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Since the 1980s, Patricia Hurl has created work in a range of media that deals with loss, pain, frustration and loneliness.  The exhibition features over 70 works mainly drawn from her early paintings in which she exposed the suburban home as less than perfect.  

The exhibition demonstrates Hurl’s characteristic use of highly expressionistic and layered brushstrokes that tend to blur distinctions between the figurative and abstraction. This stylistic blend intensifies the visceral qualities and emotion in Hurl’s work in paintings such as The Company Wife (1986) which comprises a group of men in suits gathered as a jovial unit, juxtaposed with the solitary figure of a seated woman. Typically, of Hurl’s early work the faces are obscured, the paint is applied with an urgency that hints at the emotion felt by a woman living in a male dominated society.  

While dealing with a range of difficult topics, humour is often deployed. This can come through in the titles of the artworks, as well as in the absurdity of imagery such as Sunday Ritual (1989) depicting an ordinary domestic dining room scene – in closer inspection the viewer realises the mother’s head is protruding from the body of the turkey, the mother is literally being served up for Sunday dinner. 

Sketchbooks, diaries, magazines, and newspaper cuttings are central to Hurl’s practice and an integral part of her process, a selection of which is included in the exhibition. The catalyst for the ongoing Warrior series came from media coverage surrounding the treatment of women internationally and closer to home, such as the Belfast rape trial of 2018.  Creating helmets as props Hurl set about producing a series of portraits where her face is partially obscured by the helmet, but the eyes convey a tremendous strength. Hurl portrays women as warriors; mothers, sisters, friends are all affected by horrific acts but often powerless to ease the suffering of loved ones.  

Smaller in scale than earlier works, paintings such as Warrior XI (2022) present a close view of the head. The close-up view and tight framing are characteristics of Hurl’s recent work, with the protagonist looking directly at the viewer encouraging engagement in a strong though nonaggressive manner. Throughout her career Hurl courageously uses her own body in works such as Forensic Portraiture as a vehicle and site for her political statement, avoiding the need to ask permission, while furthering artistic freedom.  

As an older artist her work increasingly deals with issues of isolation and loneliness. She is part of the Na Cailleacha collective of eight older women, which embraces artists from various European destinations and includes a musician, two film-makers and a writer, as well as visual artists. 

About the exhibition

IMMA is delighted to present this major retrospective by Patricia Hurl, one of Ireland’s most accomplished artists. Hurl’s work is by its nature political, and traverses the disciplines of painting, multi-media and collaborative art practice. Since the 1970s, she has created work that deals with loss, pain, frustration and loneliness.

The exhibition features over 70 works, mainly drawn from early paintings in which she exposed and upended our standard images of Irish suburban domesticity and bliss. Early works such as Ennui (1985) and Company Wife (1986) demonstrate Hurl’s characteristic use of highly expressionistic and layered brushstrokes that tend to blur distinctions between the figurative and abstraction. This stylistic blend intensifies the visceral qualities and emotion in Hurl’s work painted in spontaneous and instinctive bursts. Her immersive works make use of distinctive palettes that map stages of the artist’s life and mirror preoccupations in her work, such as the muted tones of a marital breakup in (add title figures attached at the feet) or the vivid red responses to media coverage documenting war and violence in works such as Hurl’s ongoing Warrior Series. The exhibition includes a selection of the many sketchbooks and diaries that have always been central to Hurl’s practice and an integral part of her thought process. 

About the artist

Originally from Dublin and a former member of Temple Bar Galleries and Studios, Dublin, Patricia Hurl often works in collaboration with artist Therry Rudin. Hurl was a lecturer in Fine Art Painting at the Dublin Institute of Technology and studied at the National College of Art and Design,1975 and at Dun Laoghaire School of Art and Design,1984. Hurl currently runs the Damer Gallery in Co Tipperary along with Therry Rudin. In 1984 she won the Norah Mc Guinness award for painting. 

Hurl’s work was recently included in The Narrow Gate of the Here and Now: IMMA 30 Years of the Global Contemporary: Queer Embodiment; IMMA, Dublin 2021 – 2022; Elliptical Affinities: Irish Women Artists and the Politics of the Body, 1984 to the present, Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, Co Louth and Limerick City Art Gallery, 2019 – 2020. Hurl has exhibited in selected group and solo shows and has represented Ireland in symposiums in Atlanta USA, Caversham, S.A. and Zaragossa, Spain. She was a contributor to The Great Book of Ireland. Her work is included in the recent publication Art and Architecture of Ireland Volume V: Twentieth Century, Royal Irish Academy, 2015. Hurl’s work is represented in private and public collections including IMMA; The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon; The Highlanes Gallery and the Collection of University of Limerick.

Listen Back Artist Talk

Listen to artist Patricia Hurl, for a keynote discussion on her major retrospective exhibition at IMMA. The artist is joined in conversation with art historian, writer, and curator Catherine Marshall, together they reflect on the significance of Hurl’s longstanding, socially inclusive art practice and the context for some of the most challenging feminist artworks made by Hurl from the 1980s to today.

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Additional Resources