Ardgillan Gallery Presents

Folding Tree and Satin Clouds

Joan Sugrue and Patricia Hennessy

Curated by Aisling Dunne

2nd March – 14th April 2024 from 3pm to 5pm

“Folding Tree and Satin Clouds” unveils a compelling dialogue between Joan Sugrue and Patricia Hennessy, two artists exploring diverse facets of power, colonialism, and the enigmatic realms of visual representation.

Sugrue’s work is a vibrant theatre of historical dress, where sumptuous fabrics intertwine with symbols of control. Animated crinoline dresses acquire personas, blurring lines between display and concealment, power, and self-importance. Meanwhile, Hennessy’s work navigates the liminal space between reality and hallucination. She uses painting and prop-like sculptures, scrutinizing power in Europe through architecture, film, and objects. The exhibition weaves a tapestry of doubled narratives, historical juxtapositions, and meticulous examinations of human civilization, urging viewers to engage in a broader discourse on colonial and post-colonial visual representation.

 Sugrue’s work reflects the artist’s continued interest in colonialism and power politics. Here the paintings visit the role that historical dress played within these topics. Luxurious silks, animal furs and cloth of gold with precious gems are rendered in a theatre of luscious colour. Fabric patterns incorporating images from prying eyes to Ordnance Survey mapping symbols hint at tools of colonial control. Fringes at the hem of crinoline dresses turn into armies of little feet. Gemstones and potatoes become unlikely bedfellows.  The dresses start to become alive and take on their own personas as a way to display or hide their own self-importance, status and power. In the creation of these cartoonish images, transgressions are made which open up the work to a wider discussion on colonial and post-colonial visual representation.

Hennessy explores paint’s capacity to mirror reality and its potential to evoke the hallucinatory. The paintings emerge from alternating between figurative delineation, fragmented daubs and liquid paint pours across the surface, creating a representation of the subject between truth and illusion. Cropping and peripheral margins in the paintings emphasise the infrastructure of the image focusing attention on what is contained and what is removed.

 The body of work in the exhibition took inspiration from ‘The Prelude’ on ‘Imagination’ by the Romanticist poet William Wordsworth which reflects on creative process and representation. Incorporating paintings in traditional oils on canvas and three-dimensional prop-like pieces, Hennessy examines the cultural domains of power and empire in Europe referring to its architecture, paintings, films, objects of industrial design and decorative objects. Thematically and formally the work articulates a continual reshaping of human civilisation and nature.


Joan Sugrue is a painter based in County Galway with a Fine Art degree from GMIT. She has taken part in many curated group exhibitions, including Eigse, Carlow Arts Festival and the Kinsale Arts Festival. She had her first solo exhibition in Tinahealy Arts Centre, Wicklow in 2015. She was selected for the Marmite Prize V in 2016 and has exhibited in the Contemporary British Prize for Painting (London), the Collyer Bristow Gallery (London) and the Portico Library (Manchester). She has taken part in exhibitions recently with Engage studios in the Linenhall and in Ballinglen Arts Centre. She is currently enrolled in the Turps Correspondence course for her second year. She has been the recipient of grants from Galway County Council and recently has had work purchased by the Arts Council.

Patricia Hennessy is an early career professional artist based in Dublin working through an expanded practice of painting that incorporates two and three dimensions across a variety of surfaces. She has an MFA in Fine Art Painting from the National School of Art & Design (2023). She has taken part in numerous group exhibitions including The Year of Magical Thinking (2021) in Dunamaise Arts Centre, Soul Noir Festival (2018) in The Chocolate Factory and Artonomy (2018) in Mart Gallery. She took part in NCAD Open Works Programme 2023, presenting ‘Readings Between Land and Sea’ a public platform event. She was the recipient of the Fingal Arts Council Bursary Artist Support Scheme 2021 – 2023. Her work is held in LIT Permanent Collection and in private collections.