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Robert Ballagh at Heywood Community School, Co Laois
An exhibition of work by the distinguished Irish artist Robert Ballagh opens to the public at the Heywood Community School, Ballinakill, Co Laois, on Monday 5 March 2007. Comprising seven works the exhibition focuses on works produced by Ballagh during the 1970s. This exhibition is the fourth collaboration between IMMA’s National Programme and the Heywood Community School and coincides with the school’s ninth Annual Arts Week.
Robert Ballagh is a self taught artist whose work combines elements of pop culture, commercial art and technology. He was a leading figure in the introduction of Pop-Art to Ireland in the late 1960s. The art collector Gordon Lambert commissioned Ballagh to make a number of portraits some of which are included in this exhibition. Portrait of Gordon Lambert, 1972, uses both elements of figuration and abstraction - the figure of Lambert is shown holding an exact replica of a painting by the German Abstract artist Josef Albers that he had been instrumental in purchasing for the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Ballagh took this opportunity to introduce a new freedom into this genre. He drew on such advertising techniques as the unframed cut-out and a screenprinted photograph as a basis for his painting, combining these with a sculptural cast of the model’s hands to create a new kind of portrait.
A portrait of mezzo soprano Bernadette Greevy, Homage to Bernadette Greevy, 1978, was commissioned by Lambert in 1977 to acknowledge her great contribution to classical singing in Ireland. The singer is represented in a variety of ways, through painted imitations of photographs, her record and cassette covers and through her voice. The viewers presence triggers the playing of one of her best known recordings from a cassette player, concealed behind the fictitious cassette player in the picture.
Robert Ballagh was born in Dublin in 1943, he originally studied architecture and worked as an engineering draughtsman, a musician and a postman before dedicating himself to painting in 1967. Alongside his paintings he has also worked on a large variety of other projects including designing of over 70 stamps for An Post, the final series of Irish banknotes before the introduction of the euro, set design for the Riverdance Company and the Gate Theatre and the staging of the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Croke Park in 2003. Ballagh is represented in the IMMA Collection by 19 works and his work is held in many other collections including the National Gallery of Ireland and the Ulster Museum. A recent retrospective of his work took place at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 2006.
The Heywood Community School is committed to exposing their students and the broader community to the arts at a national and international level. Previous exhibitions programmed at the school’s Annual Arts Week have included works by Pauline Bewick, Brain Bourke, Paddy Graham, Michael Kane, Louis le Brocquy, Fergus Lyons, Brian Maguire, Michael Mulcahy and Tony O’Malley. These exhibitions have been carried out in partnerships with the Arts Council of Ireland, the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
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