IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art

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Curator’s Voice : Patrick Hennessy and the power of artworks to connect with personal experience

In the most recent installment of our Curator’s Voice series, IMMA Curator Seán Kissane observes how his own relationship with artworks in the exhibition Patrick Hennessy De Profundis has changed over the course of the show and how conversations with visitors, peers and friends has resulted in some powerful and compelling responses to the emotional subject matter of the paintings.


Hennessy_Sean Alone

Patrick Hennessy, Seán Alone, 1977, oil on canvas, 38.1 x 60.9 cm, Private Collection

One of the most rewarding aspects of curating an exhibition is observing the ways in which one’s relationship with individual works changes over the course of the show. The conversations one has with visitors, peers and friends constantly challenge and enrich the interpretations that may have been formed in the course of research. The Patrick Hennessy show has been no exception. As it deals with emotional subject matters like sexual orientation, psychological alienation and coming out; some of the responses I’ve heard have been powerful and compelling. One quiet little work in particular has provoked much discussion. By co-incidence it is entitled Seán Alone and Hennessy painted it shortly before he died. It shows an adolescent boy sitting by the side of a canal, looking after a pile of clothes as his friends swim boisterously in the water. I had always seen this image as representing psychological isolation, although he is surrounded by his peers, the title tells us that the protagonist is alone. I imagined Seán’s thought processes, his awareness of his difference and how the weight of that gradually increased over time to that point at which it became unbearable and his journey of coming-out would begin.

During the exhibition other gay men have read the work in more physical and literal ways. They focused on the fact that Seán remains fully-clothed as his friends went swimming. One man said this resonated with him, because as a teenager he didn’t like to take off his clothes. He was attracted to one of his close friends and was ashamed that he couldn’t control the unwelcome responses of his body – added to this his ‘response’ might have had negative consequences. Another man described how as a teenager he was very thin. He didn’t like to show his body because he thought that somehow his ‘weak’ body betrayed him, that his other ‘weakness’ would be revealed. At our recent seminar, Sexuality, Identity and the State some of these ideas were teased out by a number of psychoanalysts who responded to Hennessy’s images. As a reflection of their professional practice, they looked for emotional insights in the faces of his sitters, and in particular Continue reading

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Curator’s Voice: Kissing in public

As part of the Curator’s Voice series we invited curatorial duo RGKSKSRG (Rachael Gilbourne and Kate Strain) discuss their project This is Public & Sexy, a one-night collection of artworks, choreographers and minor dramas, performed live, which co-incidentally took place on the closing weekend of What We Call Love.

This is Public & Sexy map

Emma Haugh, “The Re-appropriation of Sensuality” (Detail) also featuring This is Public & Sexy printed map designed by Alex Synge.

What We Call Love coincidentally shared its closing weekend with that of our residency as independent curators RGKSKSRG at studio 468, a studio based in St. Andrew’s Community Centre, Rialto, Dublin 8. Located a stone’s throw from the museum, the concerns of our community-based residency and that of the major exhibition at IMMA, were spun from mutual desires. This text serves as a footnote marking this moment of interest in the softer, wetter things in life – desire, sexuality, love – as poised across two very different spaces within Dublin city. This rush of feelings to the site of presentation could be read as reflecting the collective impulse of a society to cast and hold a space where the complexities of love and sexuality can be celebrated, in public. Continue reading

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Lisa Moran, Curator: Education and Community Programmes, introduces a new programme entitled Art | Memory | Place beginning in October 2015 and running over the course of 2016.



‘Is it the fear of forgetting that triggers the desire to remember, or is it perhaps the other way around?’ (Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory, 2003)

Art | Memory | Place is a new programme of talks and events beginning in October 2015 and running over the course of 2016. Focusing on the role of art and artists whose work addresses memory, the programme will provide a forum for consideration of this work within the wider context of memory studies and, more specifically, in the context of the ‘decade of centenaries’ in Ireland.

Writing at the end of the twentieth-century, Andreas Huyssen (Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia University) argued that the recent obsession with memorials, monuments and commemoration is indicative of a fin de siècle dread of the future displaced onto a desire for the past. He attributes this to a collective disillusionment with the events of the twentieth century – the unfulfilled promises of modernism, the atrocities committed by civilised societies – resulting in a shift from an historically-based forward gaze to a memory-driven fixation on the past. He argues that traditional history becomes distrusted and displaced in favour of a discourse around memory as a means of understanding the past. Continue reading

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Video:: What does love mean to you?

The curators of the major exhibition What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now, Christine Macel, Chief Curator, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Rachael Thomas, Senior Curator: Head of Exhibitions, IMMA, introduce the core ideas and themes within the exhibition. Also we ask members of the public ‘what does love mean to you?’

What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now is on at IMMA from 12 September 2015 – 7 February 2016. Admission: €8.00 full price, €5.00 concession (senior citizens and the unwaged), under 18’s and those in full time education free. Admission free for IMMA Members plus one guest, >arrow linkclick here to become a IMMA Member.

Visitors are advised that this exhibition contains adult themes and explicit imagery. Please speak to a member of staff for further information.


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Video:: Karen Sweeney introduces Karla Black

Karen Sweeney (Exhibitions, IMMA) introduces Karla Black’s dynamic new body of sculptural work currently on show in the gallery spaces of IMMA.  Continue reading