Land-shape Dreaming

Echo Echo Dance Theatre, Derry~Londonderry.

Launch at 25 May 2024 7.00pm

Showing from: 25 May 2024

Showing to: 16 August 2024

We are all connected to the land. Growing up between the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal and around the border of Derry, has had a huge impact on who I am as a person, as an artist and on how I live.

My latest body of work ‘Land-shape Dreaming’ is in homage to my birthplace.

View the list of artworks

I have spent many years living away from Donegal, calling other places ‘home’. I know what it feels like trying to carve a life for your family, in a country where you can’t speak the language.

Early one January morning, waiting for a tram from Heidelberg to Mannheim, I was struck by a wave of memory so strong it pulled me back to the Inishowen coast. It called to me, as I stood by a busy tramline, at the centre of a bustling city, in the heart of Germany.

In my mind, I could vividly see and smell Atlantic waves crashing on rocks at Malin Head and realised I needed to go home.

What does it mean to dream of land by shape, colour and form? To re-live landscape as something that’s alive and breathing in your memory… a cherished companion to your past.

There are parts of ground around this peninsula where I sense I belong and visit repeatedly, some at specific times of year. These are places I’ve spent time alone, gathering ivy, building huts and dams in small streams, crying to myself or laughing out loud. They are unremarkable – a bend in a stream, a space beneath specific trees, coves you cannot reach unless you camp out, are awake and running at 5.30am with the sun as the tide goes out, grassy cliff faces I’ve climbed with my bare hands. Many are not known to other people and my relationship to them is highly personal.

I understand that people feel they own land but in my opinion it’s more honest to say that they belong to it.

The ground itself is indifferent to ownership, it simply endures.

There are places you visit and feel a connection, some part of your being sensing that ‘belonging’ – even if you’ve never been there before. Perhaps this is why so many creative people, from all over the world, refer to Inishowen as their ‘soul home’, settling or returning often.

There are places I stand and feel that all versions of myself are there, together at the one time, in that moment. There is a great depth to the dimension of timelessness in that feeling, a great sense of being owned by the very earth, truly belonging to a place.

This is what I’ve tried to capture for my exhibition ‘Land-shape dreaming’.

Remembering the ground that raised me
Feeling damp grass beneath bare feet
and the smell of the earth
by that riverbank.

Fishing for trout
in those shaded brown waters
and cooking on driftwood fires.

Crouched beneath the fairy thorn,
In moonlit fields behind that house.
Scouring sandy and pebbled shores,
along the Swilly and Foyle
where wind sweeps across my face,
salt air reminds me of life and living,
carrying loved ones in memory.

Devouring potatoes boiled in sea water,
all salt crystals and dripping butter.
Swimming at the Isle, rain pelting your skin
and laughing with storm clouds.

‘Land-shape Dreaming’ is based on the sensory processing of shared experience between the Inishowen landscape and me, the artist, as a child and adult.

This collection of paintings is reminiscent of a life spent engaging with the landscape. They translate thought into imagery which communicate an intimate understanding between the artist and her home ground.

A process of remembering from before, during and after the gesture of painting and mark making.


A landscape oil painting by Sinéad Smyth