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June 17, 2010

“Ancestral Interiors” exhibition on at Irish Architectural Archive

iarc1This exhibition puts on display a group of previously unpublished photographs by Patrick Prendergast which look afresh at life in the Irish country house in the closing decades of the last century. These remarkable images take as their subject matter the very clutter which had been rigorously removed from sight in earlier photographs of Irish interiors. The emphasis is on houses still in the ownership of the families who built them, fewer and fewer of which survive today.

Patrick Prendergast was born in Preston and studied film and photography at art school in London, later studying at University College London and at Moscow’s Institute of Foreign Languages. He provided photographs of Ireland to illustrate J.P. Donleavy’s A Singular County (1989) and Thomas Keneally’s Now and In Time to Be (1991). Prendergast spent ten years working in the commodities business in the former Soviet Union and now lives and works in Geneva.

Prendergast offers an intimate, domestic, vision, a “˜behind the scenes’ look at life in the Big House, and casts an affectionate glance at the interiors and material culture of houses which, perhaps anachronistically, still struggle to survive in modern Ireland.

Almost twenty years after they were taken, Prendergast’s work is finally seeing the light of day and a major photographic talent has been revealed. In addition to the technical skill they display, the empathetic nature of his images, with their deep understanding of context and character, makes for a highly original evocation of time and place. Rarely before has the personality of the Irish country house and its inhabitants been so eloquently captured.

The exhibition coincides with the book Ancestral Interiors, Photographs of the Irish Country House by Patrick Prendergast. This is published by the Irish Architectural Archive through the generosity of John Belmore, and includes an introduction by William Laffan and a foreword by the Knight of Glin.

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