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Rowan Gillespie (b.1953)
One of the most eloquent contemporary masters of Irish sculpture, Rowan Gillespie is known for his bronze sculptures of emotional themes such as The Cycle of Life, Colorado (1991), The Famine Series, Dublin (1996-97) and Ripples of Ulysses (2000). He has emerged as one of the major figurative sculptors in the history of Irish art and his work appears in public and private collections around the world.
Gillespie was born in Dublin in 1953 to Irish parents, but moved to Cyprus when he was a child where his father who was a doctor worked. His abiding memories from this time were of a stunning Mediterranean light and a state of unrest in the country. At the age of 7 he was sent to boarding school in England, and his family remained in Cyprus until he was 10.
In 1969 he went to the York School of Art where he was first introduced to the lost wax casting process by the bronze sculptor Sally Arnup. In 1970 he attended Kingston College of Art where he studied wood-carving under John Robson and, through him, met the sculptor Henry Moore. Following his studies at York and Kingston, he completed courses at the Statens Kunstole in Oslo. He lectured for three years at the Edvard Munch Museum, and the works of this powerful Norwegian Expressionist remain an influence on him to this day.
At the age of 21 Gillespie had his first solo exhibition in Dublin, and in 1977 he returned to the city to set up his own workshop. He is unique among bronze casting sculptors in that he does all the moulding, casting and finishing entirely by himself in his Dublin foundry. In addition, all installations are either carried out or supervised by him in person, a routine which he says is central to the vision and understanding of his art.
Nearly all Gillespie's sculpture tells a story. Probably his most famous work, The Famine at Custom House Quay in Dublin, draws attention to today's world poverty as much as it does the Irish Famine of 1848. Each of the human figures in the group has a unique story to tell, and one cannot walk past them without being affected by their predicament. Initially he worked on smaller pieces of sculpture, but as his reputation grew, so did his commissions for site specific art. Public works of his native Ireland can be found all over Europe, USA and Canada.
Other imporant pieces include: his series of Hate and Hope, where the 'skin' of the figures is so sharp you could cut your finger. The 'Blackrock Dolmen', near the Blackrock Church (1987), The Cashel Dancers, beside the Rock of Cashel (1991); Looking Out At Sea, Malahide (1991); Aspiration, The Treasury Building, Dublin (1995) and Gimbere en Dhomen, Rotterdam (1999).
Film: "Sculpting Life"
A documentary film on Rowan Gillespie, Sculpting Life, was released by Moondance Productions in 2007. This was followed by the publication of an illustrated biography, 'Looking for Orion' by his long-time friend Roger Kohn; published by O'Brien Press. The booklet L'Eta Della Donna was published by the artist to celebrate the unveiling of his most recent sculpture in Treviso, Italy in 2009.
Rowan Gillespie's sculpture has been exhibited in solo shows at a wide range of venues, including: Moss Kunst Foreningen, Norway (1974), Galleri Cassandra, Norway (1975), Galleri Cassandra Norway, Lad Lane Gallery, Dublin (1976); Galleri 71 Tromso Norway, Bodo Kunst Foreningen Norway, Austin Hayes Gallery York, Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin (1977); Galleri Cassandra Norway (1978); Alwin Gallery, London (1979); Lad Lane Gallery, Dublin (1980), Galerie Husstege, Holland (1981); Solomon Gallery Dublin, Galleri Cassandra Norway (1982); Puck Inaugural Exhibition New York, Poole Wills Gallery New York (1983); Solomon Gallery, Dublin (1984); Solomon Gallery Dublin, Galerie Husstege, Holland, Jonathan Poole Gallery, London (1986-88); Solomon Gallery Dublin, Galerie Husstege, Holland (1994-95).
Online Encyclopedia of Irish and World Art
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