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Reflections on a residency by Sarah Lewtas

October 31st. 2023.

My Eastern Edge residency looking back seems rather dream like . Something about the physical reality of Downtown St. Johns with its wooden houses stacked against each other ,rising up the steep slopes from the harbour .  Daily walking down the hill to Eastern Edge , the cruise ships docked in the harbour changing the scale of reality. Walking back up Prescott St. to cook something for lunch , back down again or out to the coast or wandering round Downtown. 

I had some concepts in mind when I arrived at the  residency which were both subtly  and more fundamentally changed once I gained some real experience of the place. My idea to make a book stayed with me beside many new meditations and insights about my work processes and how they interconnect with the spirit of place . I had a sense that it was somehow coming to meet  me.  Everyone at E.E. facilitated my desires and enquiries so that I felt totally supported which was really wonderful. Amanda took me on a tour of all the materials available and I saw a stack of heavy black paper, so the new skill of paper cutting and  construction began.  Elijah lent me a great collection of books that were the foundation of several things and I generally felt part a beautifully inclusive community . 

The focus of my current work is really about our shared human story and how it’s shaped by nature and political and commercial forces. I’m working towards a major solo exhibition in 2024 at the Regional Cultural Centre here in Donegal and I hoped my residency would feed into this .  It has certainly done that.

I’ve been following  the underlying reality of the sea and the way it joins us and pulls us apart and our basic needs of food and more dramatically housing. I was first drawn to this narrative on a residency in Andenes, a Norwegian Island fishing town . The house I stayed in had been deconstructed and moved across the island to a better site for building a new fishing harbour. I found this compelling it was as if the power of the sea could move houses . Imagine my surprise on discovering that the houses in St. Johns were routinely moved in their entirety and I saw pictures of houses being towed by boat across the bay.  The phenomena of dragging has become my obsession , from seal skins to fish nets to people and all the old ancestral tales of the  Beothuk the Ktaqmkuk  the Mi’kmaq Innu Inuit my own legacy and all now gone before. 

So I was going to build an installation falling into the gallery space from the height of the gallery .  Now all’s changed and the whole construction is being dragged up from the floor into the ceiling.

Many thanks Eastern Edge.