Catarina Araújo.

The emerging artist bursary affords time and space for an early career artist to reflect on their arts and health practice. We are delighted to announce that visual socially engaged artist Catarina Araújo has been awarded the 2023 bursary, which is funded by the HSE and the Arts Council.

Catarina’s practice explores physical and psychological wellbeing and human behaviour. She is curious about people and how they react to life experiences. Catarina has a particular interest in researching the impact of burnout in society. Recognising the value of having moments to pause and play in our daily lives, Catarina is exploring artistic methods to provide these opportunities.

In 2021, Catarina designed her first arts and health project, Cocooning: Catch a Breath, a collaborative, socially engaged art project that aimed to understand the impacts of Covid-19 on mental health professionals. It evolved through an ethos of trust, involving a humanistic perspective to address overlooked needs and define a sense of community, connection and solidarity.

Cocooning: Catch a Breath, Workshop Session, creating cocoons, reclaiming spaces to rest. Image credit: Catarina Araújo.

The project began with research, reaching out and starting conversations with mental health professionals, funded by an Arts Council Agility Award. In 2022, Catarina delivered creative workshops that responded to the group’s needs, supported by an Arts in Context Award from Cork City Council.

The first workshop focused on reclaiming words and the power of words. The word ‘cocoon’ and the lack of physical space were some of the things the group decided with Catarina that they wanted to reclaim. Participants were challenged to visualise and create their own cocoon model (small-scale sculpture) with the premise that everything was possible.

‘Teach Gealt contains a soft covered inner sanctum defended by a sharp bright exterior of varying fragmented attempts to exude optimism amidst a core of quiet processing. The title, ‘mental asylum’, (or Teach Gealt as Gaeilge) linguistically mirrors this project as both cocoon and asylum have been similarly employed to project an optimistic cover for a more complex issue, causing a deviation from their original associations with sanctuary and protection.’ - Kate Murphy, Participant, Cocooning: Catch a Breath. Image credit: Catarina Araújo.

During the final phase of the project, funded by an AIC Scheme Project Realisation Award from the Arts Council / Create, the cocoons were reconfigured on a human scale to be used as a physical space. Together, Catarina and the group made an immersive art installation that was selected by Sample-Studios to be exhibited in their gallery, the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, in partnership with Cork Public Museum, during March and April 2023.

‘The Womb Space was an organic form emerging from an original concept of an angular object lined with wool. Her edges became smooth, and she became more contained, and containing. A safe space within which I could find comfort, self-soothe and within this enclosed space observe the night sky, an expansive world within a nurturing cocoon. This has been a tangible sensory experience, where I have explored my own needs, what I have needed to feel safe throughout a time when nothing felt safe, and feelings of fear and guilt occupied our circadian existences.’ - Alice Taylor, Participant, Cocooning: Catch a Breath. Image credit: Séan Daly.

After two years of dedicating time and energy to Cocooning: Catch a Breath, the bursary will allow Catarina the space to process and reflect on everything that happened within the project and outside of it, to understand and learn from what worked and what didn’t. As this was her first time working with a community group, developing a concept, researching, having conversations and creating artwork from, with and for a group, Catarina has found it difficult to close this door. She is aware that while there is part of her that wants to keep growing the work, there is another part that doesn’t want to look back, due to fatigue and a need for perspective.

As Catarina’s art practice evolves inside of a socially-engaged and arts and health spectrum and her interest in wellbeing solidifies, she would like to take some time to reconnect and nurture herself, feed her creativity, understand what her next project might be, and how she can make her practice more sustainable.

Catarina will share learning arising from the bursary with the wider arts and health community via in early 2024.

Cocooning: Catch a Breath, exhibition opening with from left to right: Caroline Newman, Alice Taylor, Catarina Araújo, Johnny Goodwin and Kate Murphy. Image credit: Séan Daly.

Catarina is currently a Studios of Sanctuary resident at Sample-Studios, funded by Cork Arts Fund at the Community Foundation for Ireland.


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