What is Shape?
This particular dazzle of artists is currently housed in the masonic hall in dear old Skibbereen, in County Cork, and while we are not wholly defined by our current casing, it is a particularly uniquely historical one. Built in the 1860's as a lecture hall our current premises was bought by the freemasons, specifically the Fifteenth Lodge of Ireland, our current landlords. Over the years it has been used as a lecture hall, badminton hall, drill facility for the Irish military reserve and storage facility before becoming our studio in 2013. The lodge still use their meeting rooms at the upper rear of the building, which include hand painted stencil work in a style unique to Irish Masonic Halls and a stained glass ceiling panel, renovated after fire damage in 2006, whilst the rear downstairs offices are occupied by the Department of Social Welfare. (ref. munsterfreemasons)
So here we work, sharing a space with the freemasons and the dole office. The studio is a large hall, divided into quarters by temporary partitions to create three working spaces and a gallery space, with a balcony for books, tea and sofas. High ceilings and large windows create an uplifting feeling of space and light that in the summer is magical, and in the winter is bloody cold.
All three Shape artists are individuals. We do not have a manifesto, or a common goal, other than to pursue our own artistic endeavours. We do all maintain parallel careers in arts facilitation, working with, between the three of us, schools, young people, older people, mental health service users, and hospital patients amongst others, which subsidise our ability to afford the luxury of a space in which to make art.
So that is where we work, and what else we do, but I still haven't really touched on my original question: what is Shape? Shape can be a noun (the quality of a distinct object or body in having an external surface or outline of specific form or figure) or a verb (to give definite form, shape, organization, or character to; fashion or form). Shape is a fundamental component of artwork, along with colour, line, tone and so on. It cannot be denied that all three of us use shapes in our artwork on a regular basis, so in that way it is a descriptive title. It's use as a verb, to shape, in some ways defines the activity of the artist who is engaged in shaping their artwork. (ref. dictionary)
So Shape is an appropriate name for us, for while we are not defined by any particular shape – the artists may change, the venue may change, the style of the work may change- we together create a shape. A shape of artists. Perhaps that is the collective noun I was looking for all along.