Purchased with the support of the FNCI
Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie has made his name through his many depictions of suffering and survival during Ireland’s Great Famine (1845–52). His work has been widely commissioned for corporate purposes, e.g. a series of award sculptures for the Gaelic Athletic Association and for public commemorative projects. Educated in England, at York College and Kingston, London and later at the Kunste og Handverke Skole, Oslo, Rowan Gillespie, returned to Dublin in 1977. He set up a studio and foundry in Dublin and quickly built a reputation for his mastery of bronze casting techniques. The 150th anniversary of the Great Famine prompted a demand for bronze memorials and Gillespie was well placed to meet that. His work has been widely sought for public memorials both at home in Ireland and in places all over the United States of America, Canada and Australia. One of his best-known commissions in Ireland shows a series of bronze wraith-like figures apparently dragging themselves down the quays in Dublin to emigrate to a better life in America. A well-fed hound follows them, his close adherence to the wasted figures adding a sinister note to their miserable plight. The work, paid for by private donors whose names are recorded on the ground at their feet, creates an ambiguous bridge between the history of the impoverished, starving people and the prosperity of the contemporary city’s Financial Services Sector through which they tramp.The Victim shows a relatively healthy and well-nourished figure, when compared to the tattered, starving poor of Gillespie’s later work. Only when their feet touch the ground of the New World, do his figures usually show any sign of hope. The Victim may look healthy, but his imploring look is all too revealing of his state.