Awards & Testamonials

Feedback on Seen - Unseen goes Racing August 2nd 2022 visit to John A. O'Donoghue's Yard

It was good to have an experience of art beyond the normal gallery experience. This is especially appreciated by someone who is blind and cannot normally experience the whole world of horse breeding. I think this is a legitimate Area under art appreciation. After all it brings to mind the old perennial question of the difference between art and life.
There were so many aspects to the experience. The highlight was meeting and touching that magnificent animal. It was akin to  experiencing a great work of art, a Living breathing presence of a unique creature, bred over many generations to be its best expression of itself. The sheer energy, strength Beauty and power emanating from this horse was something to behold. 
 Claire, Barbara, John and Jodi brought us into a world we could never otherwise have experienced with a level of detail, explanation of touch, smell  and sound. 
It was also interesting to meet the farrier who was shodding the horse as we stayed close and to feel the bridal, saddle and understand the craftsmanship of each added to the overall experience. Even down to the clothes and colours worn by the jockeys and to walk around the starting gate or walkers which were a type of travelator the horses used to cool down.  Then while relaxing with tea and coffee we were able to listen to a particular recording of one of the horses winning a race which really added to the atmosphere and excitement of the occasion.
All in all it was an unforgettable experience and has us really looking forward to the race day on Saturday.
Gerry Kerr

Feedback on SÚIL Lines of Longitude

 Thinking about doing this feedback on SÚIL Lines of Longitude has been helpful in that I have taken time to think about the Seen Unseen project as a whole and Lines of longitude in particular. Although I have been a participant in Seen Unseen for a few years now, this was my first experience of SÚIL. Previous to attending the residential, I had not grasped the concept of SÚIL but went with an open mind and much anticipation. Artist Clare has built up such a powerful rapport with each of  us as participants over  our many zoom sessions and numerous gallery visits. She set the tone for the SÚIL Lines of Longitude  workshop by making us all feel such an  integral part of the process.  Clare herself was so enthusiastic and focused  in preparation for the day that her excitement was contagious and left me feeling fully engaged.

 I liked that the SÚIL Lines of Longitude  residential was set on Rathlin Island, it was my first visit there. Rathlin is a most peaceful and restful place and we were blessed with ideal calm and dry weather conditions. During the SÚIL Lines of Longitude work itself, I found Clare’s instructions clear and easy to follow. I felt safe  due to the provision of plastic gloves for holding the rope. Given that I have light perception only, I found the exercise very powerful for my other senses. Keeping one foot in the water and one foot on the sand was a challenging but most grounding experience.  It was a great exercise in  the Power of Now. While focusing on my feet as I walked on sand and water, i could not be thinking, or worrying about anything else. In this way, it felt like meditating. Clare’s passion led us on a sacred journey with her. When she asked us to be silent and really take note of the sounds and sensations in order to anchor them and enable us to return to that time and place at any point in the future, I was suitably moved. Her words of guidance helped me slow right down and really feel the texture and temperature under foot. At the same time, with my one hand moving gently along the rope, I was visualising the full 200metres of rope and picturing the other participants socially distanced, moving forward at snails pace while experiencing sand, water, sounds and smells of the sea. There is something bonding about such a shared experience. Later when we assembled at the outdoor reception and the artist placed the finished ball of rope in my arms, the point of SÚIL Lines of Longitude became clear.


I would describe the final piece of work as a Giant ball of string

When I held the work it made me feel proud and privleged to have contributed to it’s creation.  It felt heavy, cold, wet and sandy. When I passed the piece on to the next person, lots of wet sand remained on my hands and on my lap. This sensation is still vivid in my mind. Sand fell on the wooden floor at my feet and I remember the grainy sensation between my footwear and the wooden floor. Whoever brushed up after we left the room would have had quite a volume of sand to remove!

The piece had a distinctive salty smell of the sea. I imagined the heavy, wet rope drying out very slowly over the following weeks, maybe months, shrinking in size and tightening like a ball of string. I would imagine that there will always be sand falling from  this sphere, so it will leave it’s mark wherever it travels and wherever it is  displayed. It will shed sand each time it is moved, so it will impact on many people who come into contact with it, in quite the same way as we human beings shed skin. It almost seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. This ball of rope will be travelling the full lenght of Ireland, it’s journey is more  Rathlin Island to Cork rather than the usual Malin Head to Misen Head. I look forward to holding this work some time in the future when it is lighter, warmer and fully dried out .  that will be an entirely different experience.


As previously discussed with Clare and the group, I am interested in choosing new pieces of art for the walls of my home. Following this project, I now know that the pieces I want need to have some tactile quality. I  prefer not to settle for a 2d image when plenty of art offers rich texture. The search is now on to find tactile pieces which appeal to my sense of touch . I am very excited to embark on this adventure.

I asked Clare why she chose to work with blind and partially sighted people, her answer really impressed me. In my 30 years working in the field of sight loss, people  usually become drawn to working with us because they have a friend or family member living with visual impairment. Clare answered that as her studies were in visual arts, she was inspired to wonder what if the work was not visual.  What an original perspective. This gives her work great integrity, especially with blind people.

During the residential, A conversation I had with Maeve from the void gallery also coloured my thinking about my pre conceived ideas about art. Previously, I found it difficult to comprehend art and struggled to find some significance and meaning. Maeve took the mystery out of this life long notion by stating that it is not necessary to ‘get’ the work, instead, simply take away some aspect of it that strikes you. How liberating and what an aha moment. 

I have since visited Void gallery and where previous to this conversation, I might have been underwhelmed by the simplicity of the current ‘Beat a Retreat’ exhibition, I enjoyed and appreciated it.  This new attitude was As a direct  result of  this conversation with Maeve and the SÚIL Lines of Longitude  residential.

I have overcome my mental block about art being the realm of artists and upper middle class people. As I walk past the front door of the void Gallery with friends, I now feel inclined to ask them to walk inside with me and explore . Art Galleries definitely feel more accessible to me now.

Thanks to Clare and the Seen Unseen work, I now see art and creativity in a whole new light.

Annmarie Houstoun


Seen – Unseen Collaborator Testamonial

 Letter of Support for Clare McLaughlin’s Seen – Unseen  programme: Access to Arts in Gallery Spaces

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Doreen Kieran. I’m 80 years old. In May 2012, I was a busy, healthy, entirely independent 71-yearold, adjusting slowly to recent widowhood, taking care of my 2 beloved grandchildren and very actively involved in my community. But in June 2012, suddenly and unexpectedly, I became visually impaired. As a result of giant cell arteritis, alas, undiagnosed until after the damage had been done, I have no sight whatsoever in one eye; in the other eye, I have 10-15% peripheral vision, affording me some light and shape perception. My daughter is typing this letter for me.

In June 2012, I really could not anticipate a future for myself in my new darkness. The loss of independence was an enormous blow. That I have, to a great extent, adjusted to my impairment and learned to live a full – if radically different – life, is a testament to the expert support of a number of organisations and individuals committed to enriching the lives of visually impaired people. Chief among those organisations is the NCBI – and it was through the NCBI that I first become involved with  Clare McLaughlin’s Seen – Unseen Art Project.

In  November 2014, with the encouragement of the NCBI, I attended my first Seen – Unseen session in the  National Gallery of Ireland, Merrion Square. To be honest, I was reluctant as, before losing my sight, my involvement with the visual arts had been limited to bringing first my children, then my grandchildren to galleries and museums; I had no training in art and believed that it was something for ‘other people’, something I wouldn’t understand. I certainly couldn’t envisage any circumstances under which I – now able to see so little – could possibly engage with art. But how wrong I was! In that first session, using the marvellous tactile templates, I ‘saw’ and ‘felt’ my first Picasso painting! And then we sat down and discussed it! At home that evening, I could describe it to my grandson, who’d been introduced to the same painting during a school visit to the National Gallery and talk with him how Picasso took normal, everyday objects and combined them into wonderful, bizarre amalgams! Since that first session with Clare McLaughlin, I’ve attended interactive sessions and workshops in  The Trove, IMMA (Jan 2015), where I walked in a ‘field’ of Ogham Stones and, wearing gloves, felt markings made by 5th/6th Century artists and tried to decipher what they might be saying to us, across the space and silence of 1500 years; return visits to the  National Gallery (Sept 2015, March 2016, Jun 2017, Jan 2018); the  Crawford Gallery, in Cork (Oct 2015), where by being allowed to feel sculptures I came to a first, amazed appreciation of the mastery of the sculptor in recreating not just the human form, but the desperation of Poseidon and his sons. And, since then, I’ve joined Seen Unseen for events at the  Butler Gallery, Kilkenny (Dec 2015), the  Douglas Hyde Gallery (Jun 2016), the  Glucksman Gallery, Cork (Dec 2016, April 2019), the  Douglas Hyde Gallery (Jan 2017, Mar 2018), the Hugh Lane Gallery (Apr 2017), the Crawford Gallery (Feb 2019, May 2019), IMMA (Nov 2018). With Clare’s Seen – Unseen projects, I’ve crossed borders (to the  MAC in Belfast, Nov 2017) and seas (to the  Birmingham Museum& Art Gallery, April 2018). I’ve joined other visually impaired people in off-shore events, outside of galleries, hosted by Claire, on Sherkin Island in May 2016 and on  Cape Clear in August 2018. Even COVID hasn’t stopped Clare’s Seen Unseen activities: in  November 2020 I’ve participated in online (Zoom) sessions with both  VOID, Derry and the  Crawford Gallery, Cork.

Through Clare McLaughlin’s Seen – Unseen, I have had the chance to explore another world, a world I’d never even known existed when I was sighted and which I would simply have assumed was inaccessible to me as a visually impaired person. I have engaged with living artists and their work; I’ve discovered artistic treasures in Irish cross-border and UK museums and galleries, staffed by enthusiasts who want everyone to know and enjoy their collections. The sessions are also an opportunity to meet with others with different levels of visual impairment, to hear their interpretation.

My only regret is that more people don’t know about and have the opportunity to engage with – and be enriched, in so very many ways, by Seen – Unseen.

Yours faithfully,



Artist Clare Mc Laughlin



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