The Easter Rising 1916 captured my imagination, as much as the aftermath of the actual event fuelled the emotions and sense of self-determination of the Irish people, now over a 100 years ago.
My Project, which started in late 2014, was focused on the 16 "leaders", who were executed for their involvement. The project took 14 months to complete and resulted in 16 interconnected portraits.
The 16 were a diverse lot. Ranging in age from 25 to 58, their occupations included headmaster, tobacconist, poet, railway clerk, university lecturer, printer, humanitarian, water bailiff, art teacher, silk weaver, corporation clerk, farmer, trade union leader, bookkeeper, chemist’s clerk, and newspaper manager. They were not military, nor criminal. They were extraordinary people who just had enough.
The fact that they were ordinary people, made me portray them without any military regalia or references. Most of the paintings do however provide hints to their lives pre Rising, to evoke the curiosity of the viewer as to their meaning and maybe a reaction to learn more about them.
Every painting is the same size, 1m by 1m, depicting all with equal importance as the de-facto standard of Irish rebellion.
When you will look at the “16 Up Close”, you will find recurring elements, like parts of the Proclamation, use of red paint, the dark background and Ivy. The Proclamation might be evident, the use of red paint representing their spilled blood. The dark background their destiny, but why Ivy?
The Celtic meaning of the ivy deals with connections and friendships because of its tendency to interweave in growth, it is also a symbol of survival and determination, all so evident with the 16. Ivy seems to be virtually indestructible and will often return after it has suffered damage or has been severely cut back. Remember, the 1916 Rising wasn’t the first of its kind.
Brief descriptions of the lives of the 16 are copied from Wikipedia and www.easter1916.ie