Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan
7 September to 31 December 2020

Mary Sullivan is an emerging performance artist and islander whose impressive body of work turns a critical lens on the complex history of women's labour and island life. The energy and ambition of her work are played out in large-scale artistic performances located at key sites around Bere Island, West Cork, the island on which the artist lives. Like many of Ireland’s offshore islands, Bere is peppered with military installations from the ‘age of empire,’ which indicate convergent narratives of colonisation, suppression and insurrection. Absent from these historical narratives are the many ways women have contributed to island life and, in particular, how women's labour has been suspiciously misrecognised.' Dr. Glenn Loughran, Irish Arts Review, Winter 2019

Mary's most recent project Breathe, interrogated contemporary anxieties through a series of works installed in the underground rooms of a military shelter on Bere Island, an iteration of which was exhibited at the Futures exhibition in the RHA Dublin until 26 January 2020.

For her residency at Uillinn, Mary will develop her current project Hold, which explores women in their domestic setting and unpicks the confinements and restrictions that are placed on island women due to their gender. Island living has its own identity and traits and the island also has a huge ‘hold’ over the people living here.

Taking domestic tools as objects, Mary will be exploring the relationship between the tool and the body. The ordinary domestic tool can be seen as an extension of the female body but the body itself is a domestic tool. Tools imply labour and in the domestic context, this is invisible labour. Her concept is to outline certain domestic tools to conceal and reveal the tenuous, subtle but compelling links between the role of women, domestic tools and unseen demands on the female body.


Mary Sullivan graduated from the BA (hons) Visual Art Degree Programme, Sherkin Island in 2018. She was the first recipient of the RDS Taylor Art Award as a graduating student from DIT for her work At Home, At War. Mary has exhibited in institutions in Ireland and the United Kingdom, most notably in the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy) Gallery, Dublin and in the The Leydon Gallery, London. In 2019, she produced and exhibited her debut solo exhibition Breathe in the underground rooms of a disused military shelter on Bere Island which received critical acclaim. She is currently working with Create, Ireland’s national development agency for collaborative arts from whom she was awarded the Graduate Research and Development Award with mentoring from artist Jesse Jones.



Image: Mary Sullivan, Breathe, photograph by Jed Niezgoda


WCAC acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council and Cork County Council in making these residencies possible.

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