Paul Henry 'Clouds at Sunset' 1910-11

Paul Henry 'Clouds at Sunset' 1910-11

Cartographic Translations is a series of three dimensional textile sculptures highlighting the connection between land, cartography and identity.

My first piece takes from two Irish cultural references, 'Translations', a play by Irish playwright Brian Freil, and the landscape painting 'Clouds at Sunset' by Paul Henry.

Translations is set in 1833 in the fictional town of Ballybeg, County Donegal, when the Ordinance Survey (OS) were mapping Ireland six inches to one mile. The play is about language and miscommunication as well as heritage and identity. The OS employed a mixture of English and Irish to complete the mapping. Irish place names were being replaced with English translations of them, or, in many cases, not translations but words that were more palatable for English speaking people, yet had no meaning in either Irish or English. Altering the place names in Ireland meant not only taking away the actual meaning of the words, but also meant removing heritage and identity.

Colour has always been an integral part of mapping as it cannot only determine whether a map is visually stunning, but also determine its usefulness. I decided to not use the colours traditionally associated with OS mapping, but instead, looked to another cultural source for inspiration. Irish landscape painter Paul Henry is known for his depiction of the West of Ireland. His paintings display both the solitude and the overwhelming beauty of The West. I was drawn to ‘Clouds at Sunset’, which contains a scale of mauves, beiges and blues. I dyed my fabric gradients of these colours.


The squares are ‘shards of a lost translation’, and the meaning of the Irish culture and language is being disinherited. This does not only apply to a specific time in Irish culture but is a certainty with every culture. Cultures change and move on. Our maps move with them. We build another layer.