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Exhibition from the Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art to officially open the Luan Gallery, Athlone
Hughie O’Donoghue, Blue Crucifixion, 1993 – 2003, Oil on linen canvas , 330.2 x 823 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Gift, The American Ireland Fund, 2010.

ATHLONE.- Borrowed Memories is the inaugural exhibition at the new contemporary art gallery in Athlone, Co Westmeath. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, TD, will officially open the Luan Gallery at 2.30pm on Thursday 29 November with an exhibition of works from the Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art as part of IMMA’s National Programme.

In its previous incarnations the building which now houses The Luan Gallery has been many things to many people and to the town of Athlone – a library, concert hall, cinema and town hall to name but a few. Commenting on the exhibition Miriam Mulrennan, Manager, the Luan Gallery said: “Rich and colourful memories are associated with the building. Respect for people’s connection to the building formed a centre point in curating Borrowed Memories.” Designed by Keith Williams Architects, the Luan Gallery is first new visual art gallery to be opened in the country in over three years. The name ‘Luan’ derives from the Irish for Athlone, 'Baile Áth Luain' and was proposed as part of a public competition organised to name the new gallery.

Where Do Broken Hearts Go, 2000 by Longford-born Bristol-based artist Daphne Wright became the lynch pin for the idea of memories and the combination of shadow and light that are our own memories and those of others. Layering plays an important part in Wright’s work and here we see, not only the physical layering of the foil strips to create the giant foil cacti, but also the layering of the different elements which come together to make the entire installation – the folded strips of household tinfoil, the Country and Western lyrics and the intaglio prints made from found photographs by an anonymous photographer.

Westmeath-native Patrick Graham’s Ark of Dreaming, 1990 explores both colour and gesture. Words combined with vestiges of figurative imagery, and layers of heavily worked and reworked paint are applied to the canvas which has been ruthlessly split open and crudely stitched together in a diptych suggestive of an alterpiece.

The work of Irish artist Shane Cullen created from the smuggled messages of the 1981 Maze hunger strikers presents itself to the audience as a forceful narrative of a dark time in our history which demands reflection. Fragmens Sur Les Institutions Républicaines IV, 1993 - 1997 was made over a period of four years and consists of 96 large styrofoam panels, each carrying transcriptions of the secret messages smuggled out of the H-Blocks in the Maze Prison. The subject matter is controversial but presented in a highly disciplined manner that references historical monuments. Each painted word mimics official government documents.

The location of the Luan Gallery, in the centre of Ireland, on the banks of the River Shannon is reflected in the work of American artist Ann Hamilton. Filament II, 1996 comprises a silk organza curtain, which has been distressed by the artist, hanging from a circular rail. It is a sculpture with blurred boundaries and changeable volume and form, at once a public and private space. The curtain envelopes you but is transparent, so a shadowy figure is still visible to others standing outside. The presence or absence of people changes perceptions and experience of the work and in this regard it is interactive and participatory.

Works such as Blue Crucifixion, 2003 by Manchester-born, Irish-based artist Hughie O’Donoghue and Dublin-based photographer Amelia Stein’s Memory and Loss, 2002 series of photographs are also shown. Other works shown in the exhibition include Dublin-based artist Amanda Coogan’s photograph Medea, 2001, Northern Irish photographer Hannah Starkey’s Untitled, August, 1999.

Borrowed Memories is the result of collaboration between the Luan Gallery and IMMA’s National Programme. The National Programme is designed to promote the widest possible involvement with the Museum’s Collection and programmes, through creating access opportunities to the visual arts in a variety of situations and locations in Ireland. IMMA’s Collection is the focal point for each project. The National Programme is also committed to working with venues normally outside the scope of the contemporary art world. This core principle involves a process of encouraging people to view and enjoy ownership of their national collection, as held by IMMA, in their own locality and on their own terms.

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