The Raft Project with artist Rita Duffy
On the eve of Brexit, 30 January 2019, the Trinity Long Room Hub was delighted to host the inaugural installation of Rita Duffy’s ‘The Raft Project, 2019’, as a building veil on the Front Square-facing side of the Trinity Long Room Hub building. This photomontage is a response by the artist to Brexit and the border poll discussions and re-invents French painter Théodore Géricault’s oil on canvas, ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ (1818-19), which depicts the shipwreck of French frigate Méduse in 1816.
So what does it mean for Rita Duffy to re-interpret and re-mix Géricault’s historic image in the context of Brexit and Ireland? This and other questions were explored with the artist on 30 January at special event in the Trinity Long Room Hub to mark the inaugural public installation of the Raft Project. Rita Duffy was in conversation with Dr Joseph Clarke, Department of History, and Dr Angela Griffith, Department of Art History.
Rita Duffy will be the artist in residence at the Trinity Long Room Hub from February to May 2020.
About Rita Duffy
Rita Duffy is artist in residence at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Institute for spring 2020.
Born in Belfast, Rita was awarded a B.A. from the Art & Design Centre and an M.A. in Fine Art at the University of Ulster. 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.
Raft Project, 2019 artist's statement Rita Duffy
Artists dwell in imaginative territory, this ‘border’ project aims to move through other European borders. The photographically reproduced image was initially planned as a ’moving’ public artwork, as the curtain walling of a haulage truck, crossing from Ireland to mainland Europe. The Raft project will also be installed as a ‘building veil’ in several prominent city locations in London and Paris.
The Raft of the Medusa 1819, portrays the moment when, after 13 days adrift on the raft, the remaining 15 survivors view a ship approaching from a dis-tance. The painting is on a monumental scale of 491 × 716 cm, most of the figures rendered are life-sized and those in the foreground almost twice life-size, pushed close to the picture plane and crowding onto the viewer, who is drawn into the physical action as a participant. The makeshift raft is shown as barely seaworthy as it rides the deep waves, while the men are rendered as broken and in utter despair. This first painting of the French romantic move-ment that years later underscores its immense modernity, drawing a striking parallel between 1819 and the current migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
The Raft Project 2019, an image created in land locked Cavan a place of dark lakes, border intrigue and trapped water. Inspired by Gericault's master-piece, Raft is a response to Brexit chaos, layers of symbolism reflect the real-ity of Border dwellers. The project was generated in a former Courthouse on the Irish Border, with participation of young men from either side of the north south line. The confusion of weary flags against a gunmetal Ulster sky, her-alds the ominous plight of Raft. Titanic on the horizon is still faced with the in-evitable iceberg? The ingredients for ‘Irish Stew’ lie scattered amongst vul-nerable bodies, remnants of sectarian flags taken from Belfast lamp posts, wrap worn out muscle and bone. A man points to the horizon, wearing an im-age of the president of Bulgaria on his T-shirt and bearing a small pot of shamrock, he points us towards the future - a future beyond prejudice and nationalist obsession. There are parallels with the migrants / refugee deten-tion centres of our time and the destitute poor of a previous century that led to so much Irish migration - poverty, war and human dereliction ?
Advent of the inevitable, it embodies an anonymous mass left to extreme abandonment - Brexit hubris ?