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Abigail O'Brien - 2013

With Bread has exhibited at:

Limerick City Gallery of Art, 26 March 2015.
The Dock, Carrick-On-Shannon, February 7th – April 5th, 2014.
The Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, September 14 – November 16th, 2013.

While bread and the craft of making it are nearly as old as civilisation itself, Pain au levain was the first leavened bread, probably discovered in Egypt six thousand years ago. O’Brien’s interest in bread, its elemental properties, the magical process that takes place in its making, its centrality in human daily life across race and culture and religion, its familial, social and cultural importance, and its rich symbolism, spans some twenty years.

 With Bread has three key elements. The first is a series of large framed photographs taken in four bakeries in Ireland: McCloskey’s Bakery, Drogheda; Barron’s Bakery, Waterford; the Bretzel Bakery, and Il Valentino Bakery, both in Dublin. To the viewer, the images cannot be obviously linked with any particular bakery. Each is named after a female artist, because, O’Brien says, “the image suggests something to me about their work”.

The second element is the bread sculptures – ethnic breads that have been put through a process of firing and silvering, their nourishing and life-giving properties now suspended forever. Their titles refer to monetary currency – Peso, Euro, Pula and Pound.

The third and final element is a video projection, titled Grande Dame, a three minute piece capturing in slow motion a levain or sourdough starter at the moment of rising. For O’Brien, this represents fecundity and fertility.

As well as ongoing funding from Drogheda Borough Council and the Arts Council, the project was awarded an Arts Council Touring Grant in early 2013. The exhibition also attracted significant sponsorship from McCloskey’s Traditional and Artisan Bakery through baker and Managing Director Patrick McCloskey, who says, “ McCloskey’s Bakery, Drogheda’s local bakers for over 70 years, are delighted to sponsor Abigail O’Brien’s exhibition With Bread as bread is a subject that we are very passionate about.”

Highlanes Gallery toured the exhibition to partner venues The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon in early 2014, and Limerick City Gallery of Art in 2015.  A full colour catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with essays by writer and psychoanalytic practitioner, Dr Medb Ruane, and poet, novelist and prose writer, Theo Dorgan, printed by Nicholson & Bass.

Text by Aoife Ruane

Click to download Gallery Catalogue, (PDF, 7.8MB)
Click to browse Gallery Catalogue on
Click here to download the opening ceremony speech by writer and journalist Susan McKay
Click here to download the Review by Cristin Leach Hughes

With Bread exhibition featured on Imeall, the arts programme

Grande Dame video projection

With Bread exhibition from The Works