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Quiet Revolution

June 29, 2018

The last few weeks I've been working hard on my submission for the Zurich Portrait Prize at the National Gallery of Ireland. I choose to create a portrait of doctor, mum and campaigner for T.F.M.R. (terminations for medical reasons) Siobhan Donohue. Siobhan was diagnosed with a fetal fetal abnormality and had to travel to the UK for an abortion and has since been campaigning for womens reproductive rights. I first heard Siobhan speak at the Repeal march on International Women’s Day, her story brought tears to my eyes. I met Siobhan just three days after the referendum result at the National Gallery after making contact with her on Twitter. We decided to meet after the result so the portrait could be appropriate to the outcome. I took some photographs that I worked from to create the piece. The portrait captures both her strength and her relief after the result. The portrait was completed in just two weeks of constant stitching. I choose the hand embroidery technique as it was originally associated with a past time to keep women busy in the home. The style in contrast is reminiscent of masculine painters like Lucien Freud. The process is similar to painting, but with the mixing of colours happening on canvas by blending of threads rather than on a palette. The intersecting and overlapping strands of colour are evocative of the complexity of the struggle for women’s rights in Ireland. Here Siobhan and the thousands of individual stitches represent all the women affected by the 8th amendment and those that fought to repeal it. I hope that the portrait will be selected to acknowledge and commemorate these women on a National platform. I was deeply affected by the ups and downs of the campaign to repeal the 8th and can hopefully bury some of those demons now that the piece is complete. Thanks so much to everyone who encouraged me along the way, it really meant a lot to me and kept me going through the physical pain of creating this peace in such a short space of time! Huge thank you to Siobhan Donohue for agreeing to be part of this project and for helping to make Ireland a better place. Now we wait!