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The Emperor’s New Clothes by artist Rita Duffy

5 June 2020

'The Emperor’s New Clothes’ is a series of ten drawings, made during my current residency at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Trinity College Dublin. The drawings began as a response to President Trump’s daily briefings at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. I self isolated in Dublin, staying close to my drawing board and working through the virus. I find my resilience in art, returning regularly to Goya's War etchings, Honoré Daumier and Hieronymus Bosch. They never fail to pull me in and nourish. I watched Trump’s daily briefings in disbelief, ‘a reoccurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt American subconscious dance naked on live TV’. I limited myself to reading newspapers online, communicating with loved ones, and taking part in discussions online. Early one morning, I began this series of intense graphic drawings. The 'emperor has no clothes' and minute Lilliputian figures scramble in the ‘Tiger King’ world that I witnessed unravelling. The virus seeks to ‘proliferate not profit, and has brought the engine of capitalism to a juddering halt.’

I took part in one of the ‘Rethinking Democracy’ online discussions organised by the Trinity Long Room Hub in partnership with the Society of Fellows & Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University in response to Covid-19. I listened intently to Melody Barnes speaking with passionate intelligence, she was first person I heard, to mention the name 'George Floyd'. I returned to the drawings and two days later the USA exploded onto our TV screens.

I continue drawing in the sincere belief that at times such as this, ART is the only thing strong enough to keep us from destroying ourselves.

'The Emperor’s New Clothes'
Rita Duffy (2020)










Rita Duffy is artist in residence at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Institute for spring 2020. Born in Belfast, she is one of Northern Ireland's groundbreaking artists who began her work concentrating primarily on the figurative/narrative tradition. Her art is often autobiographical, including themes and images of Irish identity, history and politics. Rita Duffy’s work has grown and evolved but remains intensely personal with overtones of the surreal. Homage is paid to the language of magic realism and always there is exquisite crafting of materials. She has initiated several major collaborative art projects and was made an Honorary Member of the R.S.U.A. for her developmental work within the built environment. She is an associate at the Goldsmiths College, London and is currently working on an artistic exchange with Argentina and N. Ireland, looking at the role art has in post-conflict societies. She was elected to Aosdana in 2017. Read about Rita's Raft Project at the Trinity Long Room Hub here.

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