Rowan Gillespie Irish, b. 1953

Works
Biography

Rowan Gillespie was born in Dublin in 1953,  grandson to  James Creed Meredith and Lorraine Meredith who, looking at the newborn baby, declared that he was going to be a famous mathematician and should, without doubt, be named after Richard Rowan Hamilton  –  She was wrong about the mathematician bit, but the name stuck.

His family soon emigrated to Cyprus where he lived until the age of ten. He attended the Quaker Bootham School  in York, but left at the early age of 16 to enroll at York School of Art, continued his studies in the sculpture department at Kingston College of Art, then Kunst og Handverke Skole in Oslo. He married, lived and exhibited widely in Norway until 1977 when the family moved to the land of Rowan’s birth, Ireland.

 

From 1978 to 1986, he held many successful exhibitions in Ireland, at the Lad Lane and Solomon Galleries, and internationally, with the Jonathon Poole Gallery, London and Galeri Husstege in Holland. His work also traveled to exhibitions in York, Belfast, New York, Cannes, Los Angeles, Stockholm and Moscow.

 

From 1982 he regularly exhibited in group exhibitions, art fairs and theme exhibitions in Ireland, France, Holland, USA and England, including Recontre avec des Sculpteurs Europeens, Pan Amsterdam, Royal Hibernian Academy, Art Expo New York, Art Toronto, Puck Inaugural New York, BCAF, ICAF London and Art Miami.

In 1989 he decided to concentrate solely on site specific work which, resulted in a number of major public sculptures commissions, initially in Ireland then around the world. He has, as yet, never returned to exhibition work.

 

Possibly his best known series to date would be his Famine Trilogy,  commemorative sculptures on Custom House Quay in Dublin, Ireland Park in Toronto and Hunter island, Tasmania.

Proclamation in Dublin, a personal tribute to his grandfather James Creed Meredith, commemorates those who were executed in Kilmainham Jail in 1916. Titanica remembers those who died on the Titanic.

 

John Hughes in Manhattan, Johnny Kilbane in Cleveland, James Joyce in Denver and Dublin and William Orpen are among his Irish Giants, they tell a mainly male story of staggering success in a life time. The female story is quite different, from convict women sent to Tasmania in Footsteps to the series A Woman inspired by his Norwegian wife, Hanne, who had been his life-long muse. Hanne passed away in 2020 and Ciao Bella  , Hanne’s Farewell, was installed on the second anniversary of her death.

 

Recent work has includes experimentation with marble in a  commissioned bust of Mary Wollstonecraft for the Trinity Long Room, and, in 2023 at the age of 70, What’s Next …. , a life-size horse with rider.

 

Rowan Gillespie is unique as a sculptor in that he works totally alone, in his Dublin one man foundry, and personally carries out every aspect of the work from conception to installation.

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