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Alanna O'Kelly, b.1955


Alanna O’Kelly’s piece ‘Sanctuary/Wasteland refers to Teampall Dumhach Mhor, or ‘Church of the Great Sandbank’ at Thallabhawn, County Mayo, which lies on the edge of an estuary between Mweelrea Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. This site was a monastic settlement from the 6th century and a famine burial ground in the 19th century. Known as ‘The Sanctuary’ to 17th century mapmakers, it was referred to as ‘The Wastelands’ by local people in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Constant erosion is dissolving the site and the storms of recent years have reduced the mound to a third of its original mass. This dissolution is used as a metaphor for the resolution of the psychic conflicts of our history. O’Kelly employs a slow-moving vocabulary of film close-ups and an undercurrent of sombre sounds that reduce the famine’s emotional extremes – hope and despair, loss and recovery.

Dimensions Unframed
Credit LineIMMA Collection: Purchase, 1997
Item NumberIMMA.745
Copyright For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].
Image Caption
Alanna O'Kelly, Sanctuary/Wastelands, 1994, Video, Unframed, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Purchase, 1997

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].

About the Artist

Alanna O'Kelly b.1955

Irish artist Alanna O'Kelly's practice incorporates sculpture, performance, slide installation and film. Influenced by feminist politics, O’Kelly explores ideas of the psychic conflicts of our shared history and the continuity of tradition.
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We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.