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Contemporary Irish Art Society exhibition at IMMA

An exhibition to celebrate 50 years of collecting by the Contemporary Irish Art Society opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Thursday 17 November 2005.  SIAR 50 , which takes its name from the Irish word for back or looking back, comprises some 100 works by such well known artists as Louis le Brocquy, Patrick Scott, Camille Souter, Barrie Cooke, Robert Ballagh and Sean Scully. The works are drawn from the private and corporate collections of CIAS members and also from works purchased over the years by the Society for donation to public collections. The exhibition will be officially opened by President Mary McAleese at 6.00pm on Wednesday 16 November. Co-curated by Professor Campbell Bruce, President of the CIAS, and Catherine Marshall, Head of Collections at IMMA, the exhibition is generously supported by Anglo Irish Bank, H&K International and KPMG.

SIAR 50 provides a fascinating insight into the collecting practices of the CIAS since its foundation in 1962. The keen eye which its members brought to their choice of works is clearly evident in the number of artists, relatively unknown at the time of purchase, who have since gone on to become leading figures in the Irish, and indeed international, visual art arenas. This was evident from the very first work purchased by the Society and donated to the Hugh Lane Gallery, Large Solar Device , 1963, by Patrick Scott, who is seen by many as embodying the modernising impulse which transformed Irish art in the 1960s and ’70s. This acquisition was funded by nine patrons each contributing £10, having seen Scott’s painting at a private view at the Dawson Gallery.

Although never intended as a representative collection of contemporary Irish art, the CIAS collection – and the exhibition – does chart almost all the major developments in Irish art over the past 50 years. Nano Reid’s Tinkers among the Ruins , 1962, while attentive to local detail, shows a clear awareness of the prevailing Cubist movement in Europe, which is still more evident in Louis le Brocquy’s Irish Tinkers , 1948, the common subject matter serving to draw attention to an interesting contrast in styles.  Patrick Collins, in Hy Brazil , 1963, and Camille Souter, in Fooling in the Tent, 1964,  throw off the creative strictures of the 1940s and ‘50s, to celebrate apparently insignificant landscapes and objects in a new, liberated, painterly manner.

By the early 1970s Robert Ballagh can be seen adapting the prevailing Pop Art to an Irish milieu, pointing up the brash vulgarity of the emerging consumer culture in Iced Cream Caramels , 1970-71. Another Ballagh work, Portrait of Gordon Lambert, 1972, marks the vital role which its subject played in the development of both the CIAS and IMMA over many years.

Janet Mullarney, a recent recipient of the O’Malley Award from the Irish American Cultural Institute, is represented by Red Handed , 1998, a powerful mother and child sculpture that recalls both sanctity and repression, and highlights the impact that time spent outside Ireland has had on the practice of many Irish artists. The contemporary emphasis of the Society’s collecting practices is also evident in such Postmodern works as Mesh, 1986, by Willie Doherty, with its combination of image and text, and The Luncheon , 2002, by Caroline McCarthy, a witty parody of traditional approaches to painting and sculpture in the form of a lusciously colourful photograph. Melt, 2002, by Paul Doran, the Society’s most recent gift to IMMA, offers a very contemporary analysis of the process of painting and the potential of the medium, while Corban Walker’s architectural speculations on light, form and materials are revealed in Untitled, 1997.

Commenting on the importance of the exhibition to the CIAS, Professor Campbell Bruce said that the Society was delighted to have its work showcased at IMMA, which in its relatively short lifetime had done so much to transform the visual arts in Ireland – and public engagement with them, “The exhibition also gives us a welcome opportunity to pay tribute to the many public-spirited people who have worked untiringly to drive forward the development of the Society over the years. The CIAS has been fortunate in having had many distinguished members who have been prepared to give generously of their time and expertise, on a completely voluntary basis, to support the work of contemporary artists and of public institutions, such as the Hugh Lane Gallery, the Crawford Gallery and, indeed, IMMA itself”, he added.

IMMA Director, Enrique Juncosa, said the Museum was very pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Society, for the second time.  “I very much hope that this exhibition will create still greater interest in the activities of the CIAS and encourage other art lovers to become involved in its work. Private patronage is vital for any society wishing to develop and maintain a vibrant arts sector. SIAR 50 is a living example of this, as it would have been quite impossible for the CIAS and the Museum to mount an exhibition on this scale without the support of its three generous sponsors – Anglo Irish Bank, H&K International and KPMG”. 

Curators’ Lecture
The curators of SIAR 50 , Professor Campbell Bruce and Catherine Marshall, will give a lecture on the exhibition at 11.30am on Thursday 17 November in the Lecture Room. Admission is free, but booking is essential. To book please telephone the automatic booking line on tel: +353 1 612 9948 or email: talksandlectures@imma.ie .

A major publication, with an introduction by Enrique Juncosa and essays by Professor Campbell Bruce, Catherine Marshall and Aidan Dunne, Art Critic of The Irish Times, accompanies the exhibition.

SIAR 50 continues until 19 February 2006.

Admission is free.

Opening hours:  
Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am - 5.30pm
except Wednesday   10.30am - 5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays 12 noon - 5.30pm
Monday and 24 - 27 December Closed

For further information and images please contact Monica Cullinane or Patrice Molloy at Tel: +353 1 612 9900; Email: press@imma.ie

26 October 2005

 

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