PROJECT NAME - 'Finding Power'
DATE INSTALLED - June 2018
LOCATION - The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
ISSUE ADDRESSED - The imbalance of power in contemporary Irish Society
COMMISSIONED BY - The National Gallery of Ireland
A COLLABORATED WITH - Gavin Leane - Photography
My artwork 'The Claddagh Embrace', created to endorse the 2015 marriage equality 'YES' campaign' directly referenced one of the National Gallery of Ireland’s most celebrated works, Frederic William Burton’s The Meeting on the Turret Stairs, and, for many, came to define the love and tenderness the political change sought to honour and protect. In October 2017, as part of the education programme supporting our major retrospective exhibition Frederic William Burton: For the Love of Art, curated by Dr Marie Bourke, I was invited to participate in an exciting long term project by the National Gallery of Ireland.
Finding Power is the result of this project, and the culmination of months of in-depth investigation of Burton's work and the role of the artist or public persona. During the project, I looked closely at the power that comes with public platform, and the significance of having (or indeed losing) agency and control. In order to inform my practice fully and consider the topic in contemporary society, I connected with both the Gallery team, and a panel of both public and private figures, namely:
- Sinéad Burke - academic, writer and advocate
- Alice Mary Higgins - Independent senator
- Stephen Moloney - writer and activist
- Davina Devine - drag artist
- Alison Spittle - comedian
- Chidi Muojeke - mother and asylum seeker who has lived in Ireland for the past 11 years
- Jad Kesrin - Syrian refugee and student
As well as this large scale temporary installation, the completed artistic response as a whole comprises interviews, photographic portraits and drawings of the seven individuals, who; “Like each one of us, have lost and found their agency many times throughout their lives. The work wishes to highlight how gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and socio-economic status continue to be seen as legitimate reasons to take or withhold agency . . . ultimately we must find a way to create our own power”.
The impermanent nature of this project does not diminish their power. Delicate by design, they cling to the skins of the buildings and wrap their message around each stone and surface.The Gallery Courtyard reflects the duality of the work through both its fabric and function, connecting historic institution with contemporary world, and acting as anchor and compass for visitors. The Courtyard also houses the final work in this project, offering opportunity for reflection, contemplation and perhaps even empowerment.
Finding Power is a body of work comprising of seven photographic portraits by Gavin Leane, a highly finished graphite and ink drawing, a sketchbook, and a large-scale temporary installation. In 2019, the Gallery acquired the portraits and original drawing and the artist donated his sketchbook and a limited-edition poster for the national collection. The installation is currently on view in the Gallery Courtyard.