© John Beattie
3-channel 35mm slide projection film, silent, 20mins duration, 2016.
John Beattie was invited by the LAB, in collaboration with The ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art (CSIA), National Gallery of Ireland (NGI) to explore the concept of visual commemoration in relation to the history of the 1916 Easter Rising drawing on significant events such as the National Gallery of Ireland’s 1966 exhibition Cuimhneachán 1916: A Commemorative Exhibition of the Irish Rebellion 1916, which marked the Golden Jubilee of the Rising, as a source of critical analysis. PERFORMING NGI.988, the resulting exhibition, features an ambitious new work developed over the past year.
Over the last twelve months, the National Gallery of Ireland conservation team has been in the process of a major conservation project on the painting of The Battle of the Boyne, 1693 (NGI.988), by Jan Wyck that has been undertaken at Malahide Castle where the painting has been on loan since 1976. Here, the NGI conservation team has carried out a full-scale treatment of Wyck’s painting in situ in the Great Hall of Malahide Castle, giving visitors to the castle the opportunity to observe conservation activities that would normally take place behind the scenes in the Gallery. The Battle of the Boyne painting was last exhibited in the NGI in 1966 as part of the Cuimhneachán 1916 exhibition. On completion of the conservation process, the painting will be transported back to the NGI once again, where it will be included in the forthcoming exhibition Creating History: Stories of Ireland in Art in 2016.
Critically exploring themes on interpretation and the recontextualisation of historical, social and political visual narratives, Beattie observes the role of the artist in response to the staged setting of the conservation scene, and The Battle of The Boyne painting, NGI.988. Through the re-representation of The Battle of The Boyne painting, and its journey towards the forthcoming exhibition at the NGI, Beattie looks at the performative act of the reinterpretation of visual material and culture, through mnemonic devices in commemoration.
PERFORMING NGI.988 consists of 35mm color slide film photographs, played through three 35mm slide projectors as one moving image film. Scenes from the conservation project of The Battle of The Boyne painting at Malahide Castle are featured with close-up images of material researched from the NGI Collections, photographed at the CSIA. Beattie selected and photographed items such as: Cuimhneachán 1916, exhibition catalogue, 1966; Jack B.Yeats sketch book no.185, 1916; and the National Gallery Minutes book. The sketch - books of Jack B. Yeats, reveal sketches drawn from the artist’s point of view as he navigates through the streets of Dublin, showing the aftermath and destruction of the city in1916. The NGI Minutes book takes account of institutional and arts administrative matters. Minutes noted throughout the year 1916, record activities taking place on the streets of Dublin on the day of the meetings, such as the damage to the Royal Hibernian Academy building and loose of valuable artwork, and illustrates how everyday business and normalities continued alongside the Rising and Rebellion of 1916. These images where compiled into a projected visual narrative, where each image simultaneously marks a separation with the past event and a connection to it (Carvell, Justin, Making 1916: Material and Visual Culture of the Easter Rising, Godson, Lisa, and Joanna Brück, eds. Liverpool University Press, 2015).
This exhibition was made possible through the generosity and support from individuals, organisations, and institutions, such as: Dublin City Council Commemorations Programme, Donal Maguire and Kathryn Milligan, ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; Sheena Barrett, the LAB Gallery, Dublin, supported by Dublin City Council; Simone Mancini, Head of Conservation, NGI; Pearl O’Sullivan, Corrie Tubman, conservation department, NGI; Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin; Patrick Murphy, The Royal Hibernian Academy; Malahide Castle; Shannon Hertitage, IVARO, Lisa Godson, Lisa Moran, Ronan McCrea, Jonathan Sammon, Kevin Hughes, Sean Beattie, David Joyce, Outside Publishing; Colin Browne, Film Equipment Limited Hire; and The Arts Council, Ireland.