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Published 13/03/2019 email E-MAIL print PRINT

Miriam de Búrca – interview: ‘The sites themselves are very charged: very beautiful but also very tragic’

With her detailed drawings of plants growing on the graves of Ireland’s excommunicates and other unblessed souls, De Búrca, now on show in Protest and Remembrance at Alan Cristea, hopes to restore the dignity of those the Catholic church abandoned

Through her work, Miriam de Búrca (b1972, Munich) seeks to draw attention to burial sites in Ireland known as cilliní, where, as recently as the 1980s, anyone deemed unworthy by the Catholic church of a burial in consecrated ground was laid to rest – or, rather, not to rest, since theology teaches that their unblessed souls remain for ever in limbo. These unfortunate and unknown strangers include stillborn or unbaptised babies, unmarried mothers, those who have taken their own lives, the mentally ill and excommunicates.



Miriam de Búrca, Anatomy of Chaos I: What Remains?, 2018. Ink drawing on man-made vellum, paper and image 50.5 x 65.8 cm. Photo courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery.

The absence of headstones adds to the wilful desire to make people forget and to suppress this long chapter of Irish history. But De Búrca believes it should be remembered – those buried should be remembered – and, by making careful drawings of the plants growing on the graves and, in the process, paying absolute attention to detail, she seeks to pay back some of the attention that those buried have been denied. Having finished with the sods of earth in her studio, she then returns them to the graves, hoping further to show a sign of respect and return some of the lost dignity.



Miriam de Búrca, Intent on Forgetting, 2018. Acrylic ink on watercolour paper, paper and image 23.9 x 31.9 cm. Photo courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery.

Protest and Remembrance
Miriam de Búrca | Joy Gerrard | Mary Griffiths | Barbara Walker
Alan Cristea Gallery, London
28 February – 30 March 2019

Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY



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