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Examining the reception of Mary Swanzy’s work in Ireland and beyond, a panel of art writers, curators and academics come together to bridge existing art criticism with new research in relation to the exhibition Mary Swanzy, Voyages. This closing seminar/discussion delves deeper into archival materials and art contexts, to position Swanzy’s oeuvre within current discourses on Modernist art in Ireland, the place of women as artists and revolutionaries in Irish Modernism, and the role of censorship, ideology, cultural bias and displacement plays in historicising of an artist of Swanzy’s significance in Ireland and beyond.

Chaired by Dr. Róisín Kennedy, Lecturer, School of Art History and Cultural Policy, UCD. A dynamic panel of speakers include Brian Fallon, author and critic Fionna Barber, Manchester School of Art; Hilary Pyle, writer, curator and Yeats scholar;  Tara Plunkett, Lecturer, UCD;  Sarah Kelleher, writer, curator and researcher UCC; Aintzane Legarreta Mentxaka writer, academic and member of IMMA VET, and others.

About Speakers

Brian Fallon (born 1933) is one of Ireland’s foremost art critics. He was Chief Critic of The Irish Times for 35 years and its Literary Editor for 11 years (1977 to 1988). He has written numerous books on Irish art and frequently lectures on the subject of art. Publications include: Irish Art 1830-1990, Brian Fallon (author), Appletree Press. An Age of Innocence: Irish Culture 1930-1960, Brian Fallon, Gill & Macmillan (1998). Patrick Swift and Irish Art (1993), Brian Fallon, published in Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal, Gandon Editions, 2001, and many others. Fallon also contributes to the Irish Art Review that includes a monograph essay on Mary Swanzy. See here.( insert hyperlink)

Dr. Róisín Kennedy is a graduate of UCD and the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the critical reception of modernist art in Ireland, the role and function of art writing post 1880, and on the position of women as artists and subjects in modernist art. She completed an IRCHSS funded PhD on Politics of Vision: Critical Writing on Art in Ireland, 1939 -1972 in 2006. She has published widely on the subject in edited collections and in Circa, Irish Arts Review and Third Text. She was awarded an Arts Council Bursary in Curatorship by the Arts Council in 1998 for which she curated and catalogued the historic and contemporary state collection at Dublin Castle, and wrote Dublin Castle Art, (1999). She is former Yeats Curator at the National Gallery of Ireland, (2006-08), where she curated The Fantastic in Irish Art and Masquerade and Spectacle: The Travelling Fair in the Work of Jack B. Yeats in 2007.

Dr Fiona Barber is Reader in Art History in the Manchester School of Art, Art Research Hub Leader and Research Degrees Co-ordinator for Visual Culture. Her research interests are contemporary and twentieth century Irish visual culture, feminist art history, contemporary women’s painting and a range of issues in twentieth century modernism including nation, memory and identity and gender performativity and embodiment. See more details here

Dr. Hilary Pyle writer, curator and Yeats scholar. She has authored several books on Jack B. Yeats, A Biography. Born in Dublin, she studied English and Irish and upon graduation was awarded the RobertGardner scholarship to Cambridge, where she completed her thesis on the Irish novelist, James Stephens. Her prior roles include; Assistant Curator at the Ulster Museum, Lecturer at UCC, art critic with the Irish Times and Cork Examiner. In 1975 Pyle curated the fifth ROSC exhibition at the Crawford Gallery. She is Honorary Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and is a long term member of the International Art Critics Association.

Dr Tara Plunkett is Lecturer/Assistant Professor School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at UCD. Her research interests focuses on Spanish and Latin American artists’ use of the Surrealist aesthetic in works of self-fashioning. In investigating canonical figures such as Federico García Lorca and Rafael Alberti in tandem with lesser-known painters like Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington, her research traces a chronological and geographical evolution of self-fashioning on the margins of Surrealism. Plunkett is particularly interested in the motif of the hybrid body and how it relates to a shifting subjectivity. As co-editor of Preservation, Radicalism and the Avant-Garde Canon (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) she is investigating the ways in which avant-garde cultural production is canonised, classified and curated. In 2014 she curated an exhibition of works by local Irish artists inspired by women of the Spanish and Latin American avant-gardes, Out of the Ordinary: Contemporary Visions of the Avant-Garde at the Naughton Gallery, Belfast. See more details here

Sarah Kelleher is a writer, curator (with Pluck Projects) and PhD candidate in History of Art, UCC, Cork. As a Government of Ireland Scholar she is completing her PhD on contemporary Irish sculpture in History of Art at UCC. Sarah is an experienced programmer and administrator, having worked as part of the programming team of the National Sculpture Factory and managed the Vangard Gallery, Cork. Sarah has published widely, writing scholarly texts on Gerda Frömmel for the catalogue to Gerda Frömel, A Retrospective for IMMA, contributing to Photography and Doubt (Routledge, 2016) and writing reviews for Paper Visual Art Journal, Enclave Review, and The VAI Visual Artists News Sheet. Sarah also has an independent curatorial practice and has co-curated the exhibitions Affective Entities in collaboration with MAKE 2016, and This is not my voice speaking (2015) at the Wandesford Quay Gallery. See more details here

Dr Aintzane Legarreta Mentxaka is a writer and academic, based in Dublin, Ireland, is a Member of the IMMA’s Visitor Engagement Team and a NUI Fellow based in the School of English, Drama, and Film at University College Dublin. Mentxaka is a scholar of English literature, specialising in modernism. She is the author of The Postcolonial Traveller (2016), and Kate O’Brien and the Fiction of Identity (2011) Mentxaka has also written plays that and in addition to literature, is particularly interested in film; she has been scriptwriter for a number of short films, has been co-programmer of the Lookout Dublin Film Festival 2006, co-organizer and co-curator of the arts and film festival Turn the Light On 2011, and she is currently co-programmer of the Dublin Film Qlub. At present, she is also general editor of Gur Cake Editions, an artisan not-for-profit publishing house. See more details here

About the Artist

Mary Swanzy (1882-1978) is a unique Irish artist. Her level of achievement, world travel and original thinking is unmatched in Irish art, yet this is the first retrospective of her work in 50 years. Born in the late Victorian era, by her early twenties Swanzy had mastered the academic style of painting. She witnessed the birth of Modern art in Paris before the First World War and her work rapidly evolved through the different styles of the day, each of them interpreted and transformed by her in a highly personal way.

In 1920, against the background of violence of the Irish War of Independence, she left Ireland in a form of self-imposed exile. Traveling first through Eastern Europe and the Balkans, she then sailed to Hawaii and Samoa from 1923 to 24 – literally crossing the globe. While there she produced a body of work that is unique in an Irish context with images that show her proto-feminism and critique of the colonial system. Best known for her Cubist and Futurist paintings, after 1914 she exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon des Indépendants and the Beaux Arts, alongside artists who are now household names. By 1946 she was included in exhibitions with Chagall, William Scott and Henry Moore but after this time her work fell into obscurity.

This may in part have been due to her status as a female artist and indeed she was vocal on issues of gender, remarking; ‘if I had been born Henry instead of Mary my life would have been very different’.

The IMMA exhibition Voyages, 2018-2019, aims to reinstate her as a Modern Irish Master.

Additional Resources 


Additional Resources

CLOSING SEMINAR / Mary Swanzy, Voyages Soundcloud


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