Crawford Art Gallerypermanent collection

The Country Blooms, a Garden and a Grave
The Country Blooms, a Garden and a Grave
1990
photomontage with text
3 panels 50 x 75cm
3 panels 50 x 75 cm

1648-PR

Purchased in 1995


O'Kelly is represented therefore somewhat slightly, but poignantly, with a photomontage work entitled The Country Bloom, A Garden and a Grave, which dates from 1990. It is composed of six colour photographs mounted on panels, three of the photographs bearing text.

The six panels are set two by two, in vertical order, as in the illustration. The images are innocuous views of green fields and earthen banks, but the overlaid texts give a harrowing account of the time when the Great Famine was at its worst in Ireland, and hint at the powerful emotional response of the artist to this part of the history of her own land.

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Alanna O'Kelly
b.1955

Irish School


Alanna O'Kelly's career as an artist has not followed any set pattern; indeed she has sometimes confounded the expectations of critics as she switches from one medium to another while still maintaining a passionate intensity in her work. O'Kelly is probably best known as a performance artist, although her art has ranged from the relatively conventional sculptures of her student days in the mid-seventies, through to slide installations, video and film. Post-graduate studies at the Slade School of Art in London brought her into contact with contemporary feminist politics, and like her contemporaries Geraldine O'Reilly, Pauline Cummins and Alice Maher, she now brings to her work firstly a sense of what it is to be a woman and secondly her training as an artist. Like many women artists in America she has been drawn to the use of natural rather than synthetic materials, and has used materials such as wool and flax, not so much for their decorative or textural qualities as for their effectiveness as metaphors for the position of women in society.

In addition to working from a contemporary feminist perspective, O'Kelly imbues her art with a strong sense of history and of continuity of tradition from one century to the next. In some of her performances she keens, or sings a wordless song of lament for the dead. In the last century and before, keening women were an important part of Irish funerals, providing perhaps the last living cultural link to the pre-Classical Mycenean origins of communities on the west coast of Ireland. The power of the female voice is also brought alive in her combined performance and video installations, such as Chant Down Greenham, which counterpoints her own voice with a tape of heavy machinery in a graphic demonstration of the conflict between human and technological values.