Micheal Farrell died in Cardet, in southern France, in 2000. He exhibited consistently in Ireland, and became compulsively fascinated not only by immediate events – he was galvanised by the eruption of the Troubles in the North – but also by wider questions of history and cultural identity.
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Now Solstice Arts Centre, in Navan, Co Meath, has initiated a substantial survey exhibition exploring and celebrating his artistic achievement.
Curated by Belinda Quirke, the centre’s artistic director, the show will later tour to Crawford Art Gallery, in Cork, the RHA, in Dublin, and the Centre Cultural Irlandais, in Paris, offering a wide audience a chance to gain familiarity with a talent that deserves renewed recognition.
From early on as an artist Farrell saw himself in an international context.
He described himself as part of a generation that grew up in an Ireland that was Ireland.
It wasn’t disputed territory; it was more a neutral background.
Although his immediate environment was rich in evidence and emblems of history, he thought little of national identity until he was sent to Ampleforth College, a Benedictine secondary school in England. One was that his dyslexia made things difficult for him and drew scorn rather than assistance.
Another was that the version of Irish history and Irishness that was dished out he recognised as a travesty.
[CROSSHEAD]Cultural injury[/CROSSHEAD]That was the beginning of a bristling sense of cultural injury and an enduring dislike of the English empire-building mindset.
Nonetheless he stayed in England, to study commercial art at St Martins in London.