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Work of the Week | 18 October 2021

CAG.2005 Gail Ritchie, Big Albert, 1999, charcoal on Fabriano paper, 212.5 x 152.5 cm. Purchased, 2001. © the artist.


Big Albert (1999) by Gail Ritchie is a startling exercise in observational drawing at large scale. Measuring more than two metres in height, this work in charcoal blends anatomical study with the commemoration of war.

Part of a triptych (three-part work) by the artist in the collection, Big Albert was first exhibited at Tigh Filí, Cork more than two decades ago. At the time, actors and poets performed readings of First World War poetry, including Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” (1920), in front of the work.

There is a sense of movement in Ritchie’s articulation of a pigeon carcass – found at the old Guy & Co. building (now Cornmarket Centre) in Cork – with the suggestion of flying goggles or gasmask about its head. The title of the work has two origins: Albert was the name of a friend’s racing pigeon, as well as the name of a town in France, in the Somme region, where the artist’s great-grandfather is thought to have died in 1918.

Big Albert also recalls the carrier pigeons that served as messengers in the First World War, often under heavy artillery fire.

Gail Ritchie (b.1966) is a visual artist who explores themes of memory, and memorial in relation to conflict, in her work. She has exhibited widely and held residencies at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris and Ulster Museum, Belfast. She has also been in receipt of awards from the Arts Council of Ireland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and the British Council. The artist is presently undertaking a practice led PhD at Queen’s University Belfast.

Big Albert (1999) by Gail Ritchie is featured in MENAGERIE: Animals by Artists (Floor 1) until 6 March 2022.

TTune into The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here:


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