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Work of the Week | 26 July 2021

CAG.3068 Stephen Doyle, Meditating Tongqui, 2020, oil and mixed media on canvas, 120 x 80 cm. Purchased, 2020. © the artist.


To coincide with the opening of our NEW THREADS exhibition and Cork LGBT Pride Festival, we’re taking a closer look at one of the latest additions to the collection.

Created in the aftermath of a residency in Shanghai, Meditating Tongqui (2020) by Stephen Doyle addresses pertinent issues facing the LGBTQ+ community globally. In making this work, the artist sought to highlight “the millions of ‘Tongqui/Tongfu’ currently living in China. The term refers to homosexuals married to opposite sex partners because of an obligation to continue the family name or simply to avoid suspicion of being homosexual or for any number of personal or political reasons.”

It presents a figure deep in thought, staring obliquely, and seated; balancing on a sphere, shoes kicked off below. Perhaps he is reflecting upon what might have been under different circumstances.

Actor and writer Stephen Fry has described Doyle’s work as being “part of a tragically necessary resistance movement,” particularly at a time when anti-LGBTQ+ laws continue to be enacted: “Gays are becoming bellwethers, early warning beacons, alerting us to humanity’s direction of travel.”

Stephen Doyle (b.1994) is a visual artist whose works addresses queer identity and queer culture. The artist’s Dylan Is Ainm Dom… (2018), which was shortlisted for the Zurich Portrait Prize 2018, is thought to be the first artwork in the national collection to openly address transgender identity. A graduate of Crawford College of Art & Design, he is based at Backwater Studios, Cork and is presently exhibiting work in Queer As You Are until 19 September at Luan Gallery, Athlone. He is currently Cork Pride Festival Artist-in-Residence.

Meditating Tongqui (2020) by Stephen Doyle is featured in NEW THREADS: Acquisitions 2021 in our Gibson Galleries (Floor 1) until 5 September. It is also among the nine works on our new LGBTQ+ Gallery Trail, a self-directed activity to follow on your visit!

Tune in to The Arts House on Cork’s 96FM and C103 Cork every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about a work from the collection!

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