An exhibition of portraits of Irish Writers “THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES”

6 March–30 May 2009

An exhibition celebrating the extraordinary range and talent of Irish writers from the eighteenth century to the present day, opens at the Crawford Art Gallery Cork on Friday 6 March 2009. The exhibition presents over 60 works drawn from the collections of the Crawford Gallery, The Abbey Theatre and The Arts Council.

The title of the exhibition is inspired by Joseph Campbell´s seminal work “The Hero of a Thousand Faces”, and suggests that while each writer is a unique and distinct personality and talent, when taken collectively, their contribution to the identification of Ireland as a country of intense literary activity has been profound. In its broader sense, the phrase also alludes to the Jungian concept of universal archetypes, and to that subconscious wellspring which is the greatest inspiration of the writer, as an observer, a commentator and indeed a shaper of society.

The title is also a wry reference to Patrick Kavanagh´s famous remark, made in the 1950s, that “of the legion of poets in Ireland there are never less than ten thousand”, an assessment mixing in equal measure pessimism and optimism, and which, even allowing for poetic licence, illustrates the impossibility of an exhibition of portraits of Irish writers ever being considered in any way complete, or all encompassing. Nonetheless, good progress is being made, as can be seen from the works that will be shown.

The recent acquisition by the Crawford Art Gallery of Edward McGuire´s Portrait of Anthony Cronin (1972) represents a significant addition to a developing collection of portraits of Irish writers both commissioned and acquired by the Crawford. Cronin follows Jonathan Swift, whose 1735 portrait by Francis Bindon was acquired by the Crawford Gallery in 2007 to mark its accession to the status of National Cultural Institution. Portraits of writers commissioned by the Gallery include Conal Creedon by Eileen Healy (2006), Micheal O´Shiadhail by Michael O´Dea (2005) and Aidan Higgins (2003) by Suzy O´Mullane.

Other notable writers represented include Edmund Burke in James Barry´s painting ‘Burke and Barry in the Characters of Ulysses and Companions fleeing from the Cave of Polyphemus; Elizabeth Bowen by Patrick Hennessy, and three portraits, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and W. B. Yeats, by Louis le Brocquy. Frank O´Connor is represented by an early work by Norah McGuinness. The recently garlanded writer Sebastian Barry is shown in a 1991 study by John Minihan, a photographer well known for insightful portraits of Irish writers, most notably Samuel Beckett, but also Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Mannix Flynn, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Galvin, and John McGahern.

The outstanding portraits being loaned for this exhibition by the Abbey Theatre include Gerald Festus Kelly's Portrait of Lady Gregory, Sean O'Sullivan's Portrait of W. B. Yeats, and Carey Clarke's Portrait of Tom Murphy. These are iconic images of Ireland´s literary revival and also of the finest of present day writers. The portrait of Hugh Leonard from the Abbey Collection had been intended to travel to the Crawford, but on the news of the writer´s death, has been kept on exhibition in the Abbey Theatre, as a mark of respect. From the Arts Council Collection, the portraits on loan to this exhibition include writers Conor Fallon´s studies of his father, the poet Padraic Fallon, a Portrait of Francis Stuart by Jack Crabtree and James Joyce´s Tie by Michael Farrell.

The Crawford´s collection of portraits of Irish writers is developing, but it remains far from complete. Many notable writers remain unrepresented, not least Laurence Sterne, Lady Morgan, Mary Lavin, Benedict Kiely and John B. Keane. Nevertheless, the formation of the collection over the past two decades does provides a template for the further development of an important aspect of the national art collections of Ireland in future years, particularly when seen in the light of existing portrait collections such as those at the Abbey Theatre, the Arts Council, and also the National Gallery of Ireland. The Ulster Museum collection also includes fine portraits of writers, not least Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley.

The exhibition will be formally opened by Michael Longley, Ireland Professor of Poetry, on Tuesday 10 March at 6:00pm. The exhibition will be open to the public, from Friday 6 March to 30 May, 2009.

Between Truth and Fiction: The Films of Vivienne Dick

18 September– 7 November 2009

The first and long overdue retrospective of Vivienne Dick´s artistic practice, will include an ambitious selection of video, 16mm film and Super 8 work by Dick. Curated by Treasa O´Brien, the exhibtion is indicative of the crossover and hybridity of forms in Dick´s films, which do not easily sit in the usual distinctions of documentary, fiction, video art or music video, yet owe something to each.  

Vivienne Dick´s career - and identity as a film-maker - was kickstarted in New York, when she emigrated from Donegal in 1975 and entered into the world of the post-punk ‘No Wave´ scene.  Her early films cast musicians and friends as the protagonists acting out disjointed narratives on NY streets, with a vérité style and a voyeurism, influenced by Warhol and the Factory, Jack Smith as well her contemporaries, Nan Goldin and others. With an emphasis on fragmentary narratives and socio-political themes, the early films evoke a time and mood of experimentation, wonder and collaborative cultural production in New York in the late 70s and early 80s. Her subsequent body of work, made in Ireland and London, continued these elements while taking a more documentary lead, and later as multi-channel installation. Her work is notable also for its exploration of gender and relationships much of her work featuring female protagonists, in fiction and document. Occasional footage shot in Ireland acts as testament to the 80s social politics (most notably in ‘Visibility Moderate´, 1981) interspersed with New York footage giving new context to the burgeoning globalisation of the times through the eye of the insider/outsider emigrant.

A special 16mm programme featuring She Had Her Gun Already, London Suite and Rothach will run in conjunction with the exhibition from Monday 18  September to Friday 25 Septmber and concurrently with Cork Film Festival from Monday 2 November until Friday 5 November.

Terror and the Sublime: Art in an Age of Anxiety

20 November 2009–27 February 2010

Terror and the Sublime: Art in an Age of Anxiety features works by thirty-three artists, from the late eighteenth century to the present, whose subject-matter reflects the spirit of their times. Whether it is the nineteenth century painter Francis Danby, identifying in the mountains of Norway a metaphor for the challenges facing his survival as an artist, or contemporary sculptor Jim Sanborn, creating a replica of the first atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, the exhibition gives an insight into the way artists respond to the times they live in, but also how their works shape the way we look at the world.

The uncertainties and fears resulting from political and social upheavals such as the American War of Independence or the Revolution in France informed Edmund Burke´s political views, but it was his 1757 essay on aesthetics, "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful" that directly inspired artists such as George Barret and James Barry, whose paintings form the starting point of the exhibition. Terror and the Sublime also includes dramatic and visionary paintings from the Romantic period, by James Arthur O´Connor, Francis Danby, and the Cork artist Samuel Forde. ese historic paintings are juxtaposed with works in a variety of media by contemporary artists, including Andreas Gursky, Cecily Brennan, Nigel Rolfe, omas Ruff and Clare Langan, artists who continue to address the same issues of human vulnerability and the tensions that exist between the individual and society.

Irrespective of the century in which they were born, the work of each of these artists resonates with a psychological intensity, drawn in part from uncompromising themes, but also from the spirit of their age. While the Crawford Gallery exhibition may not have the power to “transform human kind by unlocking the Ancient Mysteries”, it does allow visitors to view the world through the eyes of artists whose creativity, and responsiveness to concerns that have remained pertinent through the centuries, enriches and informs our world.

Artists: George Barrett, Aideen Barry, James Barry, William Bradford, Cecily Brennan, Oliver Comerford, Gary Coyle, Francis Danby, Michelle Deignan, Willie Doherty, Jonathan Fisher, Mary FitzGerald, Samuel Forde, James Forrester, David Godbold, Andreas Gursky, Clare Langan, Robert Longo, Fergus Martin, Paul Nugent, John Martin, Eoin McHugh, Theresa Nanigian,James Arthur O´Connor, Hughie O´Donoghue, George Petrie, Nigel Rolfe, Thomas Ruff, Jim Sanborn, Sean Shanahan, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Paul Winstanley and the writer Edmund Burke.

A catalogue, artists talks and a full education programme will accompany the exhibition.

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