Broth Tea Towel

The illuminated kitchen installation was photographed at night and printed onto linen, creating a contemporary art version of the traditional printed linen tea cloth. These tea towels, common in Irish homes and popular in gift shops, traditionally depicted domestic scenes reflecting Irish values and traditions. The Spoilt Broth tea towel offered a visual collage of art inspired by rural life, designed to be displayed on kitchen walls or fridges, or even used practically to dry dishes. This project successfully achieved its aim of creating an artwork that was both inexpensive and informal, perfectly suited to a domestic space rather than a gallery. The tea towel, available free of charge from the Courthouse Gallery, comes with a poster that points out each artist's work.

A Continued Legacy of Creativity

The Spoilt Broth project exemplifies the Ground Up Artists' Collective's commitment to innovation and adaptability, even in the face of geographical and logistical challenges. The collective remains active today, continuing to push the boundaries of artistic collaboration. For those interested in learning more about the current activities and projects of the Ground Up Artists' Collective, they are active on Facebook and welcome engagement from the public.

subs@thecourthousegallery.com May 22, 2024
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