Note: I was an arts columnist with the Limerick Leader newspaper, publishing interviews, reviews and features for a general audience. This article was originally published on 28/04/2016.

Supermarket is an art fair in Stockholm, Sweden. This year is its 10 year anniversary, and was marked with an added emphasis on talks and meetings between the participants. Yet, the story behind the who, what, when, where, why, and how of this annual meeting of artists and artist-run art galleries from across the world begins before it was founded. Supermarket is an odd type of art fair. Most art fairs are a purely commercial event, with big names and even bigger prices.

Market is Stockholm’s commercial art fair, which Supermarket was originally founded in opposition to. Since then Supermarket has grown into its own distinct thing, attracting larger audiences and more media attention. What attracts the artists and art galleries is something unique; no one goes to this Supermarket to buy or sell.

This year was the third time Ormston House has attended. Ormston House keeps returning to Supermarket to find other like-minded people. As a non-profit, independent arts organisation we work in a very different way than private commercial galleries, or public municipal galleries, museums and institutions. It’s a rare opportunity for independent arts organisations to come together, build closer connections and develop international network of organisations. And most of all, share in the passion found in grassroots groups across the world.

The participation of Ormston House in Supermarket art fair is a great opportunity to showcase Irish artists on an international stage, as well as developing strong links between the Irish art scene and those abroad. Throughout the years, we’ve had artists exhibit with other groups and we’ve founded artists and organisations to work with. It’s hugely beneficial, allowing us to share new ideas, and debate and discuss the problems we’re facing.

Ormston House brought the artist Vanessa Donoso López. She was originally born in Barcelona, but moved to Ireland about 11 years ago. All of her artwork shows the effects of this change, from coming to terms with a new culture and memories of ones origins, and even, the playful potentials between languages, meanings, and mis-understandings.

Her installation was titled EYE BEFORE E EXCEPT AFTER SEEing Stockholm, which was a play on a previous exhibition at the Limerick City Gallery of Art in 2015. The installation involved a carefully arranged collection of old fashioned, wooden chairs and tables, with other small objects, such as a tea cup, colourful fabric, and even, a small toy snail which circled the top of a vinyl record. Yet, what was most notable wasn’t just what was there, but how it moved. Through simple, low-tech devices – such as magnets, clock mechanisms and spinning plates – the entire sculpture was in constant motion, as if it had come alive in a dream.

López’s work is typically visually dense, with loads to see and discover. While the installation was one large unified piece, it was made up of many smaller portions, each containing their own story. Some referred to López’s own personal story, while others referenced history such as when the Spanish Armada crashed on the shores of Ireland in 1588. What I found surprising though was the amount of visitors who brought their own stories, memories from their childhood, anecdotes and reflections.

The real success of the art fair will be seen in the coming weeks, months and years. The longer that the connections made last, and the more that Irish artists can pursue opportunities abroad and international artists come here, the better.

  • Chris Hayes is an Irish artist and art critic in London, with a background in technology and alternative spaces. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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