Sean Lynch’s exhibition at the Illuminations gallery considers the medieval myth of Buile Suibhne, an ongoing topic in his investigations of how folklore and history can be liberally inherited and adopted for contemporary life. The story of Suibhne, or Sweeney, has long been a subject for creative invention – figures such as Seamus Heaney and Joan Jonas have all considered the tale of the frenzied mad king, exiled from his land following the introduction of a Christian hierarchy into Ireland. Cursed to be half man, half bird, Sweeney schizophrenically roams throughout the island and beyond, only pausing only to lament his woes and the rigid social order that now inhabits the kingdom he once freely ruled.
Eventually after years of wandering, Sweeney began to radiate towards a farm where, for the first time since being cursed, he found kindness and supper made for him each evening. There the cook Muirghil would sink her heel into the nearest cow-dung, shaping a bowl and filling it up to the brim with fresh milk. He would then delightedly sneak in from nearby trees and lap it up.
In collaboration with sculptor Tom Fitzgerald, Lynch first realised a version of this scene of abjection as a performance and exhibition at VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow in 2014, close to where the incident is fabled to have occurred. In its reprise, For The Birds, For The Birds, an artist’s book and video documentation are arranged in a variety of sequences throughout the Illuminations gallery, emphasising the contingencies in the remembrance of Sweeney, and the uncertain nature of storytelling and Irish culture itself.
Sean Lynch (b.1978) currently lives in Dublin. In 2015 he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale and concurrently is presenting a solo exhibition at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College. In addition, he has recently held solo exhibitions at The Rose Art Museum, Boston, Modern Art Oxford, Charles H Scott Gallery, Vancouver and Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, along with group and thematic survey exhibitions at Camden Arts Centre, London, CAPC Bordeaux, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and neugerriemschneider, Berlin. Alongside Michele Horrigan, he works at Askeaton Contemporary Arts, organising artist residencies, exhibitions and publications in County Limerick.