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Work of the Week | 6 December 2021

CAG.1494 Claire Curneen, Kneeling Figure I, c.1993, porcelain and terracotta, 35.5 x 17.7 x 17.7 cm. Purchased, 1993. © the artist.


Dating to the early 1990s, Claire Curneen's Kneeling Figure I is a seemingly fragile porcelain and terracotta form in which deliberate gaps appear across its surface.

This figurative work, as the title suggests, is found to be kneeling – its exaggerated proportions establishing a presence, just as the figure gazes upwards. There is palpable humanity here, although it is unclear if the expression is contemplative, hopeful, or otherwise.

The artist describes her sculptures as "poignant reflections on the nature of humanity and our precarious place within it." Themes of death, rebirth, and the sublime are addressed in or evoked by her often visceral work which, as curator Audrey Whitty has observed, is "firmly rooted in medieval and Renaissance antecedents." Teleri Lloyd-Jones has suggested that "Curneen's work offers us a precious liminal space of contemplation, like an altar or an icon but crucially, if there is devotion here, it is to humanity and creativity."

Claire Curneen (b.1968) is an award-winning ceramic artist who predominantly works in porcelain, terracotta, and black stoneware. Originally from Tralee, County Kerry, she received her diploma from Crawford College of Art & Design in 1990. Continuing with postgraduate studies at the University of Ulster, Belfast and University of Wales, she has exhibited internationally for over two decades.

In 2015, the National Museum of Ireland acquired Curneen's porcelain Psyche (2013), a product of Arts Council of Wales-funded research visits to the Dublin-based collection. The artist lives in Wales and is senior lecturer at the Centre for Ceramic Studies, Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Claire Curneen's Kneeling Figure I is displayed (alongside Kneeling Figure II) in our foyer cabinet on the Ground Floor.

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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