Frances Hegarty was born in Teelin, Co. Donegal, Ireland, later emigrating to Scotland. Her artistic work spans over four decades, working with performance and live action, film, video, audio, photographs, drawing and installation, and exhibiting worldwide. Recurrent in the work is a concern with received ideas of cultural and national (Irish) identity, with emigration and diaspora, and with female personas, the female body and mortality. As a lecturer based in Sheffield from the late 1970s onwards, Hegarty advocated strongly for performance and time-based art. She formed and led a university department for performance art and was a driving force behind the Expanded Media Show, an important UK event for live and time-based art. She remains Emeritus Professor of Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University, and is a member of Aosdana in Ireland. She divides her time between Sheffield (England) and Donegal.
Andrew Stones was born in Sheffield, England. He has exhibited widely as an artist since 1984. His video, sound and mixed-media installations often explore the coexistence of artistic and scientific thinking in a general (shared) culture. Other recurrent concerns are: Englishness, cultural politics and white British identity after colonialism and empire; ecology, and the human and non-human animal. He works extensively with sound, using it in films and installations, and releasing standalone sound and musical works under his own name, and songs and music as Mister Salmon. His awards and commissions include a NESTA Fellowship (2001-04) which enabled video shoots at science establishments such as Arecibo Radio Observatory (Puerto Rico), and CERN (Switzerland/France). He has taught and lectured widely, holds a PhD (Slade School of Art/UCL 2011) and writes occasionally on subjects related to the core concerns of his work.
Frances Hegarty & Andrew Stones began working collaboratively in 1997, bringing to completion eight large scale projects by 2019 (separate from and in addition to work emerging from their individual practices). In 2020 the pair received a Paul Hamlyn Award in recognition of this joint work.
Works by Hegarty & Stones typically have a strong site-specific aspect, often bringing elements of illusion and temporal play to public locations, sometimes by presenting in an exhibition site an altered or augmented version of what usually goes on there. To date, all of their completed works have been commissioned for exhibition.
The first work by Hegarty & Stones is For Dublin (1997), a temporary, multi-site neon work for Dublin city centre. The work is intended as both an aesthetic pleasure, and an invocation of two ideas closely associated with James Joyce's Ulysses: psychogeography and gendered speech. For Dublin is widely cited in academic writing about cityscape, commemoration, and Irishness, and has even been reincorporated into literary fiction (in Malarky, 2012, a novel by Anakana Schofield).
After For Dublin, all works by Hegarty & Stones employ moving image.
In Seemingly So, Evidently Not, Apparently Then (Sheffield, 1998) a continuous, eight-hour performance by Hegarty is intermixed with a live surveillance feed from a railway station platform. Extra (Bradford, 2002/3) employs similar techniques, but with a gathering of local people. In these works, video surveillance, post-production and live mixing are combined to create subtly-altered versions of the everyday life of a railway station and a city square.
Orienteer (A to Z, Dawn to Dusk) (Birmingham, 2000), Overnight Sensation (Belfast, 2001) and Ex Machina (Carlow, 2006) employ strictly delimited camera viewpoints or trajectories, to gather impressions of a site or locality for works later exhibited in or near their place of origin.
In Orienteer... a female runner (Hegarty) continually advances on the camera, whilst the scene around her changes, revealing the "whole" of Birmingham in an impossible traverse. For Overnight Sensation a surveillance sequence of a popular market market is presented - with surreal additions - as a large overnight projection in the market hall.
Ex Machina is centred on an asset-stripped sugar factory, a longstanding key employer in the region surrounding it. The camera arrives from a far location, high in the sky, penetrates a wall of the factory, drops down level by level into its depths, and is expelled back along the path of its approach. The installation video sequence frames the factory according to a shifting perspective, by turns revealing it as a feature lost or discovered in a wide landscape, a monument or memorial, and a ruin.
Tactically Yours (2007) is a suite of four video installations in which the artists pursue collaborative actions, without verbal communication. In three rooms, multiple CCTV video screens show Hegarty and Stones practising the tactics of street protest, within a sectorised conifer plantation. In the fourth space a single projection shows them undertaking a series of drawings, Hegarty using her left hand whilst Stones uses his right, each artist's tactics prompted, moment-by-moment, by those of the other.
In 2016 Hegarty & Stones contributed two short films to the touring programme Proclamation. Curated by artist Andrew Duggan, this project sought to engage with 'the idea of proclamation itself', in the centenary year of the 'Proclamation of the [Irish] Republic' associated with the 1916 Easter Rising.
The Land That... (2019) is an extensive project based on Hegarty & Stones's five-year artistic engagement with a ten-acre plot of land in Co. Donegal, Ireland, owned by the Hegarty family since the 1800s. In exhibition, the work consists of a large, single-screen projection with immersive surround sound, and a suite of installations with multi-channel video, sound, text and kinetic sculpture. In this work the "land" is taken as a contested notion, created from multiple perspectives, such as the familial and the historical, the political, and the ecological.