Through the process of drawing, Conway’s work is concerned with teasing out commonalities between her own memories and the collective memories of being a participant within public educational spaces.
Her 2021 graduate exhibition, A Great Public Meeting explored empty educational spaces that questioned and challenged the aspirational promises put forward by the state through formal education. That work opened up a space for further connections to be made beyond the educational to facilitate a space for questioning societal values and behavioral expectations, particularly within the context of adolescence; a time when the familiar rapidly shifts beneath our feet and the seemingly fixed nature of our world is no
longer sacred against change.
Through the use of archival materials, documentation from site visits, and found images from her teenage years, Conway explores tensions between the empty school sites and the dense, awkward dancefloors of teenage discos. These themes of familiarity, unease and potentiality surrounding education and Irish society are further explored in Conway’s work Valero Energy Corporation Children’s Art competition 1971, which was created in response to the question ``who is culture for?” for the Douglas Hyde student Forum’s culture night presentation.
Subsequently, the drawing facilitates a line of questioning started in the DHG student forum meetings in September 2020. Questions concerning accessibility, participation, exclusion and the difficulties of promoting public engagement within the visual arts. Upon reflection, it appears these questions are as applicable to multinational corporations as to publicly funded gallery spaces.
In this mathematically composed press image we see a little girl happily collecting her ‘Tiny Tears’ prize from a panel of men and their wives. A photographer stands where we stand and snaps a photo that over 40 years will trickle down (slightly misshapen) through to a number of Ireland’s most respected contemporary art galleries, including here at the Dock.
Created in response to this year’s student forum theme ‘Who is culture for?’ Valero Energy Corporation Children’s Art Competition 1971 seeks to question how visual culture is supported and disseminated in contemporary Irish culture and why.
Gallery installation images by David Smith