Claire Halpin told me a story lately that her grandmother told her mother long ago. When her granny was young, she lived in Mountjoy Square and worked as a seamstress, making alterations to garments for the various outfitters in Dublin. Well, believe it or not, she was going to work on the 24th of April 1916 and, when she turned into O’Connell Street from Parnell Street, she saw a dead horse lying in the street…
Of course, the historians amongst you will know that the Easter Rising had started that very day and some of the King’s horses had been killed – but there’s more to tell. “Her dream was out”, Granny said. She had dreamed of “a fallen horse” just a few days before and now, there it was in front of her, a tragic reminder (if one were needed) of the horrors of war.
This scene is depicted in one of Halpin’s prints in the current exhibition “Republic” at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. It was made originally for a special touring exhibition entitled: “Little Stories Little Prints”. This is a commemorative project for 2016, curated by Pamela de Brí, presenting the work of about fifty printmakers from eight different print studios. (The various prints highlight some of the little-known stories and events from the time of the Easter Rising of 1916).
And Halpin’s second print in our exhibition is a reproduction of a sketch made by a British soldier at Arbour Hill at the time. After the Rising, fourteen of the leaders were executed in Kilmainham Jail and their bodies were taken to Arbour Hill and dumped in a mass grave, buried in quicklime. General Maxwell was determined that they would not be released to the families, fearing that “Irish sentimentality would turn those graves into martyrs’ shrines”. But a soldier who witnessed the burials made a quick sketch to note where the bodies were placed, and this sketch can still be seen in the National Archives in London. This year at Arbour Hill, wreaths were laid, prayers were said… and the executed leaders of the Easter Rising were remembered in a dignified ceremony.
“Republic”, a group exhibition curated by Olivier Cornet and myself, continues at the Olivier Cornet Gallery until the end of August. And the following exhibition there will be a solo show by Claire Halpin!