Mary Fitzgerald (artist)

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Mary Fitzgerald

Mary FitzGerald (born 1956) is an Irish artist who lives and works in Dublin and County Waterford. After graduating from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin in 1977,[1] she moved to Japan where she lived and exhibited between 1979 and 1981. FitzGerald has held numerous solo exhibitions in Ireland, Europe and the United States and has participated in group exhibitions worldwide. She has represented Ireland at ROSC,[2] L'Imaginaire Irlandais and the XVIII Bienal de Sao Paulo.[3] Her 2009 show, Afterlife, which was held at the Fenton Gallery,[4] Cork, was reviewed in The Irish Times by Aidan Dunne on 27 May 2009.[5] The exhibit was accompanied by the publication of a limited edition, large format book by the same name published by Four Courts Press.[6] It presented five of her recent works along with an essay by Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith.[7] (Mac Giolla Léith is an art critic and lecturer and served on the 2005 Turner Prize jury[8] along with Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate[9]). It was her first show since 1995 and was a return to a career interrupted by a car accident in the mid-1980s that forced a creative hiatus. She works out her studio in Dublin as well as her home in Waterford and has also resumed her travels, recently spending time in Africa, the Antarctic, South America and Asia (she was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit in 2004 – the sense of violence, catastrophe and mortality is often reflected in her work).

FitzGerald's recent work has been characterised as an attempt to convey vulnerability through images which are impermanent, transient and almost invisible (she often utilises smoke, grease and water condensation encased in plexiglass). Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, her work was largely spare and austere and she appeared to prefer a limited palette. She often worked with a variety of media including glass, metal, fabric and paper and has designed a number of tapestries and carpets as well as costume designs for opera. An understated approach is a continuing theme in her work. The years she spent in Japan clearly influenced her work and it sometimes featured quasi-calligraphic marks characteristic of Asian art. She also works with materials that have a certain fragility and has been quoted[10] as saying that as all experience is qualified by the inevitability of the end, most art, and hers in particular, has a fundamental concern with death (in conversation with Felicity Woolf).[11] FitzGerald's subjects could be described as grim, focusing as they do on pain, loss, vulnerability to disaster, the transience and fragility of life, but her work does not depress. There is an elegant austerity and a calm stillness to it. Work can be a way of coming to terms with difficult things and making something meaningful from what might otherwise overwhelm and destroy. A 2009 video installation, Caoineadh Video on YouTube (Lament, in Irish) has a rueful humour to it — a pleading to get through the door.

From 26 January 2012 – 3 March 2012, the first exhibition by Mary FitzGerald at the Green on Red Gallery in Dublin takes place and is her first in Dublin for some years. The exhibition consists of an array of projected, looped and even live images and objects installed in the gallery, drawing and insinuating the viewer into the realm of its layered and site-specific arrangement. HALFLIFE is a dramatic shift in the artist's practice and, by any standard, one of the most ambitious in its aims and realisation. This seems wholly appropriate, however, for an artist of FitzGerald's ability and radicalism. One can recognise themes and subtleties here that are wholly consistent with the younger FitzGerald. For example, even of her earlier works in oil on canvas FitzGerald was acutely aware of how the viewer and the object viewed cohabited: ' The work has a physical relationship with the audience who share the same space ; it begins the process of communication. ' * The absence here of oil, organisms, metal pins, etc. on painted canvas or panel will surprise many. HALFLIFE is nothing if not a new stage on this artist's journey and an intriguing invitation to follow suit.

Mortality is a central theme that continues in this exhibition to confront the artist and the viewer. In fact, through a series of narrative progressions the visitor is innocently plunged into a purgatorial route through the gallery's dimly lit spaces while watching and, unwittingly, being watched. Many emotions and themes are explored. A sense of disorientation and confusion follows you as you plot through the work, through the various media and the many different surface treatments and aspects. There is no consistent or even visible horizon. Time and space are poorly defined in the dim light. Just as you are looking, peering there is the slowly dawning realisation of being caught on camera. In a crucial hall-of-mirrors moment the viewer him/herself becomes subject and agent at once. You are both actor and acted on.

The blank minimal action of the enveloping four screen projection in Passage echoes the achingly slow movement in Bruce Nauman's Mapping the Studio I (Fat Chance John Cage) 2001, but couldn't be further away in terms of artist's ' studio '. The walls of Fitzgerald's studio are non-existent. Instead of containment there is openness to seeming infinity.

Fitzgerald tackles issues of life and death head on. We stand on the edge of nothingness and extinction in the extreme Antarctic environment filmed on site in Drakes Passage, Argentina. Skeletal remains replace mirror images. The exhibition opens and closes with mounds of dust. FitzGerald is by no means the first artist to focus on the complete or closing life cycle as a central subject in her work. Eva Hesse, Bas Jan Ader, Damien Hirst have all made this universal subject a central inspiration or obsession. Few have contemplated such serious and pained subjects to such ethereal and entrancing effect through the telling use of sand, water, seeds, dust, bones and books. The invitation to contemplation gives this ' journey ' a real purpose and conclusion, notwithstanding regular sharp reminders of the harshest of conditions.

' Kant describes the sight of the night sky, the expanse of which exceeds the field of vision and eludes the grasp of the imagination. It is in the very instant, however, when the subject painfully experiences the limitations of the capacities of its own senses and finds itself overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe, that the subject recognises that it bears the element of universality in itself, in the form of the moral principle – and can thus justifiably assert itself against the magnificence of nature, the sublime becomes the pathway to an intensified sense of self-experience. ' Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous, Jan Verwoert, p. 51

  • ' Lightduress ' by Caoimhín MacGiolla Léith in Mary Fitzgerald : AFTERLIFE, p. 11

She was elected a member of Aosdána[12] (an organisation established by the Irish Government to honour those who have made an outstanding contribution to the Arts in Ireland, limited to 250 living members) in 1990.

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2012 Halflife,[13] Green on Red Gallery, Dublin
  • 2009 Afterlife,[14] Fenton Gallery, Cork
  • 1995 Paintings, Rhok Gallery, Brussels
  • 1994 Horizon, Green on Red Gallery, Dublin[15]
  • 1993 Continuum, Jain Marunouchi Gallery, New York[16]
  • 1992 Orientation, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork[17]
  • 1991 Counter / Act, Oliver Dowing Gallery, Dublin
  • 1989 New Works, Riverrun Gallery, Limerick & Boole Library, University College, Cork
  • 1988 Image-Afterimage, Arts Council Gallery, Belfast;[18] Paintings, Oliver Dowling Gallery, Dublin
  • 1986 The Drawing Room, Oliver Dowling Gallery, Dublin
  • 1985 Painting, AIB, Brussels
  • 1984 Paintings, Oliver Dowling Gallery, Dublin
  • 1982 Painting — Drawing, Oliver Dowling Gallery, Dublin

Group exhibitions[edit]

  • 2009 Terror and the Sublime, Crawford Gallery, Cork [1].
  • 2008 10,000 to 50, [2] Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Representing Art in Ireland, [Fenton Gallery, Cork].
  • 2002 No Object, No Subject, No Matter...Abstraction in the IMMA Collection, [3] Irish Museum of Modern Art.
  • 2000 Millennium Exhibition, RHA Gallagher Gallery[], Dublin, and Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast.
  • 1999 Primal Means, Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick and West Cork Arts Centre Paperworks; Art of the State, National Photographic Archive, Dublin and tour.
  • 1997 Re-Dressing Cathleen [4], McMullen Museum, Boston.
  • 1996 L'Imaginaire Irlandais, Le Monde de l'Art, Paris
  • 1993 Gateway to Art, Dublin Airport Arts Festival, Dublin; Eurothreshold, Millstreet and Macroom, Cork; European Encounters, Centrum 'tElzenveld, Antwerp, Belgium (representing Ireland); Claremorris Open Art Exhibition Prizewinners Exhibition, Mayo and Harmony Hill Arts Centre, Lisburn
  • 1992 Irish Abstraction, B4A Gallery and South Bank Gallery, New York; Summer Exhibition, Claremorris Gallery, Mayo; Projecto America, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil; Monoprint Exhibition 1992, Graphic Studio Gallery, Dublin; Summer Exhibition, Oliver Dowling Gallery, Dublin; Southern Artists, Cork Arts Society Gallery, Cork; Balance/Imbalance, Rubicon Gallery [5], Dublin
  • 1991 A New Tradition — Irish Art of the Eighties, [6] The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
  • 1990 Images from Ireland — Modern Irish Painting, Commission of the European Communities, Albert Borschette Conference Centre, Brussels, Belgium; Gateway to Art; Dublin Airport 20th Anniversary Arts Festival, Dublin; Irish Art — The European Dimension, The Gallagher Gallery, Dublin; Contemporary Artists from Ireland, Austin Desmond Fine Art, London
  • 1989–1990 EVA Prizewinners Exhibition touring City Gallery, Limerick, Arts Council Gallery, Belfast, and The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Sligo Art Gallery, Sligo, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery [7], Cork and the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny
  • 1989 Europese Raaklignen, The Flemish Museum, Gent, Belgium (representing Ireland); National Self Portrait Collection, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; Claremorris Open Art Exhibition, Mayo, Sligo Arts Festival, Sligo, Oireachtas Exhibition, Gallagher Gallery, Dublin
  • 1988 Gateway to Art, Dublin Airport Arts Festival, Dublin; ROSC, Guinness Hop Store and The Royal Hospital, Dublin; Rajz/Drawing; Pesci Gallery, Hungary; Flags Along the Liffey, Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Dublin; Personal Choice, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; EVA[8] (Parts 1 & 2), City Gallery, Limerick; Dublin Millenium Billboard Exhibition, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; Claremorris Open Art Exhibition, Mayo.
  • 1987 Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Dublin; SADE, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork; Women Artists in Ireland from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day: Contemporary Section, Douglas Hyde Gallery; Expression '87, Dun Laoghaire Arts Week, Thirty Days — Art September, Arts Council Collection, The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin; W.A.A.G., Guinness Hop Store, Dublin; The Guinness Peat Aviation Collection, City Gallery, Limerick; The Silent Image, Boole Library, University College, Cork.
  • 1986–1988 Celtic Vision, Exhibition touring Spain, Britain, France, Ireland and Canada.
  • 1985 Personal Choice, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; Lawrence Ross Gallery, Los Angeles, Artists of the Oliver Dowling Gallery at The Chantry, Bunclody, Wexford; The Decade Show, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin.
  • 1985–1987 Four Artists from Ireland, exhibition touring Ireland (Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Kilkenny, Waterford, Derry and Dublin); Brazil, (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porte Allegre) and Argentina (Buenos Aires).
  • 1985 Personal Choice, Butler Gallery, Kilkenny; Dublin/Edinburgh Exhibition, Edinburgh Festival; 18th Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brazil (representing Ireland); Cross Currents, Sligo Art Gallery, Sligo; Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Dublin.
  • 1984 Studies, Oliver Dowling Gallery, Dublin; Artists of the Oliver Dowling Gallery at the Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick
  • 1983 Looking forward..., Oliver Dowling Gallery, Dublin; Claremorris Open Art Exhibition, Mayo; Guinness Peat Aviation Awards Exhibition for Emerging Artists, Dublin and Shannon; King's and King's, Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick.
  • 1982 SADE, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork [9]; Flags Along the Liffey, Oasis Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, Dublin; EVA[10], Municipal Art Gallery, Limerick.
  • 1981 Maki Gallery, Tokyo


  • 2006 Ballinglen Foundation Fellowship [11]
  • 1987 Claremorris Open Art Exhibition Award [12]
  • 1986 Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Invited Artists Bursary
  • 1986 Department of Foreign Affairs / Council Travel Bursary; Patron's Award, EVA [13], Limerick
  • 1985 Arts Council of Ireland [14] Visual Arts Bursary; Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Banner commission
  • 1983 Arts Council of Ireland Visual Arts Bursary; G. P. A. Award for Emerging Artists
  • 1979 Monbusho Japanese Government Research Scholarship Monbukagakusho Scholarship


  • 2001 Well Spring, two inter-related tapestries for the headquarters of Fingal County Council.
  • 2000 Design for three inter-related tapestries for the Council chamber of Sligo Corporation; Ocean, Artwork in cut stone and handmade carpet for Leinster House.
  • 1998 Confluence, public artwork commissioned by Waterford Corporation for Waterford City.
  • 1997 Design for a carpet for Portman Square House, London.
  • 1995 Design for a tapestry for Milltown Golf Club, Dublin.
  • 1994 O'Reilly Hall, University College, Dublin Painting; Design for a tapestry for the Council of Chamber, South County Dublin County Council; Dublin Civic Offices, Painting.
  • 1992 Design for a series of tapestries for Allied Irish Bank, International Centre, Irish Financial Services Centre, Dublin. Aer Rianta, Dublin International Airport, Painting. Design for a tapestry for the William Rowan Hamilton Building, Trinity College, Dublin. Lifetime Assurance Company Ltd., Dublin, Painting.
  • 1991 Design for a handmade stair carpet for the Office of the Department of the Taoiseach, Dublin. Algemene Bank Nederland, Dublin, Painting. The Great Book of Ireland, The Clashganna Mills Trust. Design for a handmade carpet for the Bank of Ireland, La Touche House, Irish Financial Services Centre, Dublin.
  • 1990 Set and costume design for the Opera Theatre Company's[19] production of Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia.
  • 1989 A. & L. Goodbody, Dublin, Installation. University College, Dublin, Engineering Faculty Building, Installation.


  • The Irish Museum of Modern Art [15], Dublin.
  • An Chomhairle Ealaion/The Arts Council [16]
  • The Arts Council of Northern Ireland [17]
  • Allied Irish Bank plc., New York, Brussels, Dublin and London [18]
  • Allied Irish Investment Bank, Dublin
  • The Rehabilitation Institute, Dublin
  • Contemporary Irish Art Society [19]
  • Guinness Peat Aviation, Shannon
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland
  • The Office of Public Works [20]
  • The National Self-Portrait Collection, Limerick
  • The National Institute of Higher Education, Dublin
  • University College, Cork
  • The National Collection of Contemporary Drawing, Limerick
  • A. & L. Goodbody
  • University College, Dublin
  • Jordan Grand Prix, London
  • KPMG, Stokes Kennedy Crowley, Dublin
  • Bank of Ireland plc
  • Algemene Bank Nederland, Dublin
  • Department of the Taoiseach, Dublin
  • Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork [21]
  • Aer Rianta, Dublin
  • McCann FitzGerald, Dublin
  • Trinity College, Dublin
  • Lifetime Assurance Company, Dublin
  • Irish Life Assurance plc., Dublin
  • St. Patrick's Hospital, Dublin
  • Ireland House, New York
  • St. James' Hospital, Dublin
  • King House, Boyle, Co. Roscommon
  • Four Courts Press, Dublin.
  • Herbert Park Hotel, Dublin
  • Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council
  • Sligo Corporation
  • Portman Square House, London
  • Dublin City Council
  • Fingal County Council
  • Department of the Taoiseach, Dublin
  • Leinster House, Dublin
  • National Concert Hall, Dublin
  • European University Institute, Florence
  • The Worth Library, Dublin.
  • Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin.
  • Embassy of Ireland, Lisbon
  • Numerous private collections


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 2010-03-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Dunne, Aidan (27 May 2009), "Of loss and the fragility of life", The Irish Times, retrieved 26 March 2010
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 July 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^
  10. ^ Afterlife, Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, Four Courts Press,
  11. ^ Works 6: Mary FitzGerald (Gandon Editions, Dublin, 1991, pp17-25)
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Archived 9 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 2010-03-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

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