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  •  A solo show of new work by Margaret Corcoran, Emergence will open on Sept 30th at 7.30pm 

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Mayo God Help Us!

Until Nov. 21st;  wed - sat 1 - 6pm and until Nov. 28th by appointment (087) 7912337 

Aidan Dunne's review of Exhibition in Irish Times Nov. 10th

Mayo God Help Us! is one of the most enigmatic of Irish catchphrases, the origins of which remain shrouded in uncertainty and argument.  Some of the country’s leading visual artists have attempted to unravel the age old phrase via this exhibition.

Almost two hundred artists, who live or have lived in County Mayo responded to a challenge to engage with the phrase “Mayo God Help Us” by producing work which would explore and capture the underlying essence of the expression - as they interpreted it.

This challenge and brief was set by Rosemarie Noone, Director of Claremorris Gallery, in collaboration with Gaynor Seville of Mayo County Council’s Arts Office.  It drew an immediate response from the artistic community and Catherine Marshall, former head of Collections at IMMA and Patrick Murphy, director of the RHA have selected this strong exhibition which includes the following artists;

Breda Burns

Peter Burns

Aoife Casby

   

 

Mags Duffy

Laura Gallagher

Michael Gannon

Pauline Garavan

Virginia Gibbons

Marliese Hertfelder

Niall Kerrigan

Imelda Kilbane

Jo Killalea

Chris Leach

Alice Maher

Caroline Masterson

Niall McCormack

Shania McDonagh

Ruth McDonnell

John McHugh

John McNulty

Mary Noonan

Niamh O'Doherty

Conor O'Grady

Ann O'Mahony

Maeve O'Reilly

Mary Patterson

Paula Pohli 

Dermot Seymour

Andrew Smyth

Amelia Stein

Tracy Sweeney

Michael Wann

Marie Wood

The themes in the show are as varied as they are idiosyncratic; renderings of the controversial imprisonment of “Shell to Sea” protestors; the erection of the iconic Achill Henge; epic depictions of the bleakest, most desolate parts of the county and its rugged coastline; the ongoing hunger for GAA success; a sculptural homage to the loss of our language and a striking portrait of the quintessential parish pump politician and the weathered Mayo farmer.

Today, when a Mayo person is introduced, possibly in any corner of the diaspora the phrase, “God help us!” is bandied about in repartee amongst jovial expats. But although it is now a bit tongue-in-cheek the origins of this phrase are grave.  And the expression once followed any mention of Mayo like a litany or a responsorial psalm.

Is the phrase a cry of resigned desperation or a plea for divine intervention? When unpicking the etymology of this tagline synonymous with the County two interpretations emerge.  The meaning most engrained in the county’s psyche references Mayo’s bleak past.  The population went from 390,000 in 1841 to under 120,000 in 2002.  The signs of this mass exodus, through poverty, starvation and political indifference, are seared not only in the landscape but also in our county’s collective unconscious.

So strong in our sense of identity is this historic sense of desperation that it has found its way into the “branding” of our national games.  In fact the GAA tag line, “Criost Linn” (Christ be with us) echoes the age old phrase. The expression also references the ‘curse’ over the Mayo team, demonstrating our stereotypical superstition.  The modern legend goes that the curse of the Mayo team dates from 1951 when the winning team passed through Foxford and neglected to pay proper respect to a funeral.  A local priest is alleged to have decreed that Mayo would not win another Final until all players on that team are dead. They have not won since that year.

Nothing to do with County Mayo is ever as simple as it may seem. This exhibition explores aspects of the Mayo psyche which are unique, and probes at the history and culture of a county which down through the centuries has lost more people to immigration than any other. The artwork in this show encompasses varied contemporary interpretations of times past, as well as reimagining the less explored, darker underside of Mayo history and folklore. The artwork subverts and satirizes the negative stereotype that the phrase propagates and gives expression to its multi-layered meaning. Artists have responded in equal measure with passion, humour and gravitas.


Mayo Artists Network Event: Panel Discussion, Sat. Nov. 28th, 3 - 5pm

Patrick T. Murphy, Director of the RHA and Catherine Marshall, former head of Collections at 

IMMA will discuss Mayo God Help Us!, giving insights into the exhibition selection process and 

County Mayo as a place of inspiration for artists.  



 

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