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Barrie Cooke, British, 1931-2014
Title: Sheela-na-Gig VII
Date: 1962
Medium: Mixed media on plywood panel
107.5 x 97 x 10 cm
Credit Line: Presented, 2020
Object Number: NGI.2020.9
DescriptionCooke first encountered the motif of the Sheela-na-gig, a relatively common subject in European medieval sculpture, particularly in Ireland, on the doorway of Kilnaboy church in north Co. Clare, when he settled nearby in 1954. Just a few years later, he began to experiment with the subject himself, and continued to do so for several years. Many of these works were shown at the Ritchie Hendriks Gallery in 1962. The pictures’ explicit sexuality and unorthodox combination of media shocked some audiences in Ireland, but were consistent with Cooke’s deep interest in the connections between human sexuality and Nature, and in natural phenomena as a whole. As Catherine Marshall has written, ‘the Sheela-na-Gig paintings developed a conversation about nature and culture in Irish art, with the male artist creating objects from the natural world that included women not as fellow artists but as material to be worked on’ (Irish Times, 19 September 2015).
ProvenancePurchased by previous owner from the Bank of Ireland

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