Sleepwalkers: Sean Lynch – A blow-by-blow account of stone carving in Oxford

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Sleepwalkers is an ongoing project where six artists (Clodagh Emoe, Jim Ricks, Sean Lynch, Linda Quinlan, Lee Welch and Gavin Murphy) collectively used the gallery as a space for research. This is an attempt to reveal the process of conceiving an exhibition by the display of work and ideas in progress as they are being discussed and developed by artists and curators. The process results in each artist developing a solo exhibition in the gallery. The first of these solo exhibitions was Clodagh Emoe: The Closing of Mystical Anarchism, which closed on 13 January 2013. The next in the series are two exhibitions running simultaneously – by Lee Welch (in gallery 8) and Sean Lynch (in gallery 10) from 10 July to 29 September 2013.

Sean Lynch: A blow-by-blow account of stone carving in Oxford

A blow-by-blow account of stone carving in Oxford is an installation by Sean Lynch exploring the work of nineteenth century stone carvers John and James O'Shea, whose naturalistic renditions of animals and plants are still visible in locations in Dublin and Oxford.

From an artisan working class tradition, the O'Sheas completed a series of notable stone carvings in 1850s Dublin before relocating to Oxford to work on the new Museum of Natural History. While specific historical circumstances remain unclear, controversy surrounded the carvings of monkeys on the building's facade. Popular belief claimed the O'Sheas carved a rendition of Darwin's theory of evolution, a contentious subject within theological and social debate of the time. Due to a resulting quarrel, a series of impromptu carvings were attempted by James O'Shea intending to caricature the authorities of Oxford as parrots and owls; these are still visible at the site today.

A focal point of the installation is a carving of a monkey within an architectural setting, completed by carver Stephen Burke in the style and ethos of O'Sheas. Accompanying photographs and a slide projection, with a scripted narration performed by Gina Moxley, argue for the ethnographical relevance of the O'Sheas to the identities and urban infrastructures of both Dublin and Oxford.

The work of the O'Sheas can still be seen on the Museum Building in Trinity College, and carvings of monkeys on the former Kildare Street Club (now the National Library and Alliance Française) have been credited to James O'Shea. Sean Lynch's work references these sites as being alive with diverse allegorical and associative meanings and encourages a contemporary reappraisal.

A blow-by-blow account of stone carving in Oxford is curated by Michael Dempsey and Logan Sisley in collaboration with Paul Luckraft, Modern Art Oxford, where the project will be presented in early 2014. Research and production is supported by Gasworks, London, TrAIN: Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation, University of the Arts, London, Cove Park, Scotland, and the Arts Council of Ireland.