Majella O’Neill Collins: Allegory of the MV Alta
Majella O’Neill Collins lives and works on the island of Sherkin, just off the West Cork coast. Her work relates directly to her experience of living on an island, surrounded by water, and defined by the ever-changing weather and light. Majella makes paintings which try to make sense of what it means to live in this remote, rural and beautiful part of the world. Her approach is based on intuition and experimentation where painting is a means of reshaping the experience of the world, of examining, formalising and giving shape to perception.
Majella’s current body of work imagines the journey of the MV Alta, a merchant vessel which was abandoned at sea, 1,400 miles south-east of Bermuda in October 2018 after suffering main engine failure, and washed ashore at Ballycotton, Co. Cork during Storm Dennis in February 2020, where her wreckage remains.
The mysterious vessel is a modern-day ghost ship having been abandoned by its 10 person crew while en route from Greece to Haiti. The Alta drifted for 496 days over a distance of 2,300 nautical miles before running aground in Ballyandreen Bay. The vessel’s exact position and distance travelled during this time is unknown and unrecorded and can only be estimated. Despite exhaustive enquiries by Irish authorities, the MV Alta’s owners have never been found. The vessel, unclaimed, un-salvaged, is slowly being broken apart off the cliffs through the action of the wind and waves.
Majella’s paintings capture the plight of the ship, evoking moments of that time adrift at the mercy of the sea, before being washed ashore to be broken on the rocky Irish coast.
WCAC acknowledges the financial support of Arts Council Ireland and Cork County Council in making these exhibitions possible.
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