The Story So Far…

At the beginning of September 2016 more than a dozen local art practitioners and/or interested followed an open call to meet at Creative Spark to discuss possibilities of creating some sort of local platform encouraging Art as Exchange, both between local practitioners and with the wider public. Some more, who couldn’t come, declared their interest, some others joined later. Some also left, after moving elsewhere.

A key motive behind this, was the desire to establish a culture emphasizing art as communication or communication through art, which was found lacking locally. It should be an alternative or addition to art as “the production of things, to be shown and/or sold”, often in isolation. It should suggest and facilitate the production and exchange of art as something in which many can have a stake, skilled or unskilled, understanding themselves as artists or not.

Anything from just providing a regular opportunity for practitioners or interested to simply meet up and socialise, exchange experiences and ideas, to try and work together and if possible find ways of engaging the public, would have been seen as a success.

As it turned out, we quite quickly established a format of bi-weekly “gatherings”, many of which have been hands-on sessions (communal drawing, screen printing, lino-printing, sketches for installation proposals etc.), but we also worked out a Manifesto, documented what we did and now set up a web site in the wake of approaching first public engagement in the form of a postcard art project.

We try to maintain an open format, allowing members to fluctuate and join in as they see fit, while at the same time maintaining an ongoing process, communicating via mailing lists and WhatsApp.

Contact us, if you want to join in.

AAEX Zoom Making

Skip to to AAEX Zoom Making 2

We have decided to re-purpose Zoom for collaborative creative practice and develop a set of Zoom sessions that allow us to work together (or at least alongside each other) for a set time and record this in Gallery view, producing grid view recordings as collaborative artworks in their own right.

The first such session took place on Wednesday, 18th October 2020. 16 AAEX artists took part in the session, in which cameras were turned away from the participants onto a work or performance space of their choice. Instead of participant’s names, snippets of poems and other text were displayed.

List of participants and short statements about their contributions (left to right in the grid view):

Bernhard GaulAAEX spelled in flag alphabet
Jenny SlaterMy piece was a tableau of objects that I found during lockdown, on walks around my local area and in my garden. It was also about the opportunity the lockdown gave me to re-find or reconnect with a deeper sense of self through working with nature.
Ciara AgnewI am working on wood and a stretched linen canvas, I’m working with oil paints, charcoal, pencils and palette knives. I have no predetermined idea what the finished piece should look like, I’m playing with materials and colours.
Catherine McCourtI was thinking about how this lockdown is all about the promise of Christmas spent with loved ones. For my zoom video I started to make Christmas tree decorations to gift to my family which I hope to give to them in person after these restrictions are lifted.
Jean MarshallMala Meditation Necklace – 
“For every knot I make, I untie a knot within myself!”
Geraldine MartinI painted words in black on an old yellow brick – A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing , because of Lockdown. This brick was at the farm. The lines were from Ecclesiastes. I was really experimenting with what I could do with old bricks.
Aileen DurkanI used a symbol of the labyrinth as a means of self-exploration and reflection, a way to find stillness in the storm. 
Michael StaffordOut of necessity, my work was made in my house and not in my studio where there is no Internet coverage, so I decided to use my laptop to be creative on. With no preconceived ideas on what to do, I scrolled through my folder called collected images and found a photo of a magpie. I use the bird as a symbol often in my work, superstition, fear hope, I leave it to the viewer. So in Illustrator I quickly made the paths and layers to make an illustration of the magpie. I then set about making a back ground then followed it by more spontaneous images to build a small narrative maybe slightly ambiguous and open to interpretation. It looks fresh because I felt unrestricted by the fact that it wasn’t preconceived……
Sinead McCourtMedium :wet felt ,beads and threads 
This is a wet felted piece taken from a painting I did of a bouquet of flowers from a friends funeral I was compelled to capture, as there was so much joy in the flower’s colours at  time of such sadness. It’s something I keep coming back to and have been working on it for 2 years on and off I reminds me of my friend and brings me joy simultaneously 
Heather CassidyA hanging form depicting how we are contained, closed in, restricted and how nature is our cocoon. 
Bamboo. Mixed Media
Susan FarrellyI chose to work on a surface that was a collaborative artwork created (with Bernhard) in 2016 that contains the marks made by many contributors. On it I placed two handsewn soft sculptures used in Craobh Rua (Muirhevnamore), the fabric was co-created at the opening night of ‘Installations’ and digitally printed. In my practice I am interested in the layers of memories that can be created by making. Some materials disrupt. Mirrors reflect and gel filters alter the screen colour, analogue (painterly) interventions on the digital canvas of Zoom. The blue gel (successfully at 16mins in) reflected portions of the computer screen where everyone else’s making was visible. I’ve tried to create a multi-perspective, entangled portrait of places and makers, past and present. Built by the hands of AAEX. 
James McLoughlinMy piece was titled ‘life through the bell jar’ and was about how we live now in our confines and our projected/online lives are where we interact and live another life.  It was also about getting a second life out of a piece of work and bringing it to life with light and shadow play. 
Una CurleyI worked on a ‘Perfectly disordered contemporary sampler showing the alphabet for artists’ 
Caoimhe O’DwyerShadow and Light part II – Watercolour
The impermanence of the Japanese Maple through the window and how it casts and retracts shadows always fascinates me. As autumn turns to winter the Maple is at its brightest and most vibrant with the leaves seeming to hang by the barest threads until eventually an overnight wind yields bare branches one morning. To paint this I set a light above the table which allowed me to look obliquely and indirectly at the shadows and to line out their shapes.
Santa DrozdovaMy  evening project was to create a “2-meter-distancing” broomstick for sweets and Halloween face mask
Niamh HannafordI took my inspiration from an excerpt of text by James Joyce. “Pull out his eyes. Apologise”. 

For the second session on 11th November 2020 we chose to impose a colour scheme (blue and/or red) and let performance artist Niamh Hannaford play with peoples text/name tags and choreographing order of appearance by removing and re-admitting participants to re-arrange the screen layout. We also increased the work duration to 40 minutes. Participants enjoyed the aspect of just working alongside each other as absorbing and calming, but felt interrupted after 20 minutes.

Participant’s statments:

Niamh HannafordFor this session, I was the host. I took the opportunity to satirically play (considering the current world politics) with our chosen colours of BLUE and RED. During the Zoom, I found as many household items that were blue and red and displayed them on screen. 
Una CurleyTonight’s screen session was influenced by the US election Blue and Red wave that never happened! Transitioning my setting from blue to red and back to blue with the various palette mix in between using water, light and various objects.
Caoimhe O’DwyerThe Japanese Maple’s companion in the garden is the Cotinus (Royal Purple Smoke bush), which is very striking at this time of the year. Traditionally used in wreaths locally. Applying the red colour to shadow and light study, the red evokes the falling petals of a remembrance day poppy. ‘Remembering’ all those who lost their lives to Covid 19 on this remembrance day 11/11/2020. 
Bernhard GaulI overlaid a blue painting of mine with a Perspex sheet and painted on it with red Lino ink, wiping it away again later. Experiments with calligraphy type symbols overlaid on an existing painting.
Susan FarrellyWhere do I go when I make? In AAEX zoom making session 2 I travelled, yet never encountering my fellow travelers. Maps, diagrams, landscapes and figures appear from the Blue Place I pass through.
Catherine McCourtThis time, I wanted to comment on  the fundamentals and simplicity of making marks on paper. These days, we are conducting major aspects of our lives through digital media from shopping to social interaction and I want to acknowledge the physical world, through mark making. In my drawing,  I am depicting the simple pleasure one can get from everyday tasks like ‘bathtime’. 
Meilynn CheungMy clip was about freehand, digital lettering on Procreate (drawing app for iPad).  Just having fun with playing with words, making a clip on how simple and quick it is to throw together words and colour.
Jenny SlaterIn this zoom piece I wanted to explore colour to express emotion, the process of making it reminded me of the weather too and the idea of pathetic fallacy in poetry. I wasn’t very pleased with the final end product but enjoyed the process of ripping through the paper to expose hidden layers . Also the experience of being brought in and out of the zoom wait room at the control of another was a really interesting experience.
Michael StaffordWith the theme of  ‘red and blue’ I decided to use these colours in a graphic way, knowing that the two primary colours viewed together can give a visual distortion. I decided to use these to make a quick graphic using ‘photoshop’ to break the image down and ‘illustrator’ to build a design logo with the image. The effect is similar to the famous ‘love’ artwork of Robert Indiana. Yellow highlights were added over the red/blue to balance the two primary colours already used.
Heather CassidyInteraction between the sea and the land….where does it fall.
Jean MarshallRosary Linking – the traditional way of constructing Catholic Rosary Beads – whilst making the cross and each beaded link and joining together to make the Rosary I contemplated on the prayers I used to recite as a child in depth.

AAEX Flamingo

A Flamingo Has Landed in Dundalk

AAEX were kindly invited to provide a contribution to the closing event of the Seek Festival 2020, planned for the 8th of August at the Spirit Store.

In the spirit of connecting to the town’s history, AAEX members decided to create an installation of an oversized flamingo sculpture with mechanical wings to commemorate the flamingo, which in 1985 took residency at Dundalk Bay and drew large crowds, even prompting a photo competition in the Argus. The AAEX Flamingo was originally meant to be installed at the small island opposite the Spirit Store, the habitat of the original one. However, as that event had to be cancelled due to the postponement of Phase 4 of the easing of Covid 19 restrictions, it was installed on the roof of the Dundalk Tourist Information on Market Square instead and became part of the attractions in town, intended to attract visitors like its original predecessor.

It managed to put a smile on many people’s faces as a lighthearted edition to all the other fantastic artworks that went up during the Seek Festival!

We enjoyed producing the flamingo as an opportunity to collaborative work coming out of lockdown and before more stringent COVID restrictions were re-introduced.


Production and Installation

Cardboard Prototypes

Some photos of the original flamingo and background info

Main photo: Isabel Lapuyade

Photos of the original flamingo courtesy of Charley Mc Carthy and Joe Quigley from the Dundalk Northend and Friends Facebook group.

#GraspTheArts – Show Your Hand

AAEX is delighted to support, a campaign of solidarity with the Irish Cultural Sector during the COVID 19 crisis, initiated by AAEX member Niamh O’Connor.

In response to the recent debate about insufficient funding for the arts sector, artists, writers, performers, administrators, invigilators, frame makers etc., in short anybody contributing and being part of the cultural sector is asked to cast their grasp in clay, salt dough, paper pulp or similar, add a label with their name, profession, location and comment and then post a photo on social media with the following hash tags:
#graspthearts #showofhandsIRE #mycontributinghand #cultureworks #weareirishculture

Keep your cast for a physical display yet to be developed, once it is safe again to do so.

For full details and instructions, including salt dough and paper pulp recipes visit

AAEX Installations (Dundalk)

Two Weeks of Art Installations in Dundalk

15 – 29 November – 41-42 Clanbrassil Street

Long Walk Shopping Centre – The Demesne – County Museum – Train Station  / Park Street


AAEX (Art as Exchange) is a dedicated group of over 30 local artists, who over the last 3 years have provided a variety of local arts initiatives.

From 15th -29th November 2019 AAEX will be showing visual art installations in a central exhibition space at 41-42 Clanbrassil Street and selected locations in Dundalk.

20 AAEX artists have created a wide variety of art works including video installations, sculptures, tree wrappings, projections, hangings in public spaces and performative interactions.

Exhibiting artists: Anna Marie Savage, Bernhard Gaul, Caoimhe O’Dwyer, Caroline Duffy, Ciara Agnew, Geraldine Martin, Grainne Murphy, Heather Cassidy, James McLoughlin, Jebun Nahar, Jenny Slater, John Moloney, Michael Stafford, Niamh Gillespie, Niamh O’Connor, Omin, Petra Berntsson, Samantha Brown, Susan Farrelly, Úna Curley.

Curatorial Support: Anne Mager / the corridor

Open daily 12 – 5 pm (except Sunday 17th November)

Opening reception:

Friday 15th November 7 pm. All welcome.

Other events:

WHERE IS THE ART IN DUNDALK? – 23rd November 5 pm
Panel discussion  hosted by the corridor

What are the working conditions for artists and creatives in County Louth and why are there not more opportunities and experimental spaces for visual artists in Dundalk to present their work? Which ways of collaborations and partnerships can lead to a vital and versatile arts scene? Together with artists and business owners from Dundalk, we want to discuss the infrastructure, needs and challenges for artists in the region.

Tom Muckian, Roe River Books
Paraic Mc Quaid, visual artist and lecturer
Úna Curley, visual artist and AAEX member
Moderation: Anne Mager & Marcel Krueger,

Followed by:

Brochure Presentation // Meet the Artists – 23rd November 6 pm

The exhibition is supported by Dundalk BIDS, Creative Spark, the Dundalk Credit Union, the Local Enterprise Office Louth and Ronan Halpin. AAEX would like to thank the various locations for letting them put up artworks.

Exhibition Video


Exhibition BrochureDownload as PDF

Floor Plan / MapDownload as PDF

floor plan_map

Supported by

Creative_Spark_Logo         BIDS    DCU_master logoLEO_master_LS_Pos Ronan Halpin

First Fortnight 2020: I Am What I Am

On 15th January 2020, Creative Spark, hosted its fourth free First Fortnight event in association with Inspire Wellbeing, Belfast, again inviting everyone to bring their art and creativity out of the home or studio and into the community.

Alongside a musical warm up by Dundalk based singer and artist Sophie Coyle and music and writing presented by Inspire Wellbeing, AAEX members provided participatory visual arts activities and presentations.

  • Sew Happy – creative stitching (Úna Curley)
  • Sweet wrapper collage (Ciara Agnew)
  • Mono-printing (James McLoughlin)
  • Blind drawing (Bernhard Gaul, using postcards by John Moloney)
  • Meet the artist presentation (Claire Conway)

First Fortnight is a charity that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action. It aims to make the First Fortnight of each year synonymous with mental health awareness, challenging prejudice and ending stigma.


AAEX – Installations on the Beach

On Saturday, 22nd June 2019, AAEX members, joined by families and friends, met up at Dunany Beach to avail of the free outdoor exhibition space and make some temporary landscape installations from found materials or items they brought with them (everything brought to the beach was taken away again!)

Participating AAEX members: Heather Cassidy, Caroline Duffy, Bernhard Gaul, Niamh Gillespie, Marie Kelly, Caoimhe McCarthy, Jebun Nahar, Michael Staffordand Drogheda based artist John Moloney.


Live Motion Drawing

On 18th December 2018 AAEX Member Orlaith Culinane organised a live notion drawing session with local dancer Fiona Keenan O’Brian for us as a rare Pre-Xmas treat for the group.

We spent the afternoon at the Long Walk Community Rooms, with Fiona performing for two solid and very intensive dance/drawing sessions. Some photos and resulting art works below.

Fiona is a member of Qintessence Theatre Company
Music: Mikronesia – Landscapes 3: Iceland

Drogheda Arts Festival 2019

AAEX will be present at the Drogheda Arts Festival again. This year we teamed up with Creative Spark to set up a pop-up print studio and lantern making factory as part of Roll Up Roll Up at St. Dominic’s Park.

Try mono printing, screen printing, using lino cuts and other techniques, like drawing, watercolours, calligraphy or collages to assemble your own lantern made from recycled materials.



First Fortnight 2019 – Inside Out Again

First Fortnight is a charity that challenges mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action. It aims to make the first fortnight of each year synonymous with mental health awareness, challenging prejudice and ending stigma.

On 17th January 2019, Creative Spark, in association with Inspire Wellbeing, hosted their third annual First Fortnight event, Inside Out – Again, challenging mental health prejudice through arts and cultural action. The free event provided an opportunity to bring the artist inside out, inviting everyone to bring their art and creativity out of the home or studio and into the community.

Among the 30 or so contributions by poets, singers, performers, a nutritionist and various others were again several provided by AAEX members:

  • Sew Happy: a perpetual participatory stitching project (Úna Curley)
  • Flower painting with textile designer Caroline Duffy
  • Participatory mono printing workshop (Bernhard Gaul)
  • Nonsensical Board Game – a game that challenges you to come up with the rules (Susan Farrelly)
  • Voice performance (Ali Warner)
  • Meet the artist presentation: Photography and Cyanotype (Samantha Brown)
  • Meet the artist presentation: Art Therapy (Jenny Slater)

Hands-on and Other Gatherings

AAEX members meet more or less regularly every 2 weeks. The usual meeting date is Wednesday, 7pm, but we are flexible when needed and recently started adding morning gatherings, which are better suited for some members.

Gatherings are sometimes of a social nature or we meet for exhibition openings, often for our own members or other local artists, but mostly we meet in the Creative Spark print studio to “get our hands dirty”.

Hands-on gatherings are often of a skills-exchange nature, with somebody hosting a demonstration or workshop. But at times we also meet to produce something together, or even just bring in our own projects and work alongside each other.

Activities so far included (amongst others):

  • Collaborative drawing
  • Paper-cut screen printing
  • Screen printing using acetates and hand drawn designs
  • Lino cuts
  • Mono printing
  • Stencil cutting for spray painting
  • Digital design: vector graphics, Photoshop, colour separations,…
  • Wood cuts
  • Photo polymer etching
  • Postcard printing
  • Making artist books
  • Large scratch card preparations
  • Collages
  • Zine making