Tommy Weir

Tommy Weir

6 November to 18 December 2021

Download the gallery map pdf here.

Cillín by Tommy Weir is an exhibition of large photographic works around the subject of cillíní (an historic burial ground in Ireland, primarily used for stillborn and unbaptised infants but also those who were not allowed into consecrated churchyards such as famine and shipwrecked victims, mothers who died in childbirth and those who died by suicide).

Tommy Weir’s body of work forms both the outcome of a period of research and an evolution of his prior work which focused on death, landscape and the making of art. His process involves online preparatory research using archaeological websites alongside various mapping and photographic resources to determine the locations and key information relating to the sites, from history to access and ownership. His practice in the making of these images is partly performative, and recreates the night time journeys the fathers of these infants would have made to journey to the cillíní and bury their child. “Nothing fully prepares you for the initial site visits, recce walks and shoots, and then the subsequent night time shoots over a period of days” he says. “Conditions must be right, nightfall, no rain, little wind, lighting, framing. These are a solitary experience and quite meditative and considered. I repeat them as needed, weather conditions and other factors having their impact.”

The exhibition at Uillinn includes two new works “Maunvough” (between Bantry and Drimoleague) and “Gloun” (between Schull and Durrus) photographed in winter 2020 in Cork.

Weir has also collaborated with poet, Una Mannion and archaeologist, Marion Dowd on this body of work, bringing together photography, science and poetry, looking at the Irish relationship to death and ritual over the centuries. This exhibition opens up for discussion the cultural and social structures which have enabled this very particular Irish phenomenon.

This exhibition was initiated by the RHA Gallery, Dublin and shown there in autumn 2019, before travelling to The Dock in Carrick-on- Shannon in early 2020 and is supported by an Arts Council Touring and Dissemination Award.

Cillíní cover the Irish countryside. The documented sites are numerous in certain counties, for example Galway has 476, but Sligo lists merely 22. A good deal are undocumented and are only known locally. The locations vary, some being quite remote, deep in forests or high on hills, others situated within fields or just outside official graveyards.

From the 7th Century, through the Middle Ages and continuing to the late 20th Century, unbaptised children were rarely buried in consecrated ground. Denied access to the graveyard, they were buried in cillíní instead. These remote places were aligned with boundaries in the landscape, on the edges of townlands, at the bottom of cliffs, along the coastline of the sea or the edges of lakes. The locations are thresholds themselves, perched between two different spaces, and evoke a sense of looking back in time. Indeed, they are often sited within prehistoric sites, within ancient stone circles or by standing stones. These unofficial graveyards form a part of the Irish landscape, numbering several thousand across Ireland.

The babies were buried in the dark. The day the infant died, the father would take the body from the home and journey on their own to the cillín which could be some distance away. They would then bury the infant between nightfall and dawn. These are bleak places. The level of neglect, the erasure, all echo the exclusion from communal ritual. Such a hard place at the end of what must have been a dreadful day, it still was a site where a solitary man gave care to a newly dead infant, a ritual of a form in an ancient place.

Born in Dublin, Tommy Weir has had a career spanning the arts, from visual art through publishing, design, theatre, film and photography. After graduation from Trinity College, Dublin he worked as curator in the Douglas Hyde Gallery, prior to establishing a gallery space at the City Arts Centre, Dublin.

Weir lived and worked in New York where he curated an exhibition of young Irish artists, celebrating the launch of The Ireland House at NYU, prior to embarking on a career in design with Scholastic Publishing, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, Pentagram and with Michael Bierut and Paula Scher working in the areas of Broadway shows, theatres, museums and fashion. Returning to Ireland Weir moved into film, establishing Janey Pictures with his partner, filmmaker Marian Quinn. Their feature film 32A, won Best First Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh, the Tiernan McBride Screenwriting Award and was nominated for several IFTAs including Best Picture and went on to win the IFTA for Cinematography. Weir has produced several films with visual artists, notably Walker and Walker, including Nightfall which represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale, and Mount Analogue. He also produced Painting Patrick with Nick Miller and several films including Black Square with his sister, Grace Weir, exhibited in IMMA and London and Trinity College Dublin and lectures on film and photography in the Yeats Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture in IT Sligo.

He completed his MFA in Photography at the Belfast School of Art, graduating with multiple prizes, including the Royal Ulster Academy’s Outstanding Student and Ulster University’s Collection Award. He has exhibited his photographs in both Ireland and the UK and was featured in Beyond View, a ten year celebration of photography in the Belfast School of Art at Belfast Exposed.

Opening Event on Saturday 6 November at 12 noon

We are delighted to mark the opening of Tommy Weir's exhibition Cillín at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre with a conversation between artist Tommy Weir and Patrick T. Murphy, Director of the RHA Gallery, Dublin.

This is a seated event in the James O'Driscoll Gallery (Ground Floor)

Covid-19 Guidelines will apply



Image: Cillín, Maunvough, Cork, 2020, Pigment print on Hahnemühle Etching, 110 x 81.5cm


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

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