IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art

“The devastation of the people”: an interview with Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Duncan Campbell, The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy, 2016 (still). Photo courtesy of Rina Yang

On a recent return to Ireland in late March, at the invitation of the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes appeared for two speaking engagements to discuss her first major piece of work ‘Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics‘ (1979/ 2001) and how it has served as a source of inspiration for artist Duncan Campbell.  Campbell’s latest film work The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy was, in part, inspired by Scheper-Hughes’ debut. In IMMA on the 30 March she spoke with Campbell and Professor Luke Gibbons (acting as discussion moderator) reflecting on her experiences of tracing the social disintegration of a remote village in Ireland and her later attempts to reconcile an honest ethnography with the community. The talk held at IMMA was recorded and can be listened at the end of this blog post or on SoundCloud by clicking here. She then traveled to Cork on 3 April 2017 to speak with IMMA Director Sarah Glennie at University College Cork – School of Applied Social Studies.

Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics is an objective study of rural Irish life in the small town of ‘Ballybran’ in the 1970s. Plagued by social and individual problems, Scheper-Hughes was intrigued by the social life of the villagers and how their culture, language, religion, values, interactions, and way of life contributed to the community’s daily life and overall slow, yet steady decline through illness, emigration and isolation. Scheper-Hughes took particular interest in the prevalence of mental illness in rural communities, especially amongst men who often suffered from severe depression and schizophrenia.

While Scheper-Hughes was staying with us at IMMA we invited Dr. Lisa Godson, Co-Director, MA Design History and Material Culture, NCAD to meet with her and to write this blog about the occasion.

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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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Let’s talk about love

“This is an unashamedy sensual show, by turns exotic, repulsive, shocking, challenging and yet deliberately thoughtful throughout” Cristín Leach Hughes, The Sunday Times.

We are now in the final three weeks of the major exhibition What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now which ends on Sunday 7 February. Alongside the exhibition IMMA has presented an extensive programme of screenings, talks, events and live happenings to open up conversations and bring you deeper into the artists’ work. We have gathered together all the resources from the exhibition in this blog, see below, making a perfect introduction to the work, or if you have already visited, a place to delve deeper for further information.

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