Recent exhibition at Laois Arthouse

Curtain comes down on ‘Townscape’ exhibition
After a nine-month tour,the Laois Arthouse hosted the  finale of the ‘Townscape’ exhibition, by Mary Burke, from January 15 to February 22. The event was opened on Saturday, January 26 at 3pm, by Justice and Equality Minister Charles Flanagan. A short film about the exhibition was screened, documenting local school children engaging with the exhibition under the direction of Curator,Jenny Papassotiriou and a keynote address by Professor Mary Corcoran.

‘Townscape’ opened in the Dunamaise Arts Centre in March 2018, with a seminar ‘A Dialogue with Architecture: Reinterpreting the Irish Town.’ It was exhibited over the summer at the Irish Architectural Archive, Merrion Square, Dublin 2, where a lunchtime series of talks ‘Town Talks’ took place. It then toured to Manyooth University and closed with a seminar at the library on the theme of the arts and community engagement.

Mary Burke is a critically acclaimed Irish artist whose life’s work up to this point dealt with painting suburban surroundings. On the invitation of Laois arts officer and curator Muireann Ní Chonaill, Mary visited Laois Arthouse to see if Stradbally, Co. Laois, would be suitable and appealing subject matter. She found it to be so and over a twelve-month period she visited twelve homes selected and ‘Townscape’ was born.

“The built environment has always been central to my work. Most of my work has been Dublin- situated. ‘Townscape’ has provided me with the opportunity to explore homes in the rural midland town of Stradbally,” said Mary.

Being a rural, planted town there were a great variety of homes from which to choose. Mary included paintings of Stradbally Hall, ancestral home of Tom, Gesa and the Cosby family, which is central to the story of the town. These days it is probably best known for the annual Electric Picnic festival.

Featured is one of the estate cottages in Court Square, built by the Cosby family for their workers in the early 1880s and now home to Mary Hegarty and Brian Flanagan. Also on Court Square is the home of Christine and James Hewitt.

On Main Street, the homes of undertakers John and Anne Lynch to the rear of their business and of Christine Mulhall and David Kennedy are included. The Parochial House, residence of Rev Jim O’Connell, the then parish priest, is featured. Also in ‘Townscape’ is John and Irene Delaney’s house in Brockley Park, a development designed by renowned architect Frank Gibney for Laois County Council in the 1950s and indicative of Gibney’s careful consideration of site, aspect and orientation.

Houses within the recently built estates of Cillbeg Manor belonging to Rita and Pat Scully and the late Siobhan and Sean Kane’s home in The Glebe are included. Further examples of modern abodes are those of John and Rachel Conway and Geraldine and Seán Delaney and the homes of Dick and Katie Dillon in Woodview, to the rear of Laois Arthouse which are also featured.

The involvement of sociologist Professor Mary Corcoran enriched the project. She documented what living in Stradbally means to the home owners. ‘Townscape’ brings sociology, the community and the arts into collaborative practice. Consisting of 18 paintings in oil pastel on canvas, ‘Townscape’ opened on May 8 in the Irish Architectural Archive.

All are welcome to the exhibition. A companion book ‘Townscape’, documenting the project, with essays by Mary Corcoran, Jenny Haughton and images of the paintings, is available for €10. Details from: