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In an attempt to find the right words...

Artist Name(s) James L. Hayes
Artwork title In an attempt to find the right words...
Context/Background Áras Inis Gluaire is a building in Belmullet which houses an arts centre, with theatre and exhibition spaces and also the town’s library and court services. The large internal reception and entrance to the arts centre was decided upon for an internal artwork for this commission. The elegant and modern building along with the large open internal space offered a rare opportunity to create a substantial permanent internal artwork.

In an attempt to find the right words... was created by artist James L Hayes and commissioned by Mayo County Council for Áras Inis Gluaire. The work consists of over 2000 bronze cast pencils which appear to have been launched (dart-like) onto the wall. The tip of the pencil touches the white wall as a pencil would ordinarily touch paper. The hand of the artist is detached from the pencils and this lends them a ghostly or uncanny quality as if they are operating of their own accord.

This work arrests the point of contact between pencil and wall, the pencils are poised yet no mark has been made and the pencils remain frozen in this position. The cast pencils cannot make drawings and so their normal function is frustrated. By casting multiple pencils in bronze Hayes draws on the wall using the pencils themselves, they form a pattern or a type of large scale drawing. Hayes uses sculpture to communicate ideas concerning drawing and writing. The pencils undulate across the long horizontal wall in an almost neurotic fashion, coming together in clusters and dispersing again. The overall affect is fluid or rhizomatic. Hayes’s pencils hint at an inert desire and longing to create, while also connoting the frustration which sometimes accompanies such endeavours.

Among the 2,000 cast pencils are a number of donated pencils. The public were invited to submit significant pencils to be cast and included in the project by the artist. Many of the written stories behind the donated pencils are poignant, the objects donated are remnants of past experiences, remembered for their significance. The cast pencils become relics and mementos. This also adds to their ghostly quality. Each donated pencil is a trace comparable to a photograph or another indexical mark that refers to someone and something past, many carry fingerprints and marks made by their owners.

Hayes treatment of these objects respects and elevates their status, as well as highlighting the pencils use in everyday situations and in other forms of everyday communication that are not art based. The work brings together various expressions of creativity, including ideas, written memories and aspirations from a number of participants. Hayes also conducted drawing workshops that utilised digital technology with young people in the Bellmullet area. The participants were invited to leave a mark on the pencil they used and these were also cast and included in the final work.

Drawing can be seen as a primary form of artistic endeavour. Drawing is often thought of as a preparatory medium, a tool used for mapping ideas and sketches. The pencil is both the most humble artistic tool, and one of the first tools employed in the early stages of creative expression from childhood onwards. Hayes elevates the status of this object casting it in a permanent and expensive material. The first mark one makes is often made with a pencil. Hayes locates this pivotal moment, signifying the birth or early stages of an idea. This moment can be thought of as the will to create, to find form for an expression of thought, to find the right words.


James L Hayes is a Cork-based artist with a BA from Limerick School of Art and Design and an MA from DeMontfort University in the UK. He has extensive experience exhibiting nationally and internationally in galleries and has a received a number of public commissions. He is currently a lecturer in Fine Art at Crawford College of Arts and Design.

Commission Type Local Authority
Commissioner Name Mayo County Council
Commissioning process Limited competition via Mayo County Council Public Art Panel
Project commission dates September 30, 2009 - September 21, 2010
Public Presentation dates September 21, 2010 - January 1, 1970
Artform Visual Arts
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 10000 - 30000 euro
Project commission start date 30/09/2009
Project commission end date 21/09/2010
Location Áras Inis Gluaire
County Mayo
Town Belmullet
Content contributor(s) Gaynor Seville
Relationship to project Public Art Co-ordinator for Mayo County Council
Public engagement

The public were invited to submit significant pencils to be cast and included in the project by the artist.