Shrine of the Stowe Missal oil on copper, by Lorcan Walshe

The Artefacts Project at the Hunt Museum showcases Walshe’s interest in Irish Medieval artefacts and how they exemplify Irish indigenous culture. These paintings and drawings are the result of Walshe’s search for artistic roots, finding them in the art and craftsmanship of Ancient Ireland. In the Hunt Museum collection, are many similar objects to those from the National Museum of Ireland that inspired Lorcan Walshe’s work, such as early Christian bells, like the Cashel bell, Bell of Badoney and monastic handbells.

This exhibition has provided an opportunity for these bells to be removed from their silent context within a museum cabinet and be juxtaposed with artwork and an interactive sound installation. The bells regained their voice through the work of researcher and artist Dr. Eoin Callery, who recorded the sound of the bells, and created a soundscape that can be experienced by the visitor.

This virtual exhibition looks more closely at the Hunt Museum collection of early Irish objects and how the Artefacts project can help us understand their significance in new ways.

Official opening of The Artefacts Project, by Lorcan Walshe at the Hunt Museum which runs until 11 September. Picture: Alan Place

“The Celtic Revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century had kindled appreciation of the imagery and motifs of medieval Celtic art. However, this awareness of a Celtic past, presented through the romanticised lens of the coloniser and reimagined in the lucid dreams of the nationalist, did not result in a cultural legacy that I could lay claim to as a young painter”

Lorcan Walshe

Bells - Cloch

Monastic bells, such as this hand bell were highly symbolic in the early Irish Church, they were used by abbots as a call to prayer and were occasionally connected to relics. The significance of bells for the early Irish Christians was unique. The sound of each individual bell is different from the other based on its size, material, clapper and design.

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“What Lorcan Walshe brings to these icons: bells, croziers, book shrines, fashioned out of metals, is a contemporary language of painting. He uses … these icons, this imagery. In all the ways in which his senses have been influenced and shaped by looking at them - gazing at these objects (which by their very nature transmit some of the sensibility of the mind that made them).”

Patrick Hederman in dialogue with Lorcan Walsh, Leaden and Golden Echoes: Sacramentality on Art, The Artefacts Project, Lorcan Walshe, 2007

Croziers - Bachall

Inspiration for much of the series of Artefacts in the project came from the Crozier, also highly symbolic. The shape and design of the Insular crozier, such as Clonmacnoise Crozier, (studied by Walsh in his paintings Crozier with Green Background and Crozier with Grey Background I), was based on the shape of the shepherd’s staff, in this way indicating the link between the priest guiding his flock. Later Croziers are symbolic of the power and influence of the Irish Church, these items were often beautifully decorated and demonstrated a highly intricate metal work craft such as the 15th century O’Dea Crozier (Limerick Diocese, on loan to the Hunt Museum.)

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Book plates - Cumdach

Meaning a cover in Irish, these book shrines are particular to Ireland. A precious cover for a precious book or manuscript like the Stowe Missal, they were topped with the shape of a cross. Treasure bindings are luxurious book covers, often ivory or limoges plaques were surrounded by jewels and velvet, signifying the grand illuminated manuscripts contained inside.

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