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Reflecting on busiest year to date at Hamilton Gallery


Hamilton Gallery Sligo sees out a truly remarkable and highly profiled year showcasing Irish Art, with the opening of '2020 VISION' on Saturday 7th December at 12 noon. The exhibition is a dynamic and eclectic exhibition from 20 artists; artists new to the gallery and others who have shown at Hamilton Gallery since it opened in 2010.

It's fitting that 2019 finishes up and that 2020 is launched with an invited artists exhibition, as the Hamilton Gallery programme saw its signature "Invitational" exhibitions touring to London, Berlin and Dublin and New York in 2019. The aptly named '2020 VISION' also gives a glimpse into the gallery programme of solo exhibitions for 2020, which will be the gallery's 10th birthday year.


The '2020 VISION' exhibition will range across landscape and still life, the figurative and abstract.

"We are delighted to include work by three of Ireland's most acclaimed sculptors John Behan from Galway, Carolyn Mulholland from Dublin and Sligo's own Eileen Mac Donagh in this exhibition" said gallery owner and curator Martina Hamilton.

"As it runs until the end of February, '2020 Vision' will take us from 2019, perhaps our most prominent and certainly our busiest year to date, into a new year which marks the 10th birthday of the gallery. It's a really exciting and dynamic way to launch our 10th year programme"

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'2020 VISION' also includes paintings by Clive Bright, Tina Brooks, Jonathan Cassidy, Paul Colreavy, Aidan Crotty, Medbh Gillard, Rebecca Jobson, Poílín Mc Gowan, Tom Mc Lean, Trudie Mooney, Leonora Neary, Marilin North, Sorca O Farrell, Cormac O Leary, Emma Stroude, Treacy Sweeney and Michael Wann.


2019 was indeed an exciting and energising year for Hamilton Gallery and the artists who were involved in its programme. Twelve solo exhibitions were hosted over the course of the year underpinning the gallery's ongoing strategic significance as a regional showcase for contemporary artists and their work. There were memorable developments for the Invited Artists programme as well.

In 2019, through Embassies and Diplomatic Missions world-wide Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) initiated an annual international celebration of women and creativity centred around the symbolism and timing of St. Brigid's Day. Based on the vibrancy and eclecticism of the gallery's annual Invited Artists Exhibition, DFAT invited Hamilton Gallery to contribute to this project. This resulted in "St Brigid's Day 1989" an exhibition themed around the poetry of the late Leland Bardwell and featuring work by 90 women artists being commissioned and curated by the Gallery. The exhibition was shown in London, Dublin and Berlin in the first four months of the year.

It was followed by the gallery's showcase annual Invited Artists exhibition in July. This year's exhibition was themed on the poem "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen" by W B Yeats, a frighteningly prescient poem that inspired contributions by 129 artists.

"Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen" opened as Hamilton Gallery's contribution to celebrations surrounding the historic 60th Yeats International Summer School and Tread Softly Festival in July, before going on to show in its entirety at Ireland's US Consulate General Offices in New York. The exhibition showcased at the Irish Consulate during the DFATs diplomatic programme and cultural celebrations surrounding the convening of the UN general assembly in October. The exhibition has just returned to Sligo.

"In October 2018 we had no idea we would be bringing two large scale invited artists exhibitions abroad" remarked gallery owner Martina Hamilton.

"Our 2018 Invited Artists exhibition 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death' was seen by Ann Derwin from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in late September. Ann invited us to put together a similar format exhibition for St Brigid's Day themed celebrations of women and creativity which Irish Embassies are now showing around the world each year. We decided to theme our contribution around the poem St Brigid's Day 1989 by Leland Bardwell who had lived the last 25 years of her life here in Sligo. It was a mark of the esteem and respect which Leland is held in that 90 women artists from all over Ireland responded immediately to the invitation to participate. We were obviously delighted to be able to showcase the exhibition and celebrate Leland in London and later in Berlin and Dublin as part of International Women's Day".


On touring Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen to New York, Martina reflected how it was a year when all the numbers seemed to offer up a unique and irresistible synchronicity. "The gallery will be 10 years old in 2020, but our craft gallery The Cat and The Moon, ( also named after a Yeats play, is 30 years old this year. Meanwhile the Yeats International Summer School celebrated its 60th year.

With all those anniversaries taking place we had to do something special. Since the commencement of the decade of commemoration we've offered a major poem by W B Yeats as inspiration for our annual invited artists exhibition. The idea is that visual artists get to paint their response to the social, cultural, political and artistic ideals Yeats addressed in his great poems 100 years ago with the reality of today. These exhibitions have been growing in strength from year to year with 50 artists taking part in 2015 and 129 in this year's exhibition. Of course Yeats' poem titled Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen simply could not be ignored in 2019, as we'd taken on Easter 1916 three years ago and "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" in the context of the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I just last year. It was a real honour to have the exhibition opened by Ireland's Ambassador to the US Daniel Mulhall during a truly memorable 60th Yeats International Summer School. To have all 129 artworks invited to show in the Irish Consulate Offices, Park Avenue, New York was an amazing opportunity. The exhibition opened at the Consulate right in the middle of the General Assembly of the UN and we are forever grateful to Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, who gave the opening address. It was an honour to be there representing Irish artists and their work in New York at such a crucial time for Ireland both politically and culturally."


Reflecting on her busiest year to date Martina paid tribute to all the artists who have kept faith with Hamilton Gallery over the last 9 years. "Artists have shown such energy and enthusiasm for the gallery, and for showing here. Looking back through the archives on the website it is truly amazing to see and reflect on all of the fantastic work that has passed through here over our first decade. We're deeply grateful to all the artists who place their trust in us and we look forward to celebrating our 10th birthday with them, and to the next 10 years, bringing a dynamic programme of visual art to the people of Sligo and far beyond"