With Bread, a major solo exhibition by artist Abigail O’Brien, is an exhibition made up of photographs, sculpture and video.
While bread and the craft of making it are nearly as old as civilisation itself, Pain au levain was the first leavened bread, probably discovered in Egypt six thousand years ago. Artist Abigail O’Brien’s interest in bread, its elemental properties, the magical process that takes place in its making, its centrality in human daily life across race and culture and religion, its familial, social and cultural importance, and its rich symbolism, spans some twenty years.
With Bread has three key elements. The first is a series of large framed photographs taken in four bakeries in Ireland: McCloskey’s Bakery, Drogheda; Barron’s Bakery, Waterford; the Bretzel Bakery, and Il Valentino Bakery, both in Dublin. To the viewer, the images cannot be obviously linked with any particular bakery. Each is named after a female artist, because, O’Brien says, “the image suggests something to me about their work”.
The second element is the bread sculptures - ethnic breads that have been put through a process of firing and silvering, their nourishing and life-giving properties now suspended forever. Their titles refer to monetary currency - Peso, Euro, and Pound – and, as objects of beauty, O’Brien believes, “they still have ‘currency’ … and may even have ‘value’ in their metal substance”.
The third and final element is a video projection, titled Grande Dame, a three minute piece capturing in slow motion a levain or sourdough starter at the moment of rising. For O’Brien, this represents fecundity and fertility.
With Bread comes to The Dock as part of an tour organized by Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda. A full colour catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with essays by writer and psychoanalytic practitioner, Dr Medb Ruane, and poet, novelist and prose writer, Theo Dorgan, printed by Nicholson & Bass.
Abigail O’Brien was born in Dublin in 1957. She studied fine art as a mature student, graduating in 1998 from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Dublin. Since then her work has earned numerous awards and accolades, and she has exhibited consistently both in and outside Ireland over the last two decades.