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Royal Hospital Kilmainham
Dublin 8, D08 FW31, Ireland
Phone +353 1 6129900

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This talk will cover ideas of Western Classicism and Neo-classicism and how they continue to shape our ideas of what is beautiful or harmonious. We will contrast the ideas of Classicism with an ancient, yet still practiced Japanese aesthetic of rustic ‘beauty’ called wabi-sabi. The talk will draw on examples from Western painting, architecture and sculpture versus the Japanese aesthetic which encompasses a ‘way of being’ rather than a set construct of ideas. Some areas we will explore include ephemerality versus solidity; natural colour palette versus high-pitched colours; and gilding, old and imperfect versus flawlessness.

From IMMA’s Collection, we will look at two examples of artists whose work embodies more wabi-sabi, rustic aesthetics:

Catherine Lee: Lee (b. 1950) grew up in Pampa, Texas. She studied at San Jose State University in San Jose, California, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art in 1974. She lived in New York City for almost thirty years and returned to Texas in late 1990s, settling in the Hill Country near Austin. Lee’s works are a hybrid of painting, sculpture and installation, in which she juxtaposes the simplicity of a repeated form with a richness of materials, such as wax, bronze, glass and fibreglass.

Sean Scully: Scully (b. 1945) was born in Dublin and raised in London. He moved to New York to undertake a graduate fellowship at Harvard in the early 1970s. Scully is renowned worldwide for his adherence to the stripe in his expressionist painting. In the 1980s Scully loosened the precise grid-like style of his early works in favour of bold rough edged columns and panels of thickly applied paint. Scully was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1989 and 1993.


This talk will be conducted via Zoom with Beth O’Halloran, Visitor Engagement Team, IMMA. To book your place contact Beth via [email protected]

Important Notice


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.