Light Keepers

Light Keepers

Geraldine O'Sullivan
9 March to 10 April 2019
James O'Driscoll Gallery

Geraldine will be in conversation with Attendant Light Keeper Gerald Butler on Saturday 16 March at 12noon. All welcome and no booking required.

Light Keepers is a solo exhibition by Geraldine O'Sullivan comprising 11 multi-layered collages and 14 paintings based on oral histories, archive material and photographs which capture the unique lifestyle of lighthouse keepers on Ireland’s coastline and territorial waters.The work not only shows the physical structures of the lighthouses themselves, but also captures the echo of lives lived by the light keepers and their families in some of the most desolate and beautiful headlands and offshore islands on the Irish coastline. Geraldine O'Sullivan spent three years travelling the coastline, researching the stories of the surviving keepers and their families, many of whom were with the service for generations. Light Keepers is based on some of the narratives she felt privileged to have heard on her journey.

Those narratives are full of hardship and adventure, from the pre-20th-century world when light keepers’ families lived and died on rocks such as the Skelligs and Eagle Island, and women went ashore just twice a year, weather permitting, to buy fabric, wool and leather to make and repair their families’ clothes and boots, to more recent remembrances from the Galley Head itself, under the sweep of whose beam Geraldine lives.

Today, there are no longer any full-time lighthouse keepers in Ireland, attendant keepers are employed in a caretaker capacity. Families no longer live in keeper’s cottages; their histories are confined to archives, anecdote and a diminishing number of first-hand narratives. Alongside this change is the modernisation of the lighthouses themselves. In July 2018, the existing light at the Fastnet was replaced with a LED light, placed on the roof of the old lantern and the range of the beam reduced by 9 nautical miles.

The paintings and collages are accompanied by a short film explaining the history and inspiration for the Light Keepers project made by the artist and directed by Seán Vincent Phair, Ambiguous Fiddle Media.


A full colour catalogue also accompanies the exhibition and is available from Reception for €5.

In 2017, Geraldine received an artist’s bursary from Cork County Council to enable her undertake this project. Commenting on the exhibition, Mayor of the County of Cork, Councillor Patrick Gerard Murphy highlighted the inspiration taken from Cork’s unique geography, “With our magnificent coastline, it’s no wonder that there is so much artistic talent in County Cork. I’m very proud of how Cork County Council supports artists and helps them bring their projects to completion. Their work enriches our communities.”  


Image: Geraldine O'Sullivan, Birds Eye View of the Galley Head 


WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council 
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