NUI Maynooth will host a prestigious art collection loaned to the University by AIB including 28 pieces by artists such as Louis le Brocquy, Basil Blackshaw, Martin Gale and Robert Ballagh. The exhibition, which will be launched on Tuesday 4th June, will run until April 2014 in the new library extension on the South Campus. The exhibition represents AIB’s most significant artistic loan to an educational institution to date.
Commenting on the exhibition, Professor Philip Nolan, President, NUI Maynooth said: “We are delighted to host this exhibition which includes contributions from some of Ireland’s finest artists. Our wonderful new library is the ideal architectural backdrop for such an exhibition and it is fantastic for our students to have access to these fine works of art for the next year. University life at Maynooth is about learning and study, but is also about opening your mind to culture and art and we are extremely grateful to AIB for loaning us these artworks.”
AIB began collecting artworks in 1980 and the bank’s collection now numbers over 3,000 pieces. Initially the intention was to create a collection that traced the development of Irish art over the course of the twentieth century, beginning at the birth of modernism c.1880. However, conscious of a responsibility to support contemporary Irish artists through purchasing and displaying their work, the focus of collecting later shifted towards living artists.
The new 10,000sqm library at NUI Maynooth caters for over 1,500 students and, along with extensive individual and collaborative study facilities, features open areas for exhibitions of art, historical manuscripts and cultural writings. The library recently hosted the Morpeth Roll, a unique testimonial document signed by over 160,000 people in 1841, and an exhibition of papers by the Irish playwright, Teresa Deevy, with more exciting exhibitions planned throughout the year.
Maria Simonds-Gooding, Harvest Above, print, n.d. (located on level 1 of the new library)
Maria Simonds-Gooding was born in India in 1939 and has lived in Kerry since 1947. She studied at the National College of Art, Dublin, Le Centre de Peinture, Brussels, and Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, graduating in 1968. During her long career, Simonds-Gooding has explored the Kerry landscape and man’s impact through cultivation, using a variety of media. Early in her career she worked with plaster on large boards, moving to printmaking and etching in the mid-1970s and vibrant oil paintings of bogs shaped by turf-cutting in the mid-1980s. Returning to the muted colours and sculptural quality of her low relief plasterwork in the 1990s, Simonds-Gooding has experimented with realising these highly schematic landscapes in the medium of tapestry since 2002. Harvest Above and Harvest Below belong to this period of her career. Her characteristic use of the abstract line reflects the marks made by human intervention on the landscape. Simonds-Gooding’s work is represented widely in public collections including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the Saatchi Collection, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York. She has exhibited extensively including at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Martin Gale, Waking Up, oil on canvas, 1986 (library level 2)
Martin Gale was born in England in 1949, educated in Ireland from an early age and graduated from the National College of Art and Design in 1973. Gale’s work responds to the contemporary Irish landscape, offering an often dark commentary on rural Ireland in which familiar, even ordinary, landscapes become arresting and uneasy. Enigmatic picture titles and the absence of interaction between the figures peopling Gale’s landscapes, prompt the viewer to continue the suspended narrative. His realist style is meticulously detailed in execution, with a surreal edge derived from the psychological tension implicit in many of his works. In Waking Up (1986), painted after his marriage ended, there is an inherent disquiet in the atmosphere of the painting, which is heightened by the accuracy with which his children and their surroundings are depicted. Gale’s work is held in many private and corporate collections throughout Ireland including the Arts Council, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and the Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork. Gale represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale in 1980 and has exhibited widely in Ireland, Europe and the United States, with a major retrospective exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy Gallery, Dublin and the Ulster Museum, Belfast 2004-2005.
Hector McDonnell, Balthasar’s Restaurant, New York, oil on canvas, 1999 (library level 2)
Hector McDonnell was born in Belfast in 1947, studied at Oxford, Munich and Vienna and now lives in Antrim and New York. McDonnell’s work focuses on the minutiae of everyday life, the poetry found in the ordinary. Wistful views through windows and down dark corridors to bright, half-seen rooms beyond are beautifully coloured and composed. He is best known for his vibrant paintings of the street-life of shops, cafés and pubs. Balthasar’s Restaurant, New York (1999) evokes the vital atmosphere of a popular dining place, the debris on the table is a meal enjoyed for some and work for another. McDonnell commands a strong sense of place, whether a rural Irish bar or Ground Zero in New York. He has drawn on his travels to Tibet, China, India and Rwanda for paintings and published books of etchings. McDonnell won the prestigious Darmstädter Kunstpreis in 1979 leading to a retrospective exhibition in Darmstadt, Germany, and has exhibited extensively worldwide including a retrospective at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, 2003-2004.
Cecily Brennan, Garden in Autumn, oil on canvas, 1985 (library level 2)
Cecily Brennan was born in Co. Galway in 1955, graduated from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 1978 and lives in Berlin and Dublin. Garden in Autumn (1985) belongs to Brennan’s early career as a landscape artist, part of the series Paintings from a Rhododendron Garden. Exploring how landscape reflects emotion, this view is an introverted personal experience as much as a direct observation of nature. In the 1990s Brennan moved to sculpture in stainless steel, exploring the body and physical pain. Recently, she has turned to video as a medium to express hidden pain and trauma. Brennan’s work is represented in collections in Ireland and the Netherlands. Solo exhibitions include the Project Arts Centre, Dublin, the Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork, Nuova Icona, Venice and Gdansk City Gallery, Poland.
Louis le Brocquy, Cúchulainn VI, tapestry, 1975 (library level 2)
Louis le Brocquy (1916-2012) was born in Dublin and lived in London, the French Midi and Dublin. He was a self-taught artist who studied museum collections in London, Paris, Venice and Geneva from 1938. Le Brocquy’s early work, under the shadow of the Cold War, explored an inward sense of isolation. During his White Period, initially inspired by the glare of the sun on a white wall in Spain in 1955, le Brocquy produced highly original work, the essence of forms emerging from a white, almost sculptural surface. His evocative Ancestral Heads (1964-1975) explored the Celtic concept of the head as a magic box, while Portrait Heads (1975-2005) depicted major literary and artistic figures including Yeats, Beckett and Heaney, capturing the spirit of the individual. In the Cúchulainn VI tapestry (1975) each face of the Táin, gathered for a raid, is individual and unconnected with its neighbour, yet as a group they coalesce to form a larger presence or spirit. Le Brocquy’s many awards include a major prize at the Venice Biennale in 1956, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, France, Saoi of Aosdána, Ireland and Freedom of the City of Dublin. His work is represented in public collections world-wide including the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, the Tate Gallery, London, and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Basil Blackshaw, Showing Them the First Fence, oil on canvas, 1978 (library level 2)
Basil Blackshaw was born in Glengormley, Co. Antrim, in 1932, enrolled at the Belfast College of Art aged only sixteen and won a scholarship to study in Paris in 1951. Blackshaw’s long career has been distinguished by his refusal to be bound by any one genre or style, though his major inspiration has remained the landscape and the rural and sporting life of Co. Down. As a painter of animals, particularly of horse racing, dog breeding and cock fighting, Blackshaw achieves a nervous connection with the living animal. In Showing Them the First Fence (1978), his distinctive ‘sketchiness’ takes the painting only as far as it needs and is overlaid by opaque washes of exceptionally subtle colour. Later Blackshaw’s broad career encompassed nudes, theatre posters and commissioned portraits, notably of Brian Friel, Michael Longley and Ted Hickey. Blackshaw’s work is represented in many public collections including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and the Ulster Museum, Belfast. A major retrospective in 1995 travelled from Belfast to Dublin, Cork and galleries in the United States and a second was held in the Royal Hibernian Academy in 2013.
Sioban Piercy, Excerpts from Hell VI, (Excerpts from Heaven and Hell), screenprint, 1997 (library level 2)
Sioban Piercy, who was born in 1957, studied at the Royal College of Art, London, graduating in 1992, followed by a scholarship from the British School at Rome. She is Head of Fine Art Printmaking at the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology. In Excerpts from Heaven and Hell, Piercy reflects on the simultaneous experiencing of text and imagination in the act of reading. The images are not intended to be literal illustrations of the text quoted from Dante’s Divine Comedy but act as a catalyst for more personal reflections. She has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions including the Royal Academy in London and the 7th Biennale of Graphic Art at Lorient, France in 2007. Her awards include the International Triennial for Fine Art Printmaking at Kracow, Poland, the Printmakers’ Council of Britain Open and the National Portrait Exhibition, Dublin. Piercy’s work is held in private and public collections worldwide including the Instituto Internationale per la Grafica, Rome.
Philip Moss, S is for Spuds, (My Irish Alphabet) oil on linen, 2003 (library level 2)
Philip Moss was born in Dublin in 1961, graduated from the National College of Art and Design in 1985 and studied at the Belazel School of Art in Jerusalem. Early in his career, Moss worked with James Kirkman, agent to Lucien Freud, providing a highly influential and privileged experience of Freud’s work at first hand. Moss’s work has a political edge, commemorating victims of sectarian violence in Ireland and commentating on injustice and greed in modern society. He explores the nature of things, presenting his subjects with a tough realism against a hard blank background, often with cumulative force as stacks or piles of similar objects. S is for Spuds is part of the larger work, My Irish Alphabet, which invites consideration of the significance of each object to modern Irish life. Here Moss presents the iconic Irish crop of survival or famine, in a form familiar to today’s shopper, cleaned and piled up. Philip Moss has exhibited widely within Ireland and at the Florence Biennale in 1999.
Rita Duffy, Geansaí, oil and gesso on linen, 1996 (postgraduate room on level 2)
Rita Duffy was born in Belfast in 1959 and studied at Belfast College of Art and Design and the University of Ulster, graduating in 1986. Duffy draws on her experiences as a Catholic girl growing up in the turbulence of 1970s Belfast in works that are highly autobiographical, chronicling her own struggle for personal identity within a divided Northern Ireland. Using caricature and satire, Duffy exposes the entrenched prejudices of the sectarian and patriarchal society of Northern Ireland. Her sympathy lies with the women and children who bear the brunt of actions initiated by men. Geansaí (1996) is a conversation between women of different generations: Duffy pays tribute to her mother’s expertise in knitting the little Aran jumper while Duffy, with her different skills and opportunities, paints it for her son, naming it with the Irish word her own grandmother had used. Duffy’s work has been widely exhibited and is represented in many public collections including the Ulster Museum, Belfast and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Duffy’s professional accolades include two Royal Ulster Academy gold medals and a Leverhulme fellowship.
Mark Francis, Untitled, oil on paper, 1999 (postgraduate room on level 2)
Mark Francis was born in Newtownards in 1962, graduated from the Chelsea School of Art in 1986 and lives in London. Inspired by microbiology, Francis’s images are derived from the view of electron microscopes, mapping grid-like structures of cells, bacteria and microbes. The scale of Francis’s canvases means that the images appear abstract though still related to their photographic origins. Using a wet-on-wet technique, a photographic blur is achieved through horizontally dragged paint, enabling the grids and cells to hover above powerful, contrasting backgrounds. This painting in oil on paper (1999) is characteristically untitled. Whereas much of his earlier work had been monochrome, with a perfectly smooth finish, here Francis explores how the cells appear against an organic ground of dripping paint, contrasting the scientific with the human. Recently, Francis has shifted his focus from the micro to the macro view, making graphic representations of the data received by radio telescopes. Francis’s solo exhibitions include the Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal, the City Art Gallery, Manchester and a retrospective at the Milton Keynes Gallery. His work is held in public collections in Dublin, London and New York.
Robert Ballagh, The Conversation, acrylic and oil on canvas, 1997 (library level 2)
Robert Ballagh, born in Dublin in 1943, had no formal training as an artist but profited from his study of architecture at Bolton Street College of Technology and a brief apprenticeship with the painter Michael Farrell. Ballagh first came to public attention in the late 1960s through his use of Pop Art as a vehicle for protest at the escalation of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. In sympathy with Marxist art theory, Ballagh has preferred a mass audience to the elitism of a gallery based market, hence his 1975 mural in a Clonmel supermarket and his 1990s designs for the last set of Irish banknotes before the introduction of the euro. In The Conversation (1977), a playful tribute to the Dutch artist Vermeer, Ballagh paints himself closeted with the Old Master, debating the role of the figurative artist in an artistic environment that prizes abstraction over academic tradition. Ballagh’s work is held in collections including the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, the Ulster Museum, Belfast, and the Albrecht Dürer House, Nuremberg. He has exhibited widely, with retrospectives in Lund, Warsaw, Sofia and Dublin.
Mike Byrne, Orto Botanico IX, woodblock print, 2009 (library level 2)
Mike Byrne was born in Dublin in 1951 and graduated from the Limerick School of Art and Design in 1977. He is a lecturer in ceramics at L.S.A.D. and a practising ceramicist and printmaker. Byrne’s Orto Botanico series of multicoloured woodblock prints originated as ink drawings made in the botanical gardens of Lucca on a trip to Italy in 2007. On return to Ireland, Byrne identified elements that could be extracted and made into woodcuts. The fluidity of the handling and vibrant colour palette lend spontaneity to the work. Byrne’s work is represented in the collections of Áras an Uachtaráin, the Ulster Museum and Limerick City Gallery of Art and has been exhibited in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, Cuba and the United States.
Issued by Communications Office, NUI Maynooth, 01-7086160.
Pictured (l-r); Cathal McCauley, Librarian; Susan Durack, Library Representative on the NUI Maynooth Art Committee; Dr Mike O'Malley, Bursar; Dr Alison Fitzgerald, Dept of History and Prof Philip Nolan, President.