Irish Museum of Modern Art

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The Gordon Lambert Archive Project

In the first of two blogs Ciara Ball introduces Gordon Lambert and his life as a collector and art lover before a selection of material from his archive goes on display for National Heritage Week. Ciara Ball is a Member of IMMA’s Visitor Engagement Team. Ciara is working with Nuria Carballeira, Assistant Curator of IMMA’s Collections Department on the Gordon Lambert Archive, IMMA’s first significant archive project funded with help from The Heritage Council.

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Gordon Lambert at home with his Collection

Gordon Lambert was one of the first and most generous supporters of IMMA since the campaign for its creation began in the late 1980s. His private collection of over 300 artworks was gifted in stages to the IMMA Collection following its opening in 1991 and includes many well-loved pieces now familiar to our regular visitors. Since 2005 IMMA has also held Gordon’s expansive art library and archive containing letters, cards, photographs, printed material and ephemera collected over six decades. With the help of a grant from the Heritage Council we have now begun the absorbing task of cataloguing this fascinating resource.

Gordon Lambert studied accounting at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1944 he entered the biscuit manufacturing firm W&R Jacob and began a lifelong career in which he would serve the company as Chief Accountant, Marketing Director, Managing Director and finally Chairman from 1977. It was also in the 1940’s that Gordon met Cecil King who in turn introduced him to a large circle of artists and gallerists, many of whom were to become friends and contributors to his budding collection. Meetings in the Robt. Roberts Cáfe on Grafton Street led to soirées at King’s Pembroke Road home and acquaintance with an artistic circle including Oliver Dowling, Patrick Hennessy, Henry Robertson Craig and gallerist David Hendriks.


Archive material from Gordon Lambert Archive, Photo: Chris Jones

Gordon bought his first painting Pont du Carrousel (1954) by Barbara Warren in 1954. This was followed by Aperitif (c.1956) by Henry Robertson Craig and Patrick Hennessy’s Boy and Seagull (c.1954), recently included in the very popular exhibition Patrick Hennessy: De Profundis. During the 1960s he continued to support Irish artists while also adding significant international names to his collection. The many friends who congregated in his Rathfarnham home Continue reading

‘Ogle’ A new poem by Doireann Ní Ghríofa after Carol Rama’s ‘L’Isola degli occhi’

Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual writer working both in Irish and English. She frequently participates in cross-disciplinary collaborations, fusing poetry with film, dance, music, and visual art. We are delighted to be able to publish, for the first time, a new work by Doireann written in response to the current retrospective of Carol Rama here at IMMA (closing 1 Aug 2016). Doireann introduces the work below, and the poem follows.


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Pictured here on the far right is Carol Rama, L’isola degli occhi (The Island of Eyes), 1967, Plastic eyes, synthetic resin and enamel on canvas, 120 x 160 cm, Private Collection, Installation view at IMMA, photo Denis Mortell.

An Island of Eyes

A first encounter with the work of Carol Rama is a shock, a visceral jolt, an astonishment. As I walked through IMMA’s retrospective of Carol Rama’s life work, I was reminded of a quote by Philip Larkin– “Poetry is nobody’s business except the poet’s, and everybody else can f*** off.” Plucky and boisterous as she was (and no stranger to poetry herself), I feel that Carol Rama would have enjoyed this quote as applied to her art, in fact I can almost imagine the spark in her eye, her hoarse chuckle.

Yet despite the irreverence of that quote, Carol Rama’s work is our business, for it challenges us, it provokes us, it questions us. If art can be considered a reflection then Rama’s work is particularly human, for here we are, in each piece, flawed and messy, muddled and bizarre. Here is the life-work of a woman with guts. Rama is an artist who was driven by her loyalty to the depiction of desire, and to the bodily urge to make and to create. Each work is a challenge, a dare. It isn’t pretty. Rather, Rama is driven to attend to her own instincts, bloody and filthy, foul and true. There is little sense here of attempting to pander to an audience, or seeking approval. Nothing about Rama is easy.  It’s difficult to gaze into the glorious mess of the human psyche. Continue reading

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Gallery Voices: Touching, intriguing, descriptive, upsetting, a response to The Passion According to Carol Rama

In our Gallery Voices series Evy Richard, from our Visitor Engagement Team, takes us on an insightful journey through the exhibition The Passion According to Carol Rama exploring the extraordinary life and work of Italian artist Carol Rama.

The exhibition is now in its final week ending this Bank Holiday Monday 1 August.
Admission Free.



Carol Rama in her atelier home, Turin, ©Photo: Pino Dell’Aquila, 1989. © Archivio Carol Rama, Torino

A tour of this exhibition is like having a chat. The curators at IMMA have tried to replicate the artist’s apartment in Turin, Italy, where she lived like a recluse for most of her life, until her death on the 25th of September last year. Meandering from room to room, through corridors and passing alcoves is also like being on a journey, discovering the nooks and crannies of Rama’s home.

It is quite dark, lit low and black walls face you at mid corridor.

And the title, The Passion. Double meaning here? The deep impulse to create, paint, draw, no matter what, where nor with what. The main emotion running through 80 odd years of this artist’s life. Maybe also the spiritual Passion, a transcending pain, exposure, the spiritual battle to overcome a lowly “human condition”.

Born in 1918 into an affluent industrialist family, she started drawing at 14 and “ I never stopped, never” (Carol Rama). Her life takes a u-turn when her mother (also maybe her grand-mother?) is interned in a psychiatric hospital. Family conflict, business ruin, a father ousted as homosexual, his suicide? The conjectures are still rife as Carol herself kept a firm and unpredictable rein on her own history. Her death last September may now open more windows into her life. Continue reading

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Critical Response: Will the Mistresses Tools Dismantle the Master’s House? Dr Tina Kinsella on Prof Griselda Pollock

Across our programme this year there is a focus on exploring human sexuality, gender and identity growing from core themes in several of our exhibitions, including most recently  Patrick Hennessy De Profundis and The Passion According to Carol Rama. As part of this focus IMMA presented a day-long seminar entitled Sexuality, Identity and the State (click to listen back on soundcloud) and a talk by internationally acclaimed feminist theorist and art historian Professor Griselda Pollock.

In this blog Dr Tina Kinsella responds to Griselda Pollock’s talk Re-thinking the Twentieth Century with Carol Rama and Modernist Artist-Women : Creative Practice as Dissidence in the Feminist Century. You can listen back to the original talk on our soundcloud channel.

Will the Mistresses Tools Dismantle the Master’s House?
Griselda Pollock on Creative Practices as Dissidence in the Feminist Century

By Dr Tina Kinsella 

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The Passion According to Carol Rama, Installation view IMMA, 2016. Photo Denis Mortell.

Creative Practice and Critical Dissidence

As art theorist and cultural analyst Griselda Pollock confirmed in her recent lecture at IMMA, her enterprise has always been to navigate a critical position through dominant art historical, cultural and institutional discourses. For almost forty years Pollock has made a series of major theoretical, methodological and curatorial interventions that significantly contribute to feminist, postcolonial and queer scholarship in the arts. Alongside her longstanding collaborator Rozsika Parker, Pollock was a founding member of the Women’s Art History Collective (1972) which sought to address the omission of women’s creative practices in the art history canon. Continuing with this theme, in 1981 Pollock and Parker published Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology. Providing a commentary on the modalities by which oppressive ideologies systemically engender the art history canon, Old Mistresses made a seminal contribution to feminist art historical critique by investigating the structural hierarchies of the canon that contribute to the exclusion of women artists in specific ways.

In her lecture, delivered in response to IMMA’s current exhibition entitled The Passion According to Carol Rama, Pollock elaborated on this feminist methodology she has developed that probes the ways in which (i) art history is structured by dominant discourses that support masculine dominance of the canon and (ii) thereby contribute to the way in which women artists are excluded by institutional structures. She names this methodology critical dissidence, a mode of disagreement that approaches the discourses of the histories, theories and institutions of art as well as the aesthetics of creative practice from a non-androcentric, non-masculinist and non-patriarchal perspective. Continue reading

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Gallery Voices: Visitors to Patrick Hennessy’s exhibition discover how unusual he was for an Irish artist of his time

In the next blog of our Gallery Voices series Olive Barrett, from our Visitor Engagement Team, gives us an insight into how visitors to the exhibition Patrick Hennessy De Profundis are surprised with how talented, skilled and forward thinking Hennessy actually was.


Main image Men bathing, Étretat, c. 1954, Installation view Patrick Hennesy De Profundis IMMA 2016. Photo Jed Niezgo

The Patrick Hennessy exhibition, De Profundis, showing in the East Wing Galleries since March this year is now in its final week ending this Sunday 24 July. For many visitors to the gallery this is the first time that they have experienced Hennessy’s work and many people are of the opinion that the work is unusual for an Irish artist of his time. Patrick Hennessy was born in Cork in 1915, educated in Scotland and worked for a time under the Cubist master Fernandez Legér after winning a scholarship to Paris in 1937. The main perception from the public is that he was an artist and painter who had been forgotten about and had not readily received the acclaim that he deserved in a National Institution until now.

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Patrick Hennessy, Portrait-Figures (Self-Portrait), 1972, oil on canvas, 101.5 x 127 cm, National Gallery of Ireland Collection, Photo © National Gallery of Ireland, Photography courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.

The admiration for his work is obvious as one is present in any one of the four rooms or along the main corridor of the exhibition. For those who were familiar with the artist’s work, they had never realised how prolific a painter he was, the high skill level and execution of his subject matter or the diverse and avant-garde manner in which he painted. Hennessy was also a gay artist who openly expressed his sexuality in his work when it was not commonplace to do so and when it was in fact illegal in the state to be gay. This has been significant to many visitors not only artistically, culturally and socially but also regarding equality in light of the recent marriage equality referendum and rights for the LGBT communities. Viewers have been overheard saying that they had not realised the symbolism surrounding the wearing of a red tie to signify male interest and sexual orientation as is seen in the paintings, Portrait-Figures (Self Portrait), 1972, and the recent addition to the exhibition, Portrait of a Young Man. Continue reading


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