Miriam McConnon: The Refugee’s Armour

Sunday 24 September – Saturday 4 November 2023
Miriam McConnon: Ali's Armour, oil on canvas, 70 x 55cm | Miriam McConnon: The Refugee’s Armour | Sunday 24 September – Saturday 4 November 2023 | Olivier Cornet Gallery | Image: Miriam McConnon: Ali's Armour, oil on canvas, 70 x 55cm – the painting depicts what at first glance looks similar to a toreador’s costume, hung against a wall with stark lighting from the left throwing strong shadows on the right; the colours are muted; the costume reveals itself to be made of mishmash of cloth pieces most of them strongly patterned, and most of the patterns of a ‘vintage’ style

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue prefaced by Dr Rachel Hoare, Director of The Centre for Forced Migration Studies, Trinity College Dublin.

A panel discussion will take place at the gallery on the 28 September with artists Brian Maguire, Rajinder Singh, Rachel Fallon and Miriam McConnon. The discussion will focus on the complexities of making artwork around the personal human narrative. More details below.

Please note that the Centre for Forced Migration Studies has invited the artist to talk about her body of work ahead of her exhibition at our gallery. This event will take place on Culture Night, Friday 22 September 2023. All details here. Please also note that the show here at the gallery will be available to preview as part of our Culture Night event.

The Olivier Cornet Gallery is delighted to present Miriam McConnon’s fifth solo exhibition with us.

In her new solo exhibition, Miriam McConnon presents the individual stories of young male refugees in paintings of personal objects that narrate their journey of displacement, of integration and of aspirations for the future. She brings a collective element to these individual experiences through the gesture of the exhibition. The work looks at the many layers to these stories, disenabling the categorization of ‘refugee’ to define these young men.

Over the past twenty years McConnon has consistently made work around objects that reveal a human story. For this new body of work, she has conducted a series of interviews with several young men who have been displaced by war. Together they discussed themes of trauma, memory, safety, politics and the shared global responsibility for conflict. She recalls elements of their past stories and their hopes for their future through the display of objects that express the different layers of these narratives. Her work acts as an agency in which to give a voice to these young men’s experiences and that takes responsibility for the preservation of their personal stories.

In this exhibition ‘The Refugee’s Armour’, the viewer is presented with a series of paintings depicting a male suit jacket suspended from a wire. Each suit jacket bears decorative patterns that originate from personal objects related to the individual journey of displacement. These jackets represent each young male refugee’s armour or safety net against the issues they face in their attempt to establish a new life following conflict and war.

The exhibition also hosts a series of small works that present the more personal objects that these young men chose to carry with them on their journey. Each small painting is a testimony to the more intimate finer details of each narrative.

In the gallery space the installation ‘Armours’ is made up of six garments of clothing that belong to each of the young men whose stories of displacement have inspired the exhibition. They have been loaned to the artist for the exhibition. In some cases, the garments are those that these young men have travelled in to safety. Each piece of clothing is hung at the height of the man to whom it belongs and on a wire frame that measures the width of their shoulders. In doing so, the artist has created a space for the presence of these young men, for them to exist within the gallery in a way that is not symbolic or metaphorical but a true physical presence of their clothing with their sense of being without exposing the physical person themselves.

Panel Discussion

The panel discussion will take place at The Olivier Cornet Gallery on the evening of September 28th 2023. The purpose of the panel discussion is to create discussion around the responsibilities and complexities that artists face when exposing other people’s personal narratives in their work.

The three invited artists are Brian Maguire, Rajinder Singh and Miriam McConnon with artist Rachel Fallon as chair of the discussion. Each of these invited artists deals with the narratives of displacement and conflict in their work, giving a voice to the human story. The following topics will form the framework for the panel discussion:

    • Value of arts highlighting issues (bringing them into different spaces, new lens, collectivising) and why artists decide to engage with these subjects
    • How does the art world receive the work and methods of collaborative process including how to approach imbalances in artist /community relationships
    • Power of arts process for those involved (being listened to, new value ascribed to objects which then returned with new stories, individual experience is collectivised
    • Politics of representation (Othering, highlight issue without othering)
    • Relationships (Work is made from conversation, trust to be given objects, ethics, duty of care, protect person)
    • Artwork (Form – importance of painting process, the artist’s use of pattern, addition of installation in this show, choice of subject matter)
    • Migration, DP system in Ireland, failure of state, rise in nationalism/racism

Awards and Funding for ‘The Refugee’s Armour’

Funding from The Arts Council Agility Award 2023 and the Fingal Artist’s Support Scheme 2023 will support two solo exhibitions in September 2023 at Olivier Cornet Gallery, Dublin and November 2023 at The Diatopos Centre for Contemporary Art, Nicosia later in the year. It also supported a mentoring program for Miriam McConnon with artist Dr Fiona Whelan and a panel discussion on the 28th September at the gallery with artists Brian Maguire, Rajinder Singh, Rachel fallon and Miriam McConnon. The discussion will be focused on the complexities of making artwork around the personal human narrative. A small catalogue will also be published to support the exhibition with text written by Dr Rachel Hoare from Trinity College Dublin.

Image: Miriam McConnon: Ali's Armour, oil on canvas, 70 x 55cm
Sunday 24 September – Saturday 4 November 2023
Olivier Cornet Gallery
3 Great Denmark Street
(beside Belvedere College)
Dublin 1
Telephone: +353 87 2887261
Opening hours / start times:
Tues to Fri: 11am to 6pm (till 8pm on Thursdays) • Sat & Sun: 12 noon to 5pm • Closed on Mondays (or viewing by appointment only)
Admission / price: Free

Associated sites
Design: iCulture • Privacy and cookies
day before opening reception
day of opening reception
day before open to public
day open to public
day before closing
day of closing

(e-mail addresses are not retained after the reminder is sent)