Fóidín Mearbhaill - A Field in Transition

Artist Name(s) John Langan
Artwork title Fóidín Mearbhaill - A Field in Transition

Fóidín Mearbhaill - A Field in Transition is a public art project directed by John Langan. Fóidín Mearbhaill or Meara is according folklore, especially in the West of Ireland, a widely-held superstition that the fairies sometimes put a spell on a piece of earth, usually a sod of grass. Whoever inadvertently steps upon it loses their way at once and cannot find an exit until the fairies tire of their game and at last throw open the unseen doors. It is also widely believed that one can counter the spell by turning one's coat inside out and so wearing it.

In this case, it is the artist and those who stepped into the field in Carrowcauly, Ballymote who became enchanted. Fóidín Meara is an artistic engagement with a place and its people which examines the transformation and diversity of rural Sligo.

In autumn 2007 John Langan asked Mary McDonagh of Sligo Arts Service to help him find a random field where he might base his work. The selection was based on an investigation of the County Council’s current land bank with particular reference to the south of the county. As a result, a site of approximately 1.2 acres was chosen, close to the town of Ballymote in the town land of Carrowcauley or Earlsfield, in the parish of Emlaghfad. This began an artistic process that involved an on-site residency by the artist and a collaboration between an archaeologist, horticulturalist, farmer, website designer and others. The planting of flax, the creation of a crop drawing and the discovery of two roadways through an archaeological survey of the field are just some of the fascinating actions directed by the artist during his time in Ballymote.

John Langan found a way of representing the transition of a rural site in an imaginative and multi-dimensional way. The past, present and the future of the field are transformed through the artist’s eyes. Fóidín Mearbhaill - A Field in Transition, is part of Unravelling Developments, a series of public art commissioned by Sligo County Council and curated by Joe Lee.

Curator’s note:
Foidin Mearbhaill - A Field in Transition is a significant art project in the Unravelling Developments round of public arts projects commissioned by Sligo County Council 2003-2009.

As curator of the series I believe it is important for artists to have opportunities to reflect and engage with the idea and reality of change as it affects culture, landscape and the built environment. This is particularly relevant at this time of economic collapse and recession when what seemed like long term growth and prosperity suddenly changed and moved in a very different direction. Maybe as a nation we have all been caught in a Foidin Mearbhaill of sorts. Certainly there is a need for transition from the place we find ourselves now. Therefore Foidin Mearbhaill is an apt title for a project in the Unravelling Developments series.
As someone who has always lived in an urban environment I would have thought of landscape as something unchanging or even fixed. What John Langan shows in Foidin Mearbhaill is the opposite, that landscape is continually evolving and being shaped by the people who live there. This unpacking of an insignificant field opens a door into the archaeology, geology and social history not just of the field but also the whole Ballymote area. The actions of the project, the archaeological survey, the planting, growing and creation of a crop drawing in flax and the varied interactions with local groups and individuals are testaments to the rigor Langan brought to the inquiry he undertook. The outcomes of the art project: the mixed media exhibition, this website and the packaging and delivery of a collection of project images to 680 households in Ballymote not only documents Foidin Mearbhaill - A Field in Transition but builds a bridge between the past, present and future.

Joe Lee
Unravelling Developments Series 2003-2009


An article about the project was featured in the Irish Times, 14 December 2009. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1214/1224260654016.html


John Langan was born Co. Clare in 1967. He studied Sculpture at LSAD From 1992-95. In 2007 he completed a research based MA in Art Education, titled Transcending the Territory, An artist centred approach to residencies in schools. The research project was the Winner of AIB Supreme County Galway Arts Award for 2005. In 2000 he was awarded the Adjudicator’s Prize for the Claremorris Open (COE) and in 2001 the Dublin City Council Visual Arts Bursary. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Langan has been a resident
artist on the Artist Work Programme at IMMA and at the Firestation Artists’
Studios. As well as several Artist in the Community Residency Awards and Arts
Council Bursaries he has been selected for the Artist-in Prisons Panel and a
Department of Foreign Affairs Bursary.

Since 2002 he has lived in east Galway where he is Chairman of the local Community Council. In partnership with his community he is actively engaged in exploring and clarifying the issues and concerns that effect the everyday life of this rural community. He is committed for the foreseeable future to being an artist in this community and investigating the effects of this process. As such his artistic work tends to be a series of interventionist explorations that often involve activities of a social or contextual nature. Through his artistic activities and undertakings he advocates the concept of an engaged practice which stretches beyond how artists personally create, to how they might share with others the creative processes of art making. Much of his artistic work combines visible and invisible artworks. In his role as a formal educator he practices at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology where he is currently Course tutor for the Year One BAAD programme.

Commission Type Local Authority
Commissioner Name Sligo County Council
Project commission dates August 1, 2007 - December 1, 2009
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By Sligo County Council
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Project commission start date 01/08/2007
Project commission end date 01/12/2009
Location Ballymote 
County Sligo
Google Map Insert View this projects location
Website www.foidinmeara.com/
Content contributor(s) Mary MacDonagh/ John Langan
Relationship to project Public Art Co ordinator/ Artist

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Archeologist – Martin Fitzpatrick M.A.IIA.
Horticulturist/Landscape Designer – Bob Reilly
Artist – Ivan Twohig
Farmer – Dan Gallagher
On–site Assistants – Mike Ahern, Cian Langan



Commission Call Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

16 August 2017

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and dlr Mill Theatre, Dundrum, invite proposals for a commission focusing on the creation of new work through...More..

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Greystones Educate Together National School appointed a voluntary committee with relevant expertise to oversee the per cent for art commissioning process. An external curator, Máire Davey, was appointed specifically for her expertise in working in a highly collaborative way as meaningful involvement from the students and school was viewed as central to the process. The procurement route chosen was limited invited competition.

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