Kerry Collins is so fascinated by Fort Camden she’s exhibiting there
ARTIST Kerry Collins is fascinated by Fort Camden, in Crosshaven, which is one of the finest remaining examples of a classical, coastal artillery fort. It was closed for years, but it is now being renovated and is partly open to the public.
Collins is exhibiting in the gallery space there. Her exhibition, entitled Collage, depicts aspects of the fort and she also has created paintings of Crosshaven, Cobh, Robert’s Cove and random pieces inspired by the locale, such as a cattle scene entitled Ringabella Round Up.
But it is the fort that captivates Collins, both its exterior and interior. “The moat is amazing. Two hundred men worked on building it over 50 years. Before the health and safety regulations came in, when the fort was handed back to the people of Crosshaven, I explored it for my exhibition. I worked for a long time on the exhibition. It’s made up of paintings and drawings,” she says.
During her exploration of the fort, Collins found old documents, such as requisitions forms and delivery reports — all of which were being thrown out. “I took what I could carry with me, as well as bits and pieces, such as nuts and bolts and rusted bits of machinery. I’ve used these as the base of my paintings, making collages with them, and using figures that would have served in the fort. I used old photographs to draw the figures and I have sepia-toned some of the work using oil paint. The collages add a layer of interest to the paintings,” she says.
Collins has had a particularly good reaction to her painting of the dancehall at Camden Fort. “When I first got access to the building, I was shown what is almost like, a prefab building constructed in the 1950s. The windows were broken and the light was coming through in a haphazard way. The roof was falling in,” she says.
“When I was told that this used to be the dancehall, it grabbed my imagination straight away. I could imagine the sailors dancing with their partners. I really wanted to convey that this (ruin) was once a dancehall.”
For Collins, the dancehall in its ruined state was more interesting than restored and cleaned-up. Her painting of the dancehall, bought by two local volunteers working in the fort, has been described as haunting and spooky.
“It’s so popular that I’ve got cards and prints made up of it. It’s a piece done from my imagination. I knew what I wanted to convey and I got into the zone. I wanted to portray dancers, but I didn’t want them to be too realistic. There’s a couple dancing in the foreground. The woman’s dress is see-through, so that you can see the floorboards and the ruin of the building through it in the background. The figures really look like ghosts.”
Collins says it was a dream come true when she first stepped into Camden Fort. “I was let loose inside and I took hundreds of photographs. I’d like to do more with them next year. I love being in the building, talking to people about my exhibition,” she says.
Growing up in Carrigaline, Collins used to cycle to the fort.
“I used to go fishing with my dad off Roche’s Point and we’d always pull in first at the fort and swim off the dock.
“Everyone from around here has a connection with the place. It’s a physical and spiritual presence on the horizon. It’s fascinating, because it’s so ancient and solid. The fort goes back to Jacobean times, in the 1600s,” she says.
- The exhibition at Camden Fort continues until the August Bank Holiday weekend.
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