Miriam de Búrca | Dolan Cillin Sample I | 2017 | Ink on paper vellum
Miriam de Búrca | Dolan Cillin Sample II | 2017 | Ink on paper vellum
Miriam de Búrca | Anatomy of Chaos II: The Legacy of Madness | 2018 | Ink drawing on man-made vellum
For Culture night 2023 the Arts Council will once again proudly showcase a selection of works recently added to its extensive Visual Art Collection.
To celebrate the evening we are sharing some insight on each of the artist and artworks which will be on display:
‘For this body of work, I am focusing on the phenomenon of burial sites in Ireland called cillíní. They were used for interring unbaptised babies and others ‘considered unsuitable’ for consecrated ground; unmarried mothers, the mentally
ill, unknown strangers, disabled children (or ‘changelings’), and suicides were all exiled to eternal Limbo. What interests me about these landscapes is how their physical manifestation echoes the dark recesses of the human psyche; parts of our individual
and collective selves that we would prefer to keep out of the light, away from scrutiny.
The peripheral nature of the locations that were chosen for these sites, is like a metaphor for the alienation and marginalisation of those buried there. They are often found on geographic, territorial or spiritual boundaries; townland ditches, at crossroads,
on river banks, lake shores and where the land meets the sea, outside graveyards or inside pre-Christian sites, as if being handed over for the Pagan gods to deal with. Slowly, they are becoming overgrown, melting into the boggy ground, being eroded
by rain and eaten by waves. Small mounds, marked with an organised chaos of stones, they are subtle in form and difficult for the untrained eye to recognise. Hidden in dark spaces, set far back from the road, or vaguely somewhere in a wide, open expanse
of land, cillíní exist somewhere in the twilight of our subconscious. The underlying message we are to understand from these subtle, sequestered graves, is that there is nothing to see here – so leave well alone.’
Miriam de Búrca was born in Munich, Germany and grew up in the west of Ireland. She studied Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art and the University of Ulster, Belfast and was given an Award of Excellence for her practice-based PhD at the
University of Ulster in 2010.
Earlier work engaged with her personal experience of the persisting divisions in Belfast. She experimented with film, video and installation and her drawings would document weeds (‘Native Aliens’) that sprung up from the ashes of bonfires and sites of
dereliction following periods of conflict. Subsequently, she documented the constructed, colonial landscape of the Crom Estate, a former Anglo-Irish estate where she later lived. With Brexit in mind, she has also been documenting plant life that grows
directly on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, identifying them by their co-ordinates rather than botanical nomenclature. These drawings accentuate the transformation of a place with a fractious history and the conscious effort
it takes to recall and understand its past and present. Recent work focuses on burial sites in Ireland called cillíní, which were used to bury unbaptised babies (until as recently as the 1980s) and many others considered ‘unsuitable’ for consecrated
ground. Unmarried mothers, the mentally ill, unknown strangers, disabled children (or ‘changelings’), suicides and excommunicates, were all laid to rest here, exiled to a state of eternal limbo. De Búrca examines these phenomena through a post-colonial
lens, mimicking imperialist methods and aesthetics that she feels at once attracted to and repelled by. Her ‘sod’ drawings hark back to botanical studies, but they take the conversation about land and its meaning further by transforming this knowledge-gathering
system of scrutiny into a process of contemplation, remembrance and recognition.
Her drawings and short film- and video-works have been exhibited internationally such as in London, New York, Montreal, Tel Aviv, Warsaw and Berlin. She is represented by the Cristea Roberts Gallery, London and has works in the collection of the Arts
Council of Northern Ireland; Arts Council of Ireland; the British Museum; the Mead Gallery at University of Warwick, Coventry; National University of Ireland Galway; Glucksman Gallery at University College Cork, as well as in several private collections.
Her drawing has recently been published in Phaidon’s series, Vitamin D3: Today’s Best in Contemporary Drawing and will be featured in Irish Art 1920–2020: Perspectives on a Century of Change, eds. Yvonne Scott and Catherine Marshall, 2022.
Miriam de Búrca lives and works in Galway, Ireland.
The Arts Council Collection was established in 1962 and now comprises almost 1,350 works of modern and contemporary Irish art.
This year we are delighted to once again welcome audiences to the Arts Council buildings on Merrion Square to engage with some our most recent acquisitions.
Works by many of Ireland’s leading artists will be shown on the night including pieces by: Elizabeth Cope, Miriam De Búrca, Mollie Douthit, Justin Fitzpatrick, Marie Holohan, Helen Hughes, Catriona Leahy, Jialin Long, Kevin Mooney, Doireann Ní Ghrioghair,
Emma Roche, Mark Swords, Amna Walayat and Orla Whelan.
As well as this glimpse into the Arts Council Collection for Culture Night, artworks can be seen all year round throughout the country as part of exhibitions and long term loans in public buildings such as hospitals, universities and schools.
Explore the Collection and more on our website here.