James Barry (1741-1806) & David Eager Maher (1979-present) 
Curated by Jim Ricks as part of the Sleepwalkers series
The Dublin City Galley, The Hugh Lane

Savage State is a two person show that has asked a contemporary artist to counter the works of someone who died over 200 years ago. 

“We begin with man in a savage state … and we follow him through several gradations of culture and happiness, which, after our probationary state here, are finally attended with beatitude or misery”  

James Barry, 1783

David Eager Maher practice has been described as that of a “time-traveler”. His work subverts historical motifs and methods into complex new narratives. As an offshoot of Jim Ricks’s exhibition, Bubblewrap Game: Hugh Lane, Eager Maher selected two historic works by 18th century artist James Barry. In his response, Eager Maher pays close formal and stylistic attention to his precursor, but semiotically updates the works found in the Hugh Lane collection: Society for the Encouragement of the Artsand Orpheus Instructing in Theology and the Arts of Social Life

Throughout the Sleepwalkers project Jim Ricks has investigated the economic and political underpinnings of our institutions, asking in a way “Who owns history?” He has taken on the guise of meta curator within the stratum and duration of his exhibition Bubblewrap Game: Hugh Lane.

If to be a curator is to shape the future, then perhaps he has challenged Eager Maher to rework the past and for us to rethink the present. What Ricks has set up is not the replacement of one authoritative model with another, but through this fissure the gradual creation of a community, a discourse, an art… which enables us to potentially and continually examine not only our own values and assumptions, but those of the culture in which we have inherited. 

James Barry was born in Cork in 1741 he showed a talent for drawing from an early age. Barry studied for some time in Dublin before working in London copying paintings. In 1765 he began traveling around Europe. He returned to London in 1771. He was made an RA in 1773 and appointed professor of painting at the RA in 1782, but was expelled from the Academy after differences of opinion emerged. He died in London in 1806.

David Eager Maher was born in Dublin in 1979. His practice is concerned with adopting and transforming significant cultural motifs and allegories that appear within the history of painting. Eager Maher initially trained as a fabric painter and went on to study fine art, receiving his MFA in painting from NCAD. He has been included in several international art fairs, and has shown at NCAD Gallery, Cross Gallery, Kevin Kavanagh Gallery. His work is held in many private collections in Ireland and abroad, permanent collections include Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth, Dept of Foreign Affairs, Dept of Justice, the OPW. He is a member of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios.

Special thanks to Margarita Cappock, Michael Dempsey, Logan Sisley, Jane McCree, and all the staff at The Hugh Lane.