Deirdre O’Mahony: The Quickening

Deirdre O’Mahony: The Quickening

Douglas Hyde Gallery of Contemporary Art

April 10, 2024
Deirdre O’Mahony
The Quickening
March 29–June 23, 2024
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Douglas Hyde Gallery of Contemporary Art
Arts Building
Trinity College
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 12–5pm,
Thursday 12–6pm

T +353 1 896 1116

Deirdre O’Mahony: The Quickening March 29–June 23, 2024.

The Douglas Hyde Gallery of Contemporary Art announces The Quickening, a powerful new exhibition by ground-breaking artist Deirdre O’Mahony. Bringing together urgent conversations, original music and moving image, The Quickening responds to issues facing farming, food production and consumption, in the face of present ecological and climate crises.

In her work O’Mahony explores the politics and possibilities of place through sculpture, painting, installation and collaborative projects. From setting up community spaces amongst a charged local conflict, to her large-scale paintings produced by tracing the shadows of boulders in the Burren, for over 30 years she has forged a path for art to gather diverse communities and form alternate forms of knowledge.

A nationwide project, The Quickening first took form in a series of feasts called “Sustainment Experiments” which gathered farmers, food producers, scientists, food business owners, politicians, and policymakers to share their first-hand experience of farming and food production over meals. These dinners generated open and frank discussions which, transcribed, have become the basis for the libretto which is at the core of the ambitious title film and sound work.

The captured voices communicate the reality of farming life and the centrality of soil to our lives; as they deliberate over sowing and harvesting, extreme weather, volatile demands of the market, food regulation, and anxious, increasingly polarised, discourses around food. Developed by O’Mahony and writer Joanna Walsh, the libretto is voiced and accompanied by the incredibly talented singers and musicians, Branwen Kavanagh, Michelle Doyle, Siobhán Kavanagh, Ultan O’ Brien and Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, each with a distinctive pitch, style, pace and vocabulary. And yet, other voices insist on being heard; breathing animals and the movements of insect and soil creatures, in particular the dung beetle. Through this unique combination of spoken and sung words, instrumental and sonic interventions, with emphatic insect and animal sounds, listeners encounter the assembled, complex and collective roots of our existence. Opposition between human and more than human is unsettled and this awareness is deepened by the accompanying moving imagery captured across rural Ireland from multiple perspectives. Varied viewpoints show the land and its many inhabitants affected by the unseasonal droughts, floods, and eroding brought on by accelerating climate change. Our (human) dependence on everything outside of ourselves is brought into sharp focus.

The film is accompanied by a new large-scale painting and a series of “sculptures” that reflect the rhythms of agriculture. Familiar vessels like cattle troughs and feeders expand the dialogue around ideas of permanence and decay, and the sustainable use of natural resources. They also house FEEDER (2022-ongoing), an installation which shares the artist’s library of books on food, land, art, nature, philosophy and ecology. The troughs evoke the practical nature of farming creating a metaphor for how it fuels both our bodily requirements and imagination.

We are at a critical moment. As O’Mahony states, “The Quickening represents a polyvocal response to the most urgent questions affecting land and its inhabitants, giving voice to the invisible protagonists that shape our earth’s future and an idea of being-in-common that encompasses all earthly inhabitants.”

The Quickening runs until June 23, 2024 at The Douglas Hyde, with the Walls & Halls Screening Tour taking place in community spaces and farms in Carlow, Waterford, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wicklow, and Wexford, from April 18 to May 4.

The Quickening was commissioned by The Douglas Hyde Gallery of Contemporary Art.

The Quickening is supported by The Douglas Hyde and The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon through Project Awards; Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; Carlow Arts Office, Carlow; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Kilkenny Arts Office, Kilkenny; Kunstverein Aughrim, Aughrim; Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore; South Tipperary Arts Centre (STAC), Clonmel; Visual Artists Ireland; VISUAL Carlow, Carlow; Wexford Arts Office, Wexford; and Wexford Arts Centre, Wexford.

For press enquiries contact Giulia Berto, Marketing & Communications Co-ordinator, by calling T +353 1 896 1116 or emailing giulia.berto [​at​]

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Douglas Hyde Gallery of Contemporary Art
April 10, 2024

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