Artists’ Voices: Life in a Pandemic

collage of  photos of four artists

ESB CSIA Oral Histories

Oral histories are a unique record of an individual’s personal thoughts and experiences. They are a valuable source of knowledge for researchers, providing insight and connection to a person’s life and character.

The ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art builds, cares for and makes available the national record of art in Ireland for public study and interpretation. Oral histories are a type of archival record and form an interesting part of the ESB CSIA’s collection. The ESB CSIA plans to develop and expand this part of its collection in the coming years; to represent different perspectives of Irish art and the people who shape it.

Oral histories can be an important element of ‘rapid response collecting’, representing and capturing aspects of current and emerging stories as they unfold. In recognizing the significant impact of COVID-19, the ESB CSIA is carrying out a series of short conversations with artists to document some of their experiences and thoughts of living and working through the pandemic.

These conversations, led by Donal Maguire, Curator of the ESB CSIA, were recorded using technology that is conveniently available to the artist. The use of commonplace technologies for this project reflects the more general and increasing significance of these platforms for everyday communication.

The ESB CSIA acknowledges the generosity of the artists for agreeing to talk about their life and work during this uncertain time.

This oral history project has been generously supported by ESB, sponsor of the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art

EPISODE 3 | Kathy Prendergast in conversation from her home in London City

Born in Dublin, Kathy Prendergast lives and works in London. Over the past four decades she has developed a sophisticated and critically acclaimed art practice across various disciplines including installation art, sculpture, drawing, photography and video.

In this episode, Prendergast talks about her life in London during the COVID-19 pandemic and aspects of her ongoing work.

This conversation was recorded on 24 April 2020.

Listen on Soundcloud, or in the box below:


EPISODE 2 | Amelia Stein in conversation from County Mayo

Born in Dublin, Amelia Stein lives and works between Dublin City and the Erris region of north-west Mayo. She is a photographer who focuses primarily on portraiture and landscape. Her collections include portraits of artists and aspects of the landscape and coastline of north Mayo. 

In this episode, Stein discusses her approach to photographing the landscape and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on her practice. 

The artist dedicates this recording to the memory of Ailbhe Garvin.

This conversation was recorded on 1 May 2020.

Listen on Soundcloud, or in the box below:

EPISODE 1 | Nick Miller in conversation from his studio in County Sligo

Born in London, Miller moved to Ireland in 1984 and now lives and works in Sligo. He is a painter who works in the genres of portraiture, still-life and landscape. He was the winner of the National Gallery of Ireland’s inaugural portrait prize in 2014.

In this episode, Miller discusses his work, including From Cogan’s Shed, and talks about aspects of his life during the COVID-19 emergency.

This conversation was recorded on 8 May 2020.

Listen on Soundcloud, or in the box below:



Dorothy Cross in conversation from her home in Connemara, County Galway

Born in Cork, Dorothy Cross lives and works in Connemara, County Galway. Over the past forty years she has developed a critically acclaimed, multidisciplinary art practice that combines elements of sculpture, installation, photography, video and drawing. Cross’s works explore relationships between living beings and the natural world.

In this episode, Cross discusses her life in Connemara and her works Ghost Ship (1999), Shark Heart Submarine (2011), and Heartship (2019).

This conversation was recorded on 15 May 2020.



Mairead O’hEocha in conversation from her studio in Dublin City

Born in Dublin, Mairead O’hEocha lives and works in Dublin’s city centre. She is a painter and tends to work in series, focusing often on sets of seemingly unremarkable and disparate subjects. These allow her to explore elements of form, colour, gesture and composition, while reflecting on deeper aspects of human nature.

In this episode, O’hEocha discusses her current work and painting during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This conversation was recorded on 22 May 2020.



Ruth Lyons in conversation from her studio in County Offaly

Born in Dublin, Ruth Lyons lives and works in County Offaly. She is a sculptor who works with a variety of natural and human-made materials. In 2019, works from her ongoing project Salarium were acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland, following their inclusion in the exhibition Shaping Ireland: Landscapes in Irish Art.

In this episode, Lyons discusses the development of Salarium, and other projects she has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This conversation was recorded on 19 June 2020.


This oral history project has been generously supported by ESB, sponsor of the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art.

Kindly supported by ESB

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