BÓTHAR BUÍ Exhibition by Noreile Breen and Áine Gallagher

Sarah Walker Gallery, Castletownbere, Co. Cork

Noreile Breen is an architect, in all the senses of that name. In this exhibition, which attempts not only to document, but also to uncover, the architecture of Robin Walker’s Bótharbuí, she uses all the investigative and representational tools of the architect. Measured drawing, line sketches, photography, scans, mapping – all are employed in digging for the truth of this sublime work of architecture. Then they are brought together, at large scale, in the magnificent room of the gallery, in an act of transponding some of the essence of that site.

Bótharbuí is not conceived as an objective, geometric composition, but as a happening, a confluence of physical and perceptual phenomena. It represents a multiplicity of microcosms, each one with its own distinct, topological attributes. Any single spatial understanding is broken down into a sequence of different autonomous structures and rooms, organized according to variable positions within the terrain. The house seeds itself into the site, in a complex topological organization of six separate buildings, located around pathways, terraces, trees and ancient enclosures. While this horizontal layout is modern in kind, intensifying the active presence, maintaining an implicit, active relationship with the physical environment, it is overlaid by a commemorative layout, represented by the original cottage and stone sheds. Bótharbuí has been described as an almost “mythical” place, partly in the sense that it also refers to the macrocosm, because it is infinite. Without meaning to ascribe to any doctrine, whether God or Allah, or indeed Nature itself, this term helps to explain what is meant by “an architecture that can’t be drawn”. The 16th century conflict between Eastern and Western methods of representation in painting embodies the difference between how Allah sees things and how things really are.

If the Western method derives from an actual viewpoint, which involves the technique of perspective, then that ultimately leads to an image, or a depiction, which can be described as “picturesque”. But Bótharbuí cannot be adequately understood by the picturesque. Allah sees things all together, from above, in a cosmic, not a perspective view. That is how Noreile Breen is attempting to render Bótharbuí – in mapping the pathways and flagstones which lead from one building to another, in taking large format photographs of the impossible detail of trees and plants, in photographing the shadows cast on walls which act like blank sheets of paper held up against the landscape.

An exert from ‘An Architecture That Can’t Be Drawn’; an essay by Simon Walker


Kitchen and Yard Oak, April 2021 / Archival Pigment and Silver Gelatin Prints / Noreile Breen

Áine Gallagher is a radio producer, musician, and sound artist based in Dublin. Her work incorporates unique perspectives on music, audio technology and storytelling to create narrative content which seeks to inform in ways which are aurally intriguing and beautiful. She is particularly drawn to recording situations of cultural interest that may otherwise remain hidden or undocumented. Sound holds the rich potential to render information and landscape in unobtrusive but intimate ways. Áine’s work adopts such an approach to present sound art that intertwines field recordings, music and processed found sounds to create dynamic and illustrative landscapes for the listener.

Áine presents three sound pieces of roughly 25’ each in length which play concurrently on a loop. The pieces are made using aural footing from the interior, exterior and immediate environs of Bóthar Buí. These sounds are interwoven and while they are not always directly linked, they communicate with each other. They serve as a kind of aural diary of her time spent in and around Bóthar Buí. As her familiarity grew, so the surrounding aural landscape expanded.

Within these recordings are heard the obvious environmental elements: weather, birdsong, navigational activity; but then there are boilers, dehumidifiers, and the distinctive rhythm of the chosen step on slate which best suit an individuals footing to make the journey from the kitchen to the lower bedroom.

In addition to this content from Áine’s aural diaries the listener will hear accounts from two of Robin and Dorothy Walker’s children: Simon and Sarah. They frame the house in a way which no one else can. Along with their other three siblings they were a part of Bóthar Buí’s inception; they have and will continue to influence it.

Noreile Breen is an architect and lecturer based between Dublin and Kerry. Her practice focuses on creating buildings which have a rich spatial character with distinct qualities of light and are rooted in the built heritage of the Irish rural landscape.

Áine Gallagher is a sound artist and radio producer whose work uses conversational and observational audio recordings to present an aural understanding of our cultural landscape.She is focused on composing relationships between the human experience and the conceived environment.

Noreile Breen’s Limited Edition Archival Pigment and Silver Gelatin Prints are available for purchase from the Sarah Walker Gallery.

Exhibition runs through August / Open 11 to 6 Everyday
Sarah Walker Gallery, Castletownbere, Co. Cork
+353 (0)27 70387