PROCLAMATION BY ROWAN GILLESPIE [ OUTSIDE KILMAINHAM GAOL]
The original model for Proclamation was called Imagine and according to Gillespie’s biographer:
“it alluded not only to the John Lennon peace anthem, but also to the dreams for a utopian society in Ireland espoused by Rowan’s grandfather, James Creed Meredith (1874-1942)”.
Meredith, a Kantian scholar and an inspired lawyer, appointed by the First Dáil (1919–21) as its Supreme Court Judge and nominated by Éamon de Valera to chair the committee to provide a Constitution for the Irish Republic, was judged a pacifist and his life was spared by the British authorities. In 1939, the multi-talented Supreme Court Judge, wrote a novel entitled “Rainbow in the Valley” (a work of utopian science fiction). One of the themes of this allegorical work is the imagination required to avoid war and to forge a bond with an intelligent creature from another world: a party of scientists in Western China establish communication with the inhabitants of Mars.
Proclamation has, as its backdrop, the courthouse in which James Creed Meredith presided when he was a Circuit Court Judge. Fourteen figures stand in a megalithic circle, at the centre of which is a plaque containing a copy of the Proclamation of Independence, engraved in bronze. Each figure has at its base a small plaque, engraved with the name and the British military tribunal’s verdict and sentence of death. The figures are perforated with bullet holes. Since the original commission was for the seven signatories of the Proclamation, Gillespie has donated the other seven martyrs to the site himself.
The figures are limbless, but far from lifeless. Fourteen martyrs stand united in a circle, blindfolded, as they would be for execution. The disturbing nature of these figures recalls the influence of Edvard Munch on the artist; and the desire to strip away the inessential differences of face and form and depict the essential nature of a raw emotion. Unlike the Migrants and the figures of Famine, the bronze of the martyrs is not left in its raw state, nor is their portrayal ‘realistic’. Almost alien, these figures are smooth and reflective, as if to suggest that they are essentially ‘more spirit than flesh’. The light reflecting off the multi-faceted surfaces of each figure ‘bouncing off one another’ (as they did in spirit) - is like a metaphor for imagination itself. In the spirit of James Creed Meredith’s Rainbow in the Valley – their voices curl and twist through space and a new light is formed, shining its rays like all the colours of the rainbow.