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The time of Irish art

Campbell Barber, Fionna (2018) The time of Irish art. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

How might an understanding of the temporal help us to engage with the visual? To what extent is this mediated by a sense of location – in this case within (or about) Ireland? This thesis takes the form of an enquiry into the meanings of time in relation to Irish art over a period of approximately one hundred years from 1910 onwards. Rather than a focus on the production of meaning within artworks themselves, however, the thesis is concerned with art historiography – an investigation into the wider discursive content of a selection of my published work between 2013-2018. In doing so it establishes a critical and distinctive position for the importance of time and temporality not just in relation to the broader field of art history, but within a wider understanding of the historical formations of Irish visualities. To achieve this, I focus on the deconstruction of selected notions of temporality within the discourses of art history (the role of linear histories, canons and contemporaneity) in conjunction with an analysis of the specificity of Irish temporalities. This takes two forms: evidencing the uneven experience of modernity and the active presences of traumatic memory, both legacies of colonialism, as a means of undoing the progressive drive of linear history, and an accompanying analysis of the complex temporalities of post-conflict Northern Ireland, as a means of more specifically situating how art historical writing can produce the meanings of its artworks in both locations. Finally, in conjunction with a return to the written work submitted to accompany this thesis, I map out further directions this can take, as a means of understanding the crucial role of past modes of temporalities in an engagement with the present and an attempt to shape the future.

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