Kathy Prendergast's sculptural works—employing a diverse range of materials from bronze to found objects and from human hair to atlases—revolve around subjects such as identity, power, borders, and landscape.Read More
Since the early 1990s, Prendergast has been heavily engaged with maps. Modifying and manipulating them in various ways, she presents a non-didactic exploration of human relationships to transformation, identity, and loss.
Born in 1958 in Dublin, Kathy Prendergast studied at Dublin's National College of Art and Design before obtaining an MA from London's Royal College of Art in 1986.
Growing up in Ireland during debates about the country joining the European Union, Prendergast developed a mental map from an early age as a way to understand her identity and her place in the world.
Learning where Ireland was in relation to Europe and the rest of the world, as well as growing up around communities where almost every family had close relatives living in diaspora, developed her curiosity regarding notions such as identity, territories, and borders.
Kathy Prendergast is best known for her 'City Drawings', which she began in 1992. The series consists of a collection of meticulous pencil drawings of the networks of roads and rivers that constitute the world's capital cities.
In one of her earliest series, entitled 'Body Maps' (1983), she painted cross sections of the female body to investigate what she refers to as 'personal geography': exploring issues of ownership, exploitation, and colonisation.
Her 'Black Map Series', which began in 2009, is a collection of ink-painted maps. They appear to depict dazzling views of a night sky, in which towns and cities become constellations of planets and stars.
In 'Atlas' (2016), Prendergast explores notions of settlement, migration, and displacement by using the AA Road Atlas of Europe. For this series, Prendergast transformed one hundred copies of the atlas by eliminating all geographical details except cities and towns with black ink. Viewed collectively, the atlases only reveal the sites of human habitation across the continent.
In her 'Strata' (2019) series, Prendergast again manipulated maps by hand-colouring them. The series is a playful investigation into what can or cannot be revealed about the human impact on the land in the form of boundaries, power structures, and borders.
Throughout her career, Prendergast has also produced numerous sculptural works using hand-painted bronze casts of everyday objects. In 'The End and the Beginning II' (1996), she wrapped human hair taken from her grandmother, mother, and child around a spool to explore the cycle of life.
Kathy Prendergast's artworks are part of many prominent private and public contemporary art collections. She won the best Young Artist Award when she represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale in 1995. She was also the inaugural recipient of the David and Yuko Juda Art Foundation Prize in 2018.
Her works have been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide, including STRATA, Scarborough Museums Trust, U.K., and Kunst-Station St. Peter, Cologne (both 2019); Shaping Ireland: Landscapes in Irish Art, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (2019); Atlas, Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2016); Black Maps, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland (2016); Or, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland (2015); Kathy Prendergast, Kinsale Arts Festival, Cork, Ireland (2014); Hippocampi, Cabbies Shelters Project, London (2013); The Black Map Series, PEER, London (2010); A Dream of Discipline, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2006); The End and the Beginning, The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2000); and City Drawings, Tate Britain, London (1997).
Kathy Prendergast lives and works in London, and is a member of the Irish Association of Artists (Aosdána).
Leila Sajjadi | Ocula | 2021
Natalie Rudd, Senior Curator of the Arts Council Collection, discusses the touring exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women Since 1945.