Welcome to the Cave: Where Art and Literature Meet

Cave Writings is a Dublin-based “nomadic tribe of creatives, of various mediums, who regularly come together and share their work.” Meeting at various spots around town every two weeks or so, the Cave provides a casual atmosphere where people can meet, share ideas, collaborate on projects, and gain new insight and perspective on their work. In November, Molloy and Dowling on Kildare Street, D2, will be hosting the Cave’s first project-based exhibition: Cave Paintings, in which ten writers were paired with ten artists to create new pieces of art and literature, in response to each others’ works.

I recently met with the organiser of Cave Writings, writer D. Joyce-Ahearne, along with Cave regulars: poet Niall McCabe, and artist Ann Ensor (also partners in this collaborative project) to discuss the upcoming exhibition.

Cave Writings - headstuff.org
Cave Writings at The Barricade Inn

Let’s start with a bit of an overview on Cave Writings, how did it come about?

D: “It started in February of this year, and it came about because there were loads of great events going on in Dublin, but they’re very much about performance. There’s a stage, a performer, audience… but there weren’t really any places you could go if you didn’t want to perform. If you just wanted to share some work that’s unfinished, or maybe just an idea, or if you just wanted to meet people. That’s as much a part, if not the main part, of what we’re doing. We wanted to have just a creative space to meet up, rather than say, a performance space or event.”


Where do you meet?

D: “We started in KC Peaches, in the downstairs Wine Cave, and then we did some at the Ink Factory. We’ve met up in Phoenix Park, we’ve done some in our house, we did one at Lilliput Press, and the Barricade Inn, which is where we’re based now… but then we’re also looking to do one in Marshe’s Library. We’re always kind of hopping around, keeping it as casual as possible.”

When did you decide to start a project like Cave Paintings?

D: “It was people who were coming by all the time, they were friends at this point, and we’d built up a bit of a community. We had a real core group of writers, so we said, let’s take this a step further and bring artists into it. Initially, I had interviewed an artist for the paper at Trinity, and we just stayed in touch. So we had himself and some of his mates come by and present their work –  and it just added a new dimension. Basically that’s where the idea for Cave Paintings came about, to try to encourage collaboration between writers and artists. We went to the NCAD graduation exhibit in June, and picked ten that we really liked. That was it, we linked up our ten writers with ten artists in hope that, in the project, everyone would respond to a piece of work and create something new.”

Cave Writings - headstuff.org
Cave Writings at The Barricade Inn

So each pair will produce two separate peices?

D: “Right, the ten artists with the ten writers, each one sharing a piece of work and the other responding to it with. The writers we already knew really well, having worked with them for months and months now and getting to know their work. But the artists, we basically only knew from a few pages of paper… but we paired them up, and it seems to have worked really well.”

Niall: “It was a brilliant pairing, honestly. After we met we just clicked,” nodding to Ann. “We’ve got lot of the same interests and impulses behind our work. It was beautiful to meet someone, who works in a different discipline who is examining the same ideas that you are.”

Cave Writings - headstuff.org
Niall McCabe reading at Cave Writings

What kind of art will be displayed in Cave Paintings?

D: “We’ve got a mix of sculptures, printers, painters, and one filmmaker. We said, there are no limits, no creative constraints.”

Ann: “I’ve taken starting points from poems,” nodding to Niall, “and from conversations we’ve had, and the ideas grew from there. I think a lot of my ideas came out as well just by talking together and sharing our work.”

Niall: “It’s very organic that way, isn’t it?”

Ann: “Yes, and so the work is not representational of any one poem… but numerous things that we have in common.”

What about the literature, what kind of work will the writers be contributing?

D: “I’d say we’ve got probably 6 poets, and 4 work with prose. We’ve had all sorts of writings in previous Cave meet ups, like science and sociology papers… but I think it will be mostly poetry for the exhibition.”

How will the writers be displaying their work during the exhibition?

D: “We’ve got five writers performing on the opening day, and five performing on the closing. We’re thinking about having recordings for the other two days, as a lot of the work are audio-visual pieces.”

How long have the pairs been working together on this?

D: “The idea came about in June, and we paired people up in July… it’s been about 4 months of creative time, the deadline for work will be the week before the exhibition.”

Ann Ensor - headstuff.org
An Example of Ann Ensor’s work; from the NCAD Graduate Exhibit 2015

Niall and Ann, what have you been working on specifically?

Ann: “I’m working on a sculpture work, but I’m hoping people will be able to interact with it. It’s based on a poem that he wrote, called Jigsaw, and I’ve made this sculpture like a DNA molecule that fits together like jigsaw pieces. It’s made of latex, and I made so each piece of the jigsaw a different colour, or a little bit different in some way… and the ends are completely open, so people can move about it, change its direction, or add to it.”

Niall: “It’s a starting point of an early poem, Jigsaw, but through our conversations I’ve been able to make new work… like I said it was a very organic process, and through this partnership I’ve been able to come up with new ideas, new experiences that are generated by our interactions. The smallest things, the smallest fragments can turn into so much more than that.”

Sounds like it’s really opened up some creative doors for you?

Niall: “Oh definitely, I was working on this one poem for example, and I knew what I wanted in terms of the basic structure of it, and the feel of it. I’d been working for weeks, had the title of the poem like months before – but I just couldn’t get it, and I had one conversation with Ann, and that night, bang! Wrote the poem out of nothing – I just needed that back and forth, that process, the multiple directions you can take… Just getting her perspective on it really brought it together.”

Cave Writings - headstuff.org
Cave Writings at The Lilliput Press

These collaborations have really changed your outlook on your creative disciplines?

Niall: I think for me at least… because I’m responding to someone, I’m very conscious of the quality of the piece itself. I’m talking to a lot of other writers, getting their opinions as well, because it’s not just a poem for me – it’s a representation of my response to another’s work.

Ann: “You change the work more too, I find, to make it more open-ended in its interpretation… and it’s great because it gives you a reason to makes something.”

D: It changes your perspective once you start engaging with the writing… Like, I enjoy going to galleries, but I go as a viewer, not as a visual artist. But when you’re responding with words, it makes you reconsider every piece of art you’ve ever seen… as to what you can really, get out of the experience. I can relate to this in a much more creative and constructive way, rather than a passive way which I may have viewed it previously.

What plans have you got for after the Cave Paintings exhibition?

D: “Well this is all we’re working on at the moment… but along with our regular Cave meet-ups, we’d maybe like to hold a Cave Paintings exhibition every year. To make it a regular thing, so we can continue to encourage this creative collaboration… and the artists and writers could really plan it out in advance, and produce some really great stuff, knowing they’d have an exhibition at the end of it.”

Cave Paintings
will be held at Molloy & Dowling on Kildare St.
from 16th to 20th November 2015
Live readings will be held o
n the 16th and 20th


Want to learn more about Cave Writings? Read this handy manifesto to see what they’re all about, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


All images provided by Ann Ensor and Cave Writings.