The Glucksman is thrilled to welcome back visitors to the gallery from Tuesday 11 May for safe-distance viewing of a new exhibition entitled HOME: Being and belonging in contemporary Ireland. Featuring 16 artists from across the island of Ireland, the exhibition considers critical issues such as housing and the climate crisis, immigration, multiculturalism and the changing perception of Ireland on the global stage.
Artists: Sara Baume, Tinka Bechert, Martin Boyle, Brian Duggan, James L. Hayes, Kerry Guinan, Eileen Hutton, Julie Merriman, Doireann Ní Ghrioghair, Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Treasa O’Brien, Julia Pallone, Amanda Rice, Ciara Roche, Kathy Tynan, Mieke Vanmechelen
Curated by Chris Clarke and Fiona Kearney
From critical issues such as housing and the climate crisis, to immigration, multiculturalism and the changing perception of Ireland on the global stage, where and how we live shapes our understanding of who we are. The Glucksman invited artists from across the island of Ireland to propose works for HOME: Being and belonging in contemporary Ireland that explored ideas of residency, placemaking, identity, and nationhood, and specifically to consider Irish President Michael D. Higgins’ address to the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2019, that “we have a deep sense, from our own experiences, of the centrality of national identity and a sense of belonging, and how this persists through decades and centuries.”
The COVID-19 pandemic confined most of us to our places of residence for an unprecedented period, and now as we return to the public realm and a shared sense of place, the sixteen artists selected for this exhibition provide a timely reflection on questions of being and belonging in contemporary Ireland.
These artists presented in HOME were selected by curators Chris Clarke and Fiona Kearney from 267 proposals. Their work represents a huge diversity in cultural thinking about ideas of home, even through the specific lens of Irish identity. The plurality of perspectives in this exhibition suggests multiple modes of being, as well as the joy and challenge of belonging in contemporary Irish society.
Ireland’s status as an increasingly globalised society, where historical trends of outward migration have been slowly, gradually balanced by newcomers from different cultures and contexts, is explored in several works in HOME. Belfast-based artist Martin Boyle’s kinetic installation confronts the viewer with shimmering fragments of golden foil, with each individual component powered by a small motor that enables it to slowly rotate. Made from a single reflective survival blanket and cut into pieces, these sections are splayed across the gallery wall, floating in space, perpetually spinning in circles. Amanda Rice’s installation of photography and film explores textile industries in the west of Ireland, and specifically Western Hats Ltd., which operated from 1942 to 1981, and served as a workplace and community for Jewish exiles. Treasa O’Brien’s film The Blow-In, made in the small town of Gort in the west of Ireland, questions what it means to be ‘at home,’ and how such issues remain ever pertinent in the context of rising nationalism and the closing of borders within the European Union. Sara Baume’s installation of 100 small house-like objects, made from carved and painted modelling plaster, are informed by the iconic Irish cottage souvenir and address the changing demographic landscape of Ireland.
The evolution of the natural landscape of Ireland and the effects of climate change are addressed in Brian Duggan’s installation of working air filters accompanied by data sheets recording the atmospheric pollution from sites across Ireland. Eileen Hutton’s outdoor of wooden nesting boxes, situated in canopy of trees surrounding the Glucksman, explores the invisible relationships that exist within given places, between human beings, animals, and plant life. Mieke Vanmechelen spent a year working closely with local farmers and their livestock and, in her film, she captures the Kerry cow in austere black and white, grazing in fields of gray mist and fog, herded into barns for milking. The oldest breed of cow in Europe and present in Ireland since Neolithic times, Kerry cows are in danger of dying out.
How the country represents itself – to other nations, other peoples, as well as to its own citizens – is the subject of works by a number of artists in HOME. Doireann Ní Ghrioghair’s sculptural installation draws on the historical figure of the fascist architect Daithí Ó hÁinle, through architectural 3-D printed models and vinyl text that re-imagine his proposals for buildings. Tinka Bechert’s New Flags counters the staid values of nationalism, proposing a symbol for emergent communities aligned by political leanings, economic opportunities, and gendered experiences. Kerry Guinan’s photographs document the extremities of the housing market, portraying the lowest (€900 per acre) and highest (€5,000,000 per acre) priced plots of land for sale in Ireland during the housing crisis in December 2018, while Julie Merriman‘s tactile, mimeograph drawings explore the suitability of existing buildings for domestic occupation.
The home is where we live, the places and people who surround us, and the sense of belonging that makes us feel ‘at home.’ Julia Pallone’s photographs explore notions of shelter and protection, documenting the plaster animal statues found outside the gates of bungalows and cottages. Ciara Roche’s works draw on her recent experiences in Sydney, Australia, capturing sitse of personal significance, from The Palace, a hotel where she made her first Australian friends, to the Breakfast Café where she would have her morning coffee. Sinead Ni Mhaonaigh’s large painting Teorainn no.6 (translated as boundary or border) depicts a barn-like structure, in bright red brushstrokes and black outlines, against a field of wavering horizontal stripes in alternating green and grey, while James L. Hayes’ grid of white panels presents repeated plaster casts of the reverse side of a canvas. The original painting was made by the artist’s late father in the 1970s and depicted his native homeland of West Waterford and the Comeragh mountains, a ‘classical’ Irish landscape that captured his nostalgia for the land he emigrated from in the 1940s. Kathy Tynan makes paintings which reveal the intimacies of everyday urban life in inner city Dublin. Her playful, vivid canvases capture the city’s rapidly changing landscape, and the subtle, offbeat histories that are in the process of disappearing.
HOME: Being and belonging in contemporary Ireland marks the concluding instalment of a trilogy of exhibitions presented at the Glucksman to mark the Decade of Commemorations through contemporary Irish art. While the exhibitions 2116: Forecast of the next century considered visions of the future ahead and The Parted Veil: Commemoration in photographic practices reflected on how we remember the past, this final show brings viewers back to the present to explore concepts of being and belonging in contemporary Ireland.
It is possible to arrange for press interviews with some of the participating artists. For further discussion of the exhibition, press images or more detailed information, please contact: Chris Clarke, Senior Curator, The Glucksman, University College Cork. firstname.lastname@example.org / +353 21 4901844