Orla O'Byrne

  • Orla O'Byrne

  • Surmoulage
  • 2019
  • Plaster of Paris, plywood, chalkboard paint
  • 35 x 16 x 11cm
  • Artist Statment

    This work is part of a continuous unearthing.

    Through my research into the story of Cork’s Canova casts, I have sought to develop a visual language which brings the viewer into contact with moments of loss and of rediscovery.

    The Canova casts arrived in Cork two hundred years ago, bringing with them a taste of Europe’s renewed fascination with Greek and Roman classicism. The casts had been produced in the Vatican under the supervision of the renowned sculptor Antonio Canova at the request of Pope Pius VII. The bequest arrived here by a circuitous route and was not originally intended for the people of Cork. This astonishing collection of full figures, busts, torsos and fragments was instrumental in the foundation of the first School of Art in the city, a school which later became The Crawford School of Art and eventually CIT CCAD.

    Records show that 219 plaster casts arrived at Cork Harbour on November 7th 1818. Today, most of the collection is missing and unaccounted for. At this time only twelve of the original casts are known to remain. Those twelve make up the Recasting Canova exhibition which is currently running at The Crawford Art Gallery.

    How have we lost more than two hundred casts?

    Indexicality and the complex identity of casts have been important in my research. Casts pose questions about authenticity in art. The work for this exhibition is made up of dozens of chalk drawings projected onto a blackboard alongside large format photographic negatives. There is also a sculptural object: an unauthorised cast of a cast. Each medium is chosen for its ability to transmit a sense of absence and presence, disappearance and discovery and the tension between transience and permanence which seems to exist at the heart of all my work.

    Website: www.orlaobyrne.com

    Instagram: orla_o_byrne



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