Kevin Kavanagh is pleased to present an exhibition by Robert Ballagh in response to the year-long commemorative celebration of 1916. Who Fears to Speak of the Republic? comprises an exhibition of prints as well as a mural, painted on site at the gallery.
The longevity of Robert Ballagh’s career and the depth and breadth of his influence correspond to his consistent yet versatile creative output. This year of commemorations creates a unique opportunity to consider Ballagh’s career as an artist and activist as well as his contributions to visual language associated with Irish design. Ballagh began working as an artist in the late 1960s and has worked in the visual arts since then. He was greatly influenced by and worked within the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and 70s and this influence has remained a prominent element of his oeuvre.
Murals are synonymous with political activism and they reach a large number of people due to their accessibility both literally and figuratively. Bill Rolston has extensively researched the subject of public murals in the North of Ireland. In his writings he notes that loyalists and republicans have been painting murals in public places since 1908 and 1981 respectively, evidencing a long-standing tradition of such visual expression in Ireland. Who Fears to Speak of the Republic?references the socially empowering value of the mural. Ballagh comments on the medium’s historical relevance by appropriating it as an outlet of popular expression, reminding us of the effectiveness of such visual language in its ability to exact change both socially and politically.
Robert Ballagh’s aesthetic is recognised by people both within the art community and outside of it and he often uses this position as a respected and well-known artist to pose political questions and to examine the role of the artist within the state apparatus. Who Fears to Speak of the Republic? both celebrates the actions of those who led the Easter Rising and generates a discourse on the iconography that surrounds their legacy.