Did you know that Top Half of the Hero (2005) by Sarah Iremonger was directly inspired by a found image that is also in our collection?
It cites the figure of Edmund Burke (1729-1797), as Greek hero Ulysses, cautionary finger to his lips, from the iconic (and catchily titled) Portraits of Barry and Burke in the Characters of Ulysses and a Companion fleeing from the cave of Polyphemus (c.1776) by Cork-born artist James Barry (1741-1806). This distinctive neon piece dates to the same year as our landmark exhibition of Barry’s work during Cork’s tenure as European Capital of Culture.
The context for this eye-catching (and popular) work is from the artist’s exhibition of the same name held at Triskel Arts Centre in 2002. Each piece, which also included furniture and wall drawings, was linked through political references. They were assembled, as Iremonger (b.1965) notes, “not with a view to presenting answers, but instead, to set up an open-ended dialogue between the artwork and the viewer.” The hero, in this instance, is art history itself, while the top half refers to it being top heavy.
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