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IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art

Artist’s Voice:: Deborah Brown

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A work by Deborah Brown, currently on show in the Fragments exhibition, draws inspiration from a text by W.B. Yeats. The sculpture titled The Gate, (1994) was purchased for the IMMA Collection in 2002.

Below is an excerpt from a handwritten letter dated 24 February 2003 from Brown to IMMA. In it, the artist describes some of the scenarios depicted in the work, which were drawn from the W.B. Yeats tale The Merrow:

“The Gate symbolizes freedom, it is open and the key is in the keyhole. The scenarios inserted at intervals on the grid-like structure have themes dealing with human freedom. The themes were suggested to me by songs in Mahler’s cycle “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” and a legend or folk tale which I read in W.B. Yeats “Irish Fairy and Folk Tales” The Merrow (who was called Coomara).

On the left side of the gate the scenarios are suggested by the songs. The boy is imprisoned in his cell but his thoughts are free. He is sitting within an open grid box. In his thoughts he goes up into the mountains and knocks on the door of his lover. The door is symbolized by an open door frame structure.

On the right side scenarios have been suggested by the Irish legend; The Merrow (Coomara). He makes friends with a fisherman called Jack and invites him down to his house at the bottom of the sea and shows him his room where he keeps the Souls of drowned sailors in his “Soul Cages”. They look like lobster pots. Jack, who is worried by this, invites Coomara to his own house on land, gets him drunk and when Coomara falls asleep Jack goes back down to the seabed again and releases the Souls. My scenarios portray Jack sitting on a rock waiting for Coomara to come and on the seabed with a lobster pot-like cage about to release the Souls.

The legend is worth reading. There is a lot more in it than I have written down.”


Brown’s work can be viewed in the exhibition IMMA Collection: Fragments from 1 May through 26 July 2015.

Image: Deborah Brown, b. 1927, The Gate, 1994, Bronze, 170 x 111 x 75 cm, IMMA Collection, Purchase, 2002. All images © the artist: photography by Denis Mortell. 

Author: IMMA - Irish Museum of Modern Art

IMMA is Ireland's Museum of Modern Art

One thought on “Artist’s Voice:: Deborah Brown

  1. A most brilliant and influential eye pleasing and thought provoking work of art. “The Gate” is a most spectacular accomplishment. Bravo to Deborah Brown. I am positively thrilled to see this sculpture. Thank you, Patrick Mason, Stittsville, Ontario,Canada

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