We are Solitary exhibition: The art of enforced loneliness

Final-year masters in fine arts students display stimulating works online at ruared.ie

 Kitsch Doom’s The Clothes Wear You: She is dressed in character as Meryl Daze for the We are Solitary exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Kitsch Doom’s The Clothes Wear You: She is dressed in character as Meryl Daze for the We are Solitary exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

An exhibition that almost did not happen, exploring our need for connectedness at a time of enforced solitude, opens at the Rua Red gallery in Tallaght, Dublin, on Friday.

Titled We are Solitary, the event showcases the work of 12 final-year masters fine arts students at the National College of Art and Design. Due to take place in April it was cancelled and then rescheduled. Happening online, it will run until November 27th at ruared.ie.

It includes a provocative video piece representing woman, perhaps hunted, on the margins; a performance-based exploration of the multiple personalities within each of us and how these connect with our world; and a mosaic of photographs of trees, planted during the colonial past, which are “alien” to, yet now very familiar in, an Irish landscape.

Sole possession

Maree Egan’s piece, Quest, is a breathtakingly beautiful photograph of a Buddhist monk’s saffron robe fluttering on the wind. Taken on a beach in north Dublin it is a tribute, she explains, to a deceased friend Alexander Ogden DiMeo, who was himself a monk.

“His robe was the only possession he owned. The piece I suppose represents the transitory nature of life, the fact that we come into the world with nothing and alone and we leave the world with nothing and alone. And his absence is shown, a step even beyond being solitary.”

Maree Egan: Her work, Quest, is part of the We are Solitary exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Maree Egan: Her work, Quest, is part of the We are Solitary exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ann Marie Kirwan usually works in sculpture and had planned sculptures made with dried seaweed. Based in Kilkenny, during lockdown however she could not get the to sea to gather material.

Head above water

Forced to pivot to another medium, she has made a four-minute video, Split, which shows a woman underwater, rising to the surface sporadically to breathe. It is about endurance, staying the course and a need we all share – to breathe and be our true selves.

Ann Marie Kirwan: She made a four-minute video called Split, for the We are Solitary exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Ann Marie Kirwan: She made a four-minute video called Split, for the We are Solitary exhibition. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Jimmy Leonard, a survivor of industrial schools and the prison system, has two pieces – an untitled portrait and a field of flowers titled Summer Breeze – both vibrantly coloured.

He wants to bring the exhibition into Mountjoy Prison, explaining art was for him a therapy and medium through which, though brutalised by much of his past, he began to connect with himself.

“We all need to feel connected. Art is a language and a way of connecting, especially at a time when a lot of us are feeling alone.”