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The Irish Arts Review Digital Archive of Irish Art and Heritage is a unique searchable online archive of over 2,000 beautifully illustrated and scholarly articles on Irish painting, sculpture, design, photography, architecture and heritage in the Irish Arts Review since 1984.

NOT everyone may be familiar with the annual EU Prizes for Cultural Heritage for the simple reason that they are called Europa Nostra Awards. The scheme celebrates best practice related to heritage conservation, research, management, voluntarism, education and communication and this year there were twenty-nine ‘laureates’ from eighteen different countries honoured for their notable  achievements in conservation. There were no less than 202 worthy applications from across Europe, but only one from Ireland – that in support of Jim Callery, the saviour of Strokestown House in County Roscommon.

Callery is the local businessman who famously paid a visit in 1979 to the last chatelaine of Strokestown, Ms Pakenham Mahon, and came away having acquired the Palladian mansion lock, stock and 300 acres. But remarkably Callery’s interest was in restoring the house rather than living in it for himself. Since then, as the citation reads ‘he has saved a vital historic country estate for Ireland and has created an important museum and archive dealing with this pivotal moment in the country’s history’. This of course is a reference to the celebrated Famine Museum and archive now housed in the magnificent stable building with its vaulting carried on a row of Tuscan columns.

remarkably Callery’s interest was in restoring the house rather than living in it for himself

Over the years, Callery has personally ploughed millions into this project and his contribution is described as ‘the largest act of private philanthropy for cultural heritage in the history of modern Ireland’. It certainly deserves the EU Award which was one of only three laureates made personally rather than to a large heritage  project. But time is moving on for Jim Callery (82) and happily a new arrangement has been made to secure the future for Strokestown House. Last year, the Irish Heritage Trust (which is financed as a division of the Arts Department), signed a ten-year contract to manage the estate and presumably to underwrite the deficit. All of which is good news for the village of Strokestown whose greatest boast to date has been that its main street is said to be wider even than the Ringstrasse in Vienna. But it was mixed news for Jim who in May had to go to Turku (of all places) to join 1,200 ‘heritage people and top level representatives from EU institutions’ at the Awards ceremony presided over by the President of Europa Nostra who turns out to be none other than Placido Domingo. Yes that Placido!   JM

From the Current edition

I first saw Annemarie Reinhold’s work online. Her home page features an image of a neckpiece in fine silver from her current collection. Surrounded by soft, fragile, almost translucent foliage, it comprises a cluster of gently moving leaves and seems weightless, almost ethereal; a fitting visual representation of a collection entitled ‘Treasure these Moments’. In subsequent images however, the mood darkens somewhat and objects, in oxidised copper, appear more dramatic and intense, their dark, longer leaves swaying with greater purpose. Actually it’s the combination of all these pieces that really captures the essence of this young designer maker’s work. Creating sculptural and wearable objects from individually fashioned leaves, she has sought inspiration from the natural world, constant change and movement; the notion that ‘when you go outside it never looks the same’. Observing life’s continual cycle of growth and decay, a state of constant flux, she is driven by the desire to hold on to these precious moments of change, employing metal not only for it’s durable qualities, but for it’s fluidity and it’s ability to react to changes in temperature. In ‘Sphere’, for example, rich purple and crisp blue tones are achieved through heating the copper.   

she has sought inspiration from the natural world, constant change and movement

Initially studying Art, Craft and Design at Grennan Mill Craft School in Thomastown, Annemarie Reinhold went on to study at NCAD, graduating with a Degree in Metal and Jewellery in 2016. In fact her current body of work is a continued development of her degree show collection. The confidence and maturity demonstrated in this student work, and the potential of the young maker, was recognised firstly in 2014 when she won the Newbridge Silverware NCAD Design Bursary Award and again, in 2016, when she won a residency support award in the student category of the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland’s Future Maker Awards. This latter accolade enabled her to apply for a postgraduate residential course at Bishopsland Educational Trust where she is currently focusing on traditional silversmithing and jewellery skills. Fully appreciative of the promotional opportunities that awards can bring, she is also keen to emphasize, however, the importance of the application process, which gives students the opportunity to reflect on their work.

Asked about future plans, Annemarie Reinhold expresses the desire to establish her own studio, but before that there are plans for further skills training.  It is a testament to her recognition of the importance of process, the notion that crafted objects record the intimate interaction between maker and material and ultimately, her belief in thinking through making.

Frances McDonald is an independent writer, curator and project manager, specialising in craft and design.


From the Summer 2017 edition

Eddie Rafferty’s love affair with Africa is manifest at his first major survey exhibition on view this summer at the FE McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge, writes Riann Coulter.

Eddie Rafferty collects people and their stories. His prints, drawings, paintings and collages depict the people and places that he has encountered at home and abroad. If you are lucky enough to meet the artist, he may regale you with the details of how he met the subject of Refugee from Zimbabwe (Fig 3), or share his memories of a rural childhood near Gilford, County Down. Even if you don’t have Rafferty on hand, the individual histories of his subjects are etched into their features and the artist’s empathy and fascination with humanity shines through.

Now based in Banbridge, close to the FE McWilliam Gallery, Rafferty is an artist who has a small, but devoted, following. If his art is not as well-known as it should be that is partly due to his own reticence to embrace the art world. Although he regularly shows in the RUA and has recently been included in an exhibition at Taylor Galleries, Dublin, he does not seek out fame. His day job as a resident artist working in health and social care settings has also, perhaps, provided a focus outside the need to find an audience. Rafferty’s path to art was not conventional. He was only seventeen when the photographer Victor Sloan, his teacher at Lurgan Technical College, included his work in an exhibition at The Peacock Gallery in Craigavon. Like many of the others who passed through Sloan’s classroom, Rafferty benefitted from being taught by a respected photographer who lived locally and made art about their place. Sloan’s influence may also have helped establish Rafferty’s use of photography as a source and reference for his work. The imagery of the Danish photographer Jacob Holdt, whose series American Pictures from 1977, depicts the struggles of the disadvantaged in the USA, was an important influence on Rafferty’s approach to his subjects. As Feargal O’Malley, co-curator of this exhibition, has suggested, the composition of Rafferty’s work has more in common with how an image is framed through a viewfinder than drawing from life.

After Tech, Rafferty went to work with Shane Wright, a talented designer and maker who had a leather shop in Gilford where he made belts and handbags. Working as Shane’s apprentice, Rafferty learnt to design and make things that were beautiful, practical and in demand – the designer Paul Costelloe was a customer.

When the shop closed, Rafferty followed the well-trodden path to London to work on building sites. He continued to draw at night, but it was not until he was twenty-three that he had the opportunity to go to art college in Belfast. For the first two years he focused on painting before switching to print. The technical challenges of print suited the craftsmanship he had learned with Shane. Although his practice has expanded beyond print, and now includes drawing, painting and collage, Rafferty is still influenced by the skill and attention to detail that he learnt during hours spent in Belfast Print Workshop.

Some of the earliest works in this exhibition are a series of colour lithographs depicting nostalgic subjects including Banbridge’s long demolished Art Deco cinema, Gilford Pigeon Club and one of the weekly céilís at Rafferty’s childhood home. These local scenes are depicted in a playful folk-art aesthetic that is in stark contrast to the fine draughtsmanship seen in later etchings, particularly the series of large heads of young men, made from life in South Africa (Fig 1).

Rafferty recalls that it was while looking at a map in The Curfew Tower, Cushendall, Co Antrim, that the idea of going to Africa took hold. He applied for a residency at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg and soon found himself heading off for a seven-week trip. This was the start of Rafferty’s love affair with Africa and her people. Over the next decade he returned nine times, primarily to residencies in hospitals that he organised himself. Although some of the work featured in this exhibition was made in Africa, the people and places that Rafferty encountered there continue to appear in his images produced years later.

The patients and service users that Rafferty meets through his work in hospitals are another source of inspiration. Figures lying on beds in institutional settings are often based on individuals he has got to know over many years. Rafferty’s tender portrayals of these often marginalised figures, people not often depicted in art, is a continuation of his early interest in the ordinary and the overlooked. Rafferty’s artistic influences include familiar masters such as Egon Schiele and Sidney Nolan and less obvious figures from the South African canon including Sam Nhlengethwa, William Kentridge and Marlene Dumas. Ultimately, Rafferty’s heroes are the people who become the subjects of art. The people he collects alonwg the way.

Eddie Rafferty ‘ The Pursuit of Happiness’ FE McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge, County Down
17 June – 2 September 2017.

Riann Coulter is curator of the FE McWilliam Gallery.

From the Summer 2017 edition

Gerry Walker follows the progress of award-winning graduate Julia Dubsky as she prepares for an exhibition in Dublin based on a year of exploration abroad.

Julia Dubsky graduated in the top tier of her class at the National Collge of Art and Design (NCAD) Dublin in June 2016. She was awarded a Commended First in Fine Art and Visual Culture. Her BA thesis, which was entitled ‘Evaluative Judgement in Art Criticism and Art Practice’, reflects her interest in parallel theoretical pursuits.

Dubsky’s  graduate paintings presented a direct but tentative explorations of materials and emotions that owed a minor debt to the field of abstract expressionism. Her starting point was a feeling for play and curiosity about spontaneous mark-making. She has an abiding preoccupation with the practice of painting per se, essentially maintaining the view that painting is its own subject matter. This is not to suggest that the images are randomized contrivances. They are thoughtful, instructive explorative outcomes in terms of medium and process.

Since graduation Dubsky has been exhibiting her work both in Ireland and Germany, has collected a number of awards, including travel bursaries for residencies in Austria and Romania, and has been collected by the OPW for the Irish State Collection. She features in the Irish Arts Review New Generation Artists Online Gallery.

Currently Dubsky is working in Germany at the HB55 Kunstfabrik Centre a studio facility in the former East Berlin location of Herzbergstrasse. This is a collaborative hub which provides interactive and private occasional spaces for visual artists, musicians and performers.

Currently Dubsky favours working in series, often on a number of canvases simultaneously in order to allow for creative interaction and connectivity. Self-imposed parameters of scale and dimension also allows for an exploration of the distinctive characteristics of easel painting versus action floor painting. It accentuates a discussion reminiscent of Cézanne which asserted the primacy of the painting as an object. Easel painting facilitates illusionistic tendencies whereas for Dubsky the very act of placing the canvas on a floor to work on it reinforces its objective characteristics, and establishes a creative tension which alters the final experience entirely.

She retains a fascination – a borderline obsession some might say, with the medium specificities of painting. Horizon lines, vanishing points, hues, tones, transparencies, wet and dry brushmarks, and same colour variables are all thoughtfully weighed and balanced. Her preferred distinction between Titanium white and Zinc white is very nuanced indeed.

Dubsky cites a number of artists who have had some influence on her work, principally Monika Baer, the German surrealist, Amy Sillman, an American who works in mixed media and most intriguingly, the Russian Serge Charcoune who was a highly thoughtful and individualistic artist whose work simply defies classification. Unsurprisingly her taste in music which ranges from Stevie Wonder to Philip Glass, is also relevant when one considers the structured passages and movements within her overall compositions. This music/painterly nexus has been a shared characteristic of many lyrical colourists throughout the history of painting. In terms of  her cultural sources Dubsky is very much an eclecticist who is very keyed into a contemporary zeitgeist.

In February of this year it was announced by Temple Bar Galleries in Dublin in an adjudication by a five-person panel that Dubsky has been awarded a Recent Graduate Residency to support her continuing development within a creative community. This opportunity comes with a studio for one year, a stipend and a travel bursary plus a number of additional professional supports. It is an indication of the high regard in which she is held. As a thoughtful engaged painter Dubsky is emphatically in the forefront of the recurring debate about the relevance of painting today. There is a reductive view that painting is now merely a decorative relatively arcane pursuit and is irrelevant to contemporary cultural discourse having been supplanted by more responsive, innovative and versatile media. Julia Dubsky takes the view that the need to question what it means to ‘think through’ and probe the qualities of struggle and negotiation in painting remains essential, and may in turn reflect a discourse that is relevant to wider society and life.

Julia Dubsky ‘Paintings’ Temple Bar Galleries 25 August – 2 September 2017.

Gerry Walker is an art critic and a regular contributor to the Irish Arts Review.


From the Summer 2017 edition

James Horan recounts how a chance encounter led to the unravelling of some architectural mysteries in the restoration of Humewood Castle, County Wicklow

Humewood Castle was constructed between 1867 and 1870 to the designs prepared by the architect, William White (1825-1900). It had been commissioned by the Right Honourable William Wentworth Fitzwilliam Hume Dick (1805-1892), a Wicklow landowner and member of Parliament at Westminster from 1852-1880. Hume Dick was one of the descendants of the Dunbar, Dundas and Hume families who originally came from Scotland in the mid-17th century with branches of the Hume family eventually residing in Sligo, Donegal and Monaghan as well as in Co Wicklow. The lands at Humewood were bought by Thomas Hume in 1704.

The castle, its attendant buildings and surrounding estate would become one of the most extraordinary Victorian Gothic stately homes in Ireland, and indeed one of Ireland’s last castles. However, realisation…

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From the Summer 2017 edition

James Howley pays a visit to the National Gallery as it prepares to reopen following a major refurbishment programme

In 1847 the painter George Francis Mulvany published a pamphlet advocating the establishment of a National Gallery of Art in his native Dublin. While there may have been some degree of reticence in Mulvany’s manifesto, as the country was at that time still suffering the effects of a devastating famine, his ideas were passionately felt and influenced by the Victorian belief that art fulfilled an important social need and should therefore be freely accessible to everyone. Illustrating a prescience about the guardianship of patrimony that would later be advocated in England by John Ruskin and William Morris, Mulvany declared: ‘…..we should remember that, as citizens of the state, we hold our places only in sacred trust for our successors…..’ An important stepping stone to the creation of the new gallery was the Dublin Industrial Exhibition of 1853 financed by the railway magnet and philanthropist William Dargan, who shared Mulvany’s views on the social significance of art. Located in the gardens of Leinster House, then home of the Royal Dublin Society, the exhibition included a painting and sculpture hall, which proved to be a particular success. Just over a decade later the National Gallery of Ireland opened its doors to the public with Mulvany appointed as the first director.

The new gallery was designed by the Belfast-born architect-engineer Captain Francis Fowke, who simply copied the external form of the…

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From the Summer 2017 edition

In his seventieth year, John Minihan is still seeking the transient moment of creation, writes Fiona Kearney, as she reflects on his recent portfolio

In 2016, University College Cork acquired the John Minihan Photography Collection securing an archive which comprises more than 30,000 original photographic negatives and prints, as well as supplementary publicity material and ephemera produced using Minihan’s images which the photographer had carefully retained over the course of his career. The UCC acquisition is a recognition of Minihan’s extraordinary contribution to Irish art in terms of his own photographic practice, as well as forming a compelling record of literary and cultural life from the latter half of the 20th century. In a career that spans fifty years, and as the youngest staff photographer with the Evening Standard in 1967, some of us might consider this a perfect moment to retire. Not Minihan.

An exhibition in November 2016 at the United Arts Club in Dublin, and a recent RTÉ documentary celebrated the active vocation of this photographer who, safe in the knowledge that his legacy is preserved, is still seeking adventures with his camera, continuing to explore the potent presence of the individual artist. Minihan is perhaps best known for his photographs of the artist Samuel Beckett, and these remarkable works remain memorable despite their….

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From the Summer 2017 edition

Eilís O’Connell is widely admired for expanding the language of sculpture; here she tells Brian McAvera ‘Gravity is my dearest enemy’ ahead of her participation in ‘Ark’ this summer at Chester Cathedral                         

Brian McAvera: Take us through the genesis of a work.
Eilís O’Connell: I’m tentative. At the moment I’m making a sculpture for a show called ‘Ark’ at Chester Cathedral. It’s fourteen meters long  and will be shown in the grounds of the Cathedral. The theme ‘Ark’ suggests shelter and refuge so I decided given the current political climate in Europe and Brexit, it would be good to make something relevant.
Being safe today is almost a question of geography, politics, the randomness of where you happened to be born, or where you happened to be at a certain time of day. For some though the terms of existence result in a forced migration. The most horrific being the boats crossing the Libyan Sea and the desperate situations people find themselves in. These stories haunt me and that feeling of being unable to help has filtered into my work, so the focus of my sculpture in this exhibition is the need for refuge. Often I make inviting, hollowed-out spaces as part of a sculpture but this one is different. It’s called Capsules for Destinies Unknown and is made of corrugated, galvanised steel and polycarbonate sheeting, everyday materials that are often used to make temporary living spaces. From a distance, it looks like a missile or warhead.

BMcA: It was at Cork in 1970 that the sculptor and lecturer John Burke introduced you to the techniques of steel sculpture. How formative was this and how important were your peers at this point in your career?
EOC: At that point the only course in Cork was the ATC which was an art teaching course that covered all subjects. ‘Sculpture’ was modelling from life and therefore we needed steel armatures. John had been working with Anthony Caro and Brian Kneale in London and somehow convinced the college to set up a metal department with a welding room. With John, I saw what you could do with steel. One of the hardest things in sculpture is to make things stick together and not fall down, so I learned how to weld, which was fantastic….

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Patrick Swift is not quite a rara avis in the Irish art market but his appearances at auction are infrequent: around ten paintings since 2010. He died relatively young, fifty-six, and lived abroad for much of his life, facts which surely contribute to this relative dearth. A particularly fine example of his work came up at the Important Irish Art auction at Adam’s in March. Girl in a Garden features Swift’s girl friend at the time, the American poet Claire McAllister. Swift was more inclined to move in literary than in artistic circles and was in fact a fine writer himself.

This happened long after the painting was completed so we should read nothing more than perhaps a lover’s tiff into her demeanour, or, more prosaically, it may just indicate a bored sitter

McAllister is seated in the garden of his studio in Hatch Street. Her stern expression and rather stiff pose on the stony step are in marked contrast to nature’s playful profusion in the greenery around her. She is glowering like someone who has marched out after a row. The french windows leading into the house are ajar. Swift was to leave her a few years later and decamp to London, following Oonagh Ryan who was to become his wife. This happened long after the painting was completed so we should read nothing more than perhaps a lover’s tiff into her demeanour, or, more prosaically, it may just indicate a bored sitter. Swift’s beautifully composed painting would surely have brought harmony to any temporary domestic discord. This example of Swift at his best went for €32,000, some €12,000 above the lower estimate. John P O’Sullivan

Image: Patrick Swift (1927-1983) Girl in a Garden oil on canvas 134.5×106.5cm