ASKEATON’S historic Hellfire Club is about to go international. And the Askeaton Contemporary Arts festival which runs in the town every summer is also about to gain a wider international audience.
The Hellfire Club, an 18th century ruin adjacent to Askeaton Castle and located on an island in the Deel, was the inspiration earlier this year for five contemporary artists in a project largely funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. For six months, their commisioned artworks were installed at different locations around the town, mostly outdoors, and then included in a book about the whole project. This book was launched at the Askeaton Contemporary Arts festival during the summer.
But this Thursday, the book will be launched in New York at the ICI Curatorial Hub where Askeaton artist Michele Horrigan, who founded and curates Askeaton Contemporary Arts will speak about the project and the festival.
The Hellfire Club project has turned out to be “ probably one of the most commented on art projects ever undertaken in the town”, and has had a big impact on both locals and tourists Michele Horrigan believes. “I have seen tourists do a double take on that, and then they reach for the camera, ” says Michele while Anita Guinane, who is part of the Askeaton Arts Group adds: “I don’t think there has been a single local person who has passed that and who hasn’t stopped to read it. And then you see the same people coming back and re-reading it. It really gets people thinking.”
The work of Stephen Brandes in particular has sparked a lot of interest. On what looks like a regular heritage information board is his futuristic explanation of the Hellfire Club. Another artwork is a stainless steel silhouette based on the painting of Hellfire Club members by James Worsdale in the 1740s.
Tom Fitzgerald was inspired to create a book with 48 different images, all of them based again on the Worsdale painting but counterposed by sections from Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Paradise. The book was displayed a special exhibition case in the local library and each day a new page is displayed, rather like the Book of Kells.
Louise Manifold made a film of what happened after the party depicted in the Worsdale painting when, after an imagined night of debauchery, everybody has passed out. To make her film, local amateur drama members were called in.Sean Lynch, another of the artists involved in the Hellfire Project, will also speak in New York this Thursday as will Amanda Ralph of the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art.