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'Landings' Art Exhibition May 2024

Artist’s Statement | Judy Carroll Deeley | @judy.carroll.deeley

My current work is a series of paintings titled Capitalocene: From a time of Ambition. This on-going work was initially inspired by visits to the worked-out landscape of Tynagh Mine, Co.Galway, in the 1980s. As main project artist on the international study ‘Post-extractivist Legacies and Landscapes: Humanities, Artistic and Activist Responses’ – in collaboration with UCD Humanities Institute – I had the opportunity to visit mine sites in Ireland, Estonia, and South Africa, research their impact, and respond by painting the effects of extractivist practices on the landscape.

There were three research trips in all, the most recent to the Gauteng Province of South Africa in November 2023. Here I responded to the legacy of gold mining in Gauteng Province. The area around Johannesburg is pitted by underground mines, some of which are flooded and leak toxic minerals into waterways and rivers.

The tailings ponds, which contain toxic mineral residues, are being piped to an area away from Johannesburg. Toxic leakage persists, however, for local communities. Poison dust blows over the land.

In visiting the Gauteng mine, I had a sense of how to catch the heat and dust and alluring but poisonous atmosphere through the use of rich bright colours.

In July 2023, our team, a group of academics from Tallinn University, Rice University, Australia National University, and Witwatersrand University, visited the Miners’ Village at Glendalough, with industrial historians acting as our guides. Industrial heritage is an integral part of the history of place in Ireland, but – as in the historic mine-lands of Glendalough and Glendasan – it has been overlooked.

As Irish children immersed in stories and myths about Saint Kevin and his monastic settlement at Glendalough, it became difficult for us later to identify this landscape as other than spiritual. My response was to represent mining structures on the picture postcard views of Glendalough, so endeared to generations of Irish at home and abroad, in order to remind people of its mining heritage.

On a recent hike to the mine site in Glendasan Valley I experienced something of an epiphany. Right next to the mining detritus was a rag tree and a holy well. Visions of miners’ families of old tying rags to the tree and dipping fingers in the well in supplication to Saint Kevin for the safe return of their loved ones deep in the mines below flashed before my eyes – the sacred and the secular in perfect harmony.

In my forthcoming solo show in Mermaid Arts Centre Bray in 2025, I want to respond to these juxtapositions of the spiritual and the earthly, the pastural and the industrial, in large-scale oil paintings. My hope is that this exhibition will contribute to the sense of Glendalough as a place of labour and of prayer, and to the sense that the heritages of mining and monasticism in Glendalough do not have to be mutually exclusive.

In April 2023, my first research trip with UCD Humanities Institute and the Study participants was to the oil-shale mining district of Ida-Virumaa in Estonia. This blanched countryside is smothered by mounds of ash. I was taken by the ‘ghost-thing’ inherent in the Ida-Virumaa landscape. There are bleached hills, blanched roads and empty abandoned towns, the legacy of oil-shale mining in the area. This territory is no longer suitable for agriculture. Layers of trees and soil metres deep were removed to make way for the mines. Any remaining trees cling to an uncertain earth. It has an eerie artificial beauty that I tried to express in my Ida-Virumaa paintings.

Following all three research trips, I returned to my studio and prepared compositions for paintings from photographs but mostly from my mind’s eye. These compositions convey a sense of the lived experience and the conjured ‘emotion’. I then worked in oils on canvas. Each painting attempts to find a balance between the eerie beauty of the mine lands and the damage they do to the environment.

Bio blurb

Helen Doherty worked at IADT in the department of Film and Media. Her art work ranges across different media, including drawing, video, photography and sculpture. Her art practice tends to be socially engaged. Helen’s recent exhibitions were at NCAD CEAD in 2023 and with the Ambiguity collective in 2023. She was the recipient of an NCAD Royal Hibernian Academy studio residency in 2024.

Bog Lands

In this work I explore the Irish boglands from several vantage points: ecology, industry, energy and culture. 

Turf is formed from layers of growth and decay of organic matter over thousands of years in water-logged land which is compacted over time. An area of original bogland can hold ten times more carbon than the same area of a rain forest. This dynamic layering over slow time creates a natural material that is vital to our ecological wellbeing. In this art work, a hanging paper scroll with a bank of sod draws attention to the vitality of the boglands and its construction over time. 

The industrial history of turf cutting is referenced in a quote from James Joyce’s Ulysses which captures how canal barges are dropping down the canal locks from the Irish midlands to deliver turf to Dublin. This short passage of text hangs on a rickety frame and is printed on the kind of bag fabric that can be found withering across the boglands today. It connotes a disappearing industry that continues to effect the landscape.

It is becoming widely recognised that we cannot renew the Irish boglands when we extract material from them. Consequently, we are turning to more sustainable power sources such as solar energy. A suspended lantern harnesses solar power that lights miniature glass pieces inspired by the flora of the bog lands. A flame can be a warning of hazards and a lantern may be lit in memory of loss or to guide to welcome travellers.

Now that the energy transition to non-carbon sources of energy is underway, there are restrictions on turf cutting.  When cutting turf passes into memory, turf can be inscribed into our cultural heritage. Turf sods wrapped as individual items become a memorial to the ecology, industry and stored energy of Irish boglands from the past to the present day.


With thanks to Dr Megan Kuster and Dr Sarah Comyn, Co-Is of the Extractivist Landscapes: Humanities, Artistic and Activist Responses research project, for organising a field trip to the Abbeyleix Bog Project <abbeyleixbog.ie> and to researchers involved in two other bog restoration projects: Dr Cathy Fitzgerald of the Drummin Bog Project Co.Carlow and Kate Flood Girley Bog restoration, Co. Meath. 

A comprehensive book on the Irish boglands is: The bogs of Ireland: an introduction to the natural, cultural and industrial heritage of Irish peatlands by Feehan, J. et al published by University College Dublin. Environmental Institute 2008. It is also available to download in .pdf format from the UCD Research Repository.


Katherine Fama lectures on modern American fiction at UCD. Her research and teaching focus on representations of singleness, domestic architecture, and emotional responses to occupancy, aging and ability. 

Through her role as Project Art Partner on the Post-Extractivist Legacies and Landscape project, she was fortunate to experience the intersection of the conference and site visits, photography, and reflective writing about domestic and communal spaces shaped by mining histories in Estonia and Ireland. Katherine worked with pen and ink, watercolor, and monoprinting to create postcards depicting site visits to Estonia, Glendalough, and South Africa. She has found translating creative research into the classroom particularly rewarding, with model building in "Architecture and Narrative" and a practice based MA seminar "Crafting in the Novel" planned with Sarah Comyn. 

Sarah Comyn is leading an IRC-funded project, Imperial Minerals, which investigates the impact of mineral mining on the nineteenth-century literary cultures of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. At UCD she lectures on nineteenth-century literature, settler colonial literature, and the economic humanities.

In the past she has used art as a hobby to escape from her scholarly work and research, but recently she has begun to use watercolour and embroidery to explore her research through different mediums. The work in this exhibition comes from a collaboration with Katherine Fama, in which they explored the artistic postcard as a mode of reflecting on both the embodied and memoried experience of post/extractivist sites. They are currently expanding this work into a print project that explores recycling and using found objects from neglected urban sites in Dublin.


The Postcard Exchange Project had as its goals:

  1. The development of a shared creative-critical practice
  2. The extension of the temporality and media forms common to the conference/ institute
  3. Productive, continued, responsive exchanges between scholars through evolving work with research, photography, painting, drawing, and reflective writing

The conference or academic event usually takes place over a few days at most. Academics travel vast distances to gather together to present papers clustered around a related set of academic research questions. Moments for response and connection pass quickly; the compacted time of a site visit or dinner provides a limited moment for connection and exchange before researchers return home to busy teaching and publication schedules. The time for digestion, reflection, and response to these complex sites is highly constrained. 

Building on the extended form of the institute team and event series in Estonia, Ireland, and South Africa, our project sought to develop yearlong responses to site visits over a year, constellating institute sites and experiences. Instead of leaving the research papers, site visits, and presentations in their three-day event timeline, we worked to stretch, repeat, and develop institute insights over a longer time period, through multimedia work. 

We chose the postcard because of its small size, its mobility, and its function as a space for response and communication. Many researchers are not prepared to create a full scale artwork, but they can work through photography and smaller scale works on paper. Project leaders joined colleagues and institute attendees in taking photographs of our site visits, creating multimedia postcards from site visits and images, and finally using those postcards to record reflections about the values, costs, and risks of the research site visit. 

Over the course of a year, researchers worked in new, visual forms; responded to the visual representations of colleagues, interrogated their own experience of the site visit, and extended and renovated more familiar processes of intellectual exchange. 


Dr Linda Mbeki is a chemist, historian and archaeologist. Her work looks at the intersection of bioarcheology and archival research to shed light on the marginalized people from the South Africa’s colonial period. Her work focuses on the migration and diet of enslaved persons at the colonial Cape and workers’ migration to the gold and diamond mines during South Africa’s mineral revolution. She applies isotope geochemistry to skeletal material and interrogates written records to elucidate individual histories. By studying labour migration and diet over 170 years (1750-1920) of South Africa’s history, she aims to assess whether and to what extent the migrant labour system is part of a continuum that began with the shipment of enslaved people to the Cape. She writes transnational history that spans the early modern and modern periods.   

She was the 2022 UCD Discovery Visiting Global Fellow and in 2023 she was a partner in the UCD Humanities Institute project on Post-Extractivist Legacies and Landscapes. Her visit to UCD yielded significant findings. Firstly, using the strontium isotope system, she determined that a population from a 19th-century South African diamond mine was predominantly locally born. Archival documents spoke volumes about the human toll of gold mining. Preventable deaths from respiratory diseases caused by poor sanitation and overcrowding were common. Malawian workers, in particular, were prone to infectious diseases, and their death rates across all mines were multiples that of the general population. 



This short film is about one of many return journeys made by a family man from his home in the rural areas of Southern Africa to a gold or diamond mine. Although my research focuses on the lived experience of 19th-century miners, I chose to pay homage to the living. I had a moving conversation with a former mine worker who had spent his entire career (21-49 years of age) working in South Africa’s gold mines (1968-1996). Ntate is a soft-spoken 76-year-old grandfather of five. He is tall with a deep voice, which softens when he laughs, something he offers easily. 

We are grateful to Ntate for sharing his bittersweet journey with us. He is an extraordinary man, and it could not have been easy telling his story of hardship. Like many men and women of his generation, he did not have the luxury of being present while his children were growing, learning, and hurting. He makes up for lost time by doting on his grandchildren who call him names as his chuckles.

Drawings and animation by Ali Aschman.
Storyboard and additional animation by Alex Widdoson.
Sounds from bbc.co.uk, freesound.org and personal recordings.
This project was made possible by UKRI Higher Education Innovation Funding.

'Landings: Art after Extractivism' Artworks

Miners’ Helmets, Kohtla-Nomme Mine, Ida-Virumaa Estonia | Oil on canvas 40 x 30 cm framed 2024 | Judy Carroll Deeley
Rag Tree, Slag heaps and Holy Well Glendasan | Oil on canvas 30 x 40 cm 2023 | Judy Carroll Deeley

UCD Humanities Institute

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 4690 | E: humanities@ucd.ie |