Lismore Castle Arts is committed to the presentation and promotion of contemporary visual art in Southern Ireland. Each year it hosts exhibitions of international significance alongside a series of smaller exhibitions, projects and events as well as a comprehensive education programme. In 2003 the owners of Lismore Castle, the Devonshire family, conceived an ambitious plan to transform the long-derelict West Wing of the Castle into a state-of-the-art contemporary gallery. Working with award-winning, Cork-based architects Jack Coughlan Associates, their plan was realised in September 2005, when Lismore Castle Arts opened. The gallery is a series of light-filled rooms, designed to exhibit and allow contemporary art to be appreciated in a modern context whilst also revealing elements of the 300 year old history of the building. This year’s exhibition is a special selection of 20th century works from the Trinity College Art Collections. Curated by Richard Wood, the exhibition includes key Irish and international pieces by Josef Albers, Karel Appel, Barra Boydell, Patrick Collins, Barrie Cooke, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Micheal Farrell, Robert Indiana, Cecil King, Roy Lichtenstein, Mick O’Dea, Nano Reid, Patrick Scott, William Scott, Peter Sedgley and Victor Vasarely.
For over 55 years, generations of students, staff and visitors at Trinity College Dublin have been introduced to the excitements and challenges of the contemporary visual arts - at the moment of their emergence - through the activities and display of modern art collected for a picture hire scheme, known on campus as ‘The College Gallery’. In the late 1960s, Richard Wood was a member of the student volunteer group organised by George Dawson, founder of the Genetics Department and the picture hire scheme.
The purpose of ‘The College Gallery’ was to loan to students in halls of residence pictures for their rooms and was later extended to staff and departments. Organised and run by undergraduates, a growing collection was exhibited over two days in the university’s Public Theatre where residents could view and then ballot for their choices. As time progressed, students became increasingly involved in the process of collecting contemporary art at Trinity. Impassioned by George’s enthusiasm for the emerging artistic trends of the time, students were encouraged to discover their own critical eye and aesthetic inclinations.
This exhibition introduces the sense of wonder and excitement experienced by these students in the Sixties. Together with George and other key staff members like Professor Anne Crookshank and Adrian Phillips, they travelled the length and breadth of Ireland and often further afield, feasting on ‘the swing’ taking place in the visual arts. Urban and abstract subjects began to dominate resulting in bold styles and techniques such as hard-edged minimalism and silkscreen printing, Op, Pop and Kinetic art, reflecting wider, pervasive social changes. Student imaginations were captured and the College’s Modern Art collection was firmly established.
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