Róisín Murphy, Sinead O’Connor and Aisling Bea feature in tapestries celebrating Irish influence on British culture

Róisín Murphy, Sinead O’Connor and Aisling Bea feature in tapestries celebrating Irish influence on British culture

A STUNNING pair of tapestries which celebrate the influence of the Irish on British culture will go on public display in London for the first time this week.

Created by the multi-disciplinary artists known as Electronic Sheep, their work, The Kilburn Tapestries and Notifications Off, will be shown at Middlesex University London from May 19 until May 31.

Described as a “triptych that celebrates the Irish creative community and its influence on the London music and arts scene”, The Kilburn Tapestries portrays a collage of famous Irish faces and buildings from different points in time.

Words by Irish playwright Enda Walsh scroll across the left-hand section of the tapestry, which also features the second-hand furniture shop where music promoter Vince Power started out in business, as well as his iconic Mean Fiddler venue.

Notifications Off is a more surreal affair, which depicts people, places and objects that bring happiness in times of sadness and activities that boost mental health.

Electronic Sheep's Helen Delany and Brenda Aherne pictured by their tapestry with Vince Power and Gus Curtis

The artists explain that the aim of the piece was to “open up a conversation around mental health awareness”.

All the images for the pieces have been hand-drawn by Electronic Sheep's Helen Delany and Brenda Aherne and the tapestries have been knitted using yarn left over from their fashion collections.

Delany and Ahern - childhood friends and National College of Art and Design, Dublin graduates, who both specialise in graphic knits - founded Electronic Sheep in 1998.

The Kilburn Tapestries was created for Brent’s 2020 Year of Culture, while Notifications Off was commissioned by mental health charity First Fortnight and The Arts Council of Ireland.

They were intended to work as a pair and this month sees them exhibited together for the first time.

Of the Irish artists featured in the work, Delany, a Fashion Communications and Styling lecturer at Middlesex University, confirmed: “We handpicked people who represent positivity, inclusion and change.

“Vince [Power] is very much about advice and kindness. He’s a brave person and super-supportive of our work."

Electronic Sheep's Helen Delany and Brenda Aherne

She added: “Gavin Friday of The Virgin Prunes is someone we looked to since we were children as an inspiration.

“Aisling Bea supported us as a small brand. She’s an ally for charities and a powerful voice for change.

“Her series ‘This Way Up’ about mental health brings natural humour to this serious subject.”

And the artists reveal that it was a stage manager friend who put them in touch with singer-songwriter Róisín Murphy, who is depicted in Notifications Off in the blue platform shoes she happened to be wearing at her recent Royal Albert Hall gig.

“Róisín is a force of nature," Delany said.

"She cheered me up during the lockdowns with Instagram videos of herself dancing around her front room."

The artists are excited to exhibit the two pieces together for the first time

Accompanying the exhibition on Friday, May 19 there will be panel talks reflecting on mental health, identity and sustainability, with speakers including founder of Fashion Revolution Orsola de Castro, and Channel 4 Equity and Inclusion lead Maria St Louis.

Ahead of the exhibition opening, Aherne said: “Both tapestries were exhibited separately in leading galleries in Ireland and were very well received.

“To exhibit the tapestries together in London, we needed not only a large gallery space but a venue equal in prestige to the previous spaces.

“We are honoured that Middlesex University could accommodate us and facilitate the panel talks too.”