Her Back to the World
Sat. 5 Aug. – Fri. 22 Dec. 2023
Taking inspiration from a quote by the great 20th century painter, Agnes Martin, this exhibition brings together a survey of the changing themes and interests of Irish women artists over 100 years, as reflected in The Niland Collection.
Many women artists from the early part of the twentieth century such as Mainie Jellett, Evie Hone and Mary Swanzy came from privileged backgrounds, and art was seen very much as a recreational activity rather than a career choice. Due to the fact that these women could afford to live and study in Paris, however, they became pivotal in bringing modern art to Ireland and were often far less conventional in their practice than their male counterparts. Mainie Jellett in particular has been noted for the ‘missionary zeal’ with which she attempted to bring Cubism, an avant-garde art movement which swept Europe in the early ‘twentieth century’, to Ireland.
In the second half to the 20th century, women who chose to pursue a career in art, such as Norah MacGuinness and Nano Reid had to rely on a meagre income from the sale of their work, and were often forced to diversify into other areas. As well as working as a painter MacGuinness was retained as a set-designer and an illustrator, and also worked as a window dresser for Brown Thomas, Dublin.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, artists such as Alice Maher, Rita Duffy and Dorothy Cross, began to address social, political and feminist issues in their work. Cross’s work Stiletto II, 1994, is part of a larger series of works entitled Udder, made in the early 1990s. For these works Cross used cow’s udders to create pieces which deliberately “exaggerate the confusion” between the sexes, seeming both masculine and feminine at the same time. The Udder works marry the animal and primordial with the domestic or civilised through the recreation of objects with such basic, primal material. Amongst the many other works on view are sculptural pieces by Fiona Mulholland, poignant photography by Mary Kelly that addresses care for those with long-term mental health issues in Ireland, and a mixed media installation by Maud Cotter, entitled Breath, 1998, which is new to The Niland Collection.
Image credits: Maud Cotter; Breath, 1998, wax and pvc.