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Dublin’s visual culture

February 24, 2014 | By | One Comment

Alison Fornell is our National College of Art and Design student ambassador. In this blog she explains the benefits of her master’s course and the wealth of cultural resources available on her doorstep around Dublin city.

Dublin is known for its literary culture: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, William Butler Yeats, to name a few. And while I have my own background in literature, it wasn’t the written word that brought me to Ireland.

Ireland has a vast and rich history of significant visual culture. You can find the works of important artists such as Francis Bacon and Sean Scully, both of whom hail from Ireland, at the Hugh Lane Gallery in DublinWalter Osborne, for example, was a prominent Impressionist whose works feature Irish life – and he was born and raised in Rathmines (a neighborhood in Dublin). These are just a few examples of many which highlight the vast history of Irish visual art and its influence here in Ireland and abroad.

This year I am studying as a Visual Culture Scholar at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in the Master of Arts course “Art in the Contemporary World” (ACW). What drew me to the course was its emphasis on interdisciplinarity: while NCAD is traditionally a visual arts college, this course in particular focuses on the intersections between the literary, the visual, the screenic, and the philosophical. And Dublin has allowed me to explore these very intersections which are so prevalent in its culture, past and present.

Most significantly, ACW encourages its students to explore the vast number of art galleries in Dublin and I have been lucky enough to visit many of these galleries with coursemates and friends. For example, in September we went to the opening of Sam Keogh’s show Mop at the Kerlin Gallery off Grafton Street, the central shopping street in Dublin. Keogh, a graduate of NCAD, explores childhood and art making in his vast maze of cultural artefacts and elaborate design.

Sam Keogh’s exhibition "Mop" at the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin.

Sam Keogh’s exhibition “Mop” at the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin.

But we have been lucky enough to explore the art world beyond Dublin, as well. In November, ACW and many other students from NCAD traveled up to Derry in Northern Ireland, to see the Turner Prize exhibition. The Turner Prize is a prestigious contemporary art prize awarded to a significant artist living and working in the United Kingdom. ACW instructor, Declan Long, was a judge for this year’s prize, making the trip and the experience that much more exciting.

The Turner Prize exhibition in Derry.

The Turner Prize exhibition in Derry.

I have also become involved in the gallery world outside of my course work. I work as an intern at Pallas Projects/Studios, a gallery and artist studio space in the Coombe, a neighborhood near NCAD in Dublin. This has proved to be a wonderful experience which has allowed me to meet Dublin-based artists as well as learn the ins and outs of managing a gallery space.

Pallas Projects Periodical Review #3.

Pallas Projects Periodical Review #3.

While my course has been a wonderful resource for exploring Irish visual culture, the city of Dublin itself has proved to be the most exciting asset yet. There are countless galleries, museums, parks, architectural sites – and so on – all featuring the best of Irish visual culture and all waiting to be explored.

Do you want to study in Ireland? Check out the Education in Ireland website for all the info you need.




  1. Dear friends, 

    I did an extensive photo project about Dublin’s Inner City, where I used to live, on and off in the 1980s and ’90s, which I believe forms a significant contribution to the preservation of Dublin’s architectural and cultural heritage. did a piece on it, which is approaching 70,000 views since Sunday.

    Have a look here:

    Rediscover the Dublin of the pre-boom years in amazingly detailed, high-resolution photographs,
    including lost Georgian ensembles, long-demolished shopfronts, huge panoramas of the Quays, and unforgettable local characters.

    I am currently working on raising awareness about this body of work, will be participating in photoireland ’14 in July, and want to bring the project to Dublin, so Dubliners may enjoy this contribution to the city’s cultural heritage.

    Thank you very much in advance, should you wish to recommend, link to, or write about my site.

    Best wishes, 
    David Jazay

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