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Image / Editorial

NCAD’s 2019 graduates show a bright future for Irish design

by Erin Lindsay
08th Jun 2019

The National College of Art and Design’s 2019 Graduates will today introduce their creations to the world, as the college’s Show 2019 opens to the public. From today until June 16, we get our annual glimpse into the hub of creative talent nestled on Thomas Street, where alumni such as Simone Rocha, Orla Kiely, Philip Treacy and W.B Yeats honed their crafts.

Walking into the college grounds, one can’t help but see how creative inspiration could overflow in a place like NCAD. Ireland’s oldest art institution, it was previously a whiskey distillery, and with red brick exteriors, stills and barrels still visible around the grounds, and countless winding corridors and paths, it feels like a haven away from the bustling Dublin 8 right outside the gates.

IMAGE got the chance to preview the graduate collection before the public, and with such an abundance of talent across all departments, hours (even days) could be spent exploring the college and admiring the fruits of three (sometimes four) years of work by students.


The first stop on the tour is the glass-blowing studio, where delicate creations by the 2019 graduates float around the room with a life of their own. Student Stuart Walsh debuted his collection ‘Boiled’, which, with oversized, graphic depictions of boiled sweets and prescription pills side by side, shine a light on the growing opioid epidemic. “The entire piece is looking at the opioid epidemic going on in America, that is transpiring onto our side of the Atlantic as well. I think it really rings true for a lot of people I’ve talked to, that are concerned with what they see as the pharmaceutical industry overprescribing the popular medications”, Stuart explained. “I want to look at why people are popping pills as much as they’re eating sweets, so that was the idea behind it.”

Stuart Walsh ‘Boiled’. Image: NCAD Works


As we move towards the Sculpture creations, an element of performance makes its way into many of the finished works. Whether it’s a live TV stream of animated eyes on a hospital bed, or a dress made of sanitary towels and tampons to protest the societal stigma around menstruation, the works come alive around the room in front of our eyes. One student, Elayne Harrington (or Temper-Mental MissElayneous, as is her stage name) is as much a part of her exhibition as the physical props. Her work, entitled ‘Instrumental’ explores the ideas of the working class, the eight hour work day and the appropriation of working class labour and produce. Everything, from the chalk board background, to the IKEA furniture to her own raw ideas scrawled across the wall in industrial chalk, feeds into her motivation for the piece. Elayne explains “I’m combining the experience of academia as a working class access student, with all the essence of working class culture, which stems from where I’m coming from socio-economically, and putting that skill into this environment.”

Blow by Blow by Elayne Harrington. Image: NCAD Works


Related: This week on Smart Casual: All things Irish design with NCAD’s Angela O’Kelly


But Sculpture & Expanded Practice isn’t the only area that students can, and do, spread their wings into performance. The feeling of creative freedom is apparent throughout all departments, with students encouraged to encorporate any aspect of creativity that may enhance their work into their exhibitions. In the Paint department, which one might imagine as one of the most traditional methods of artistry, there lies a thoroughly modern exhibition by student Lee Hamill. ‘Solutions for the Border’ features a number of intricate portraits of controversial figure Margaret Thatcher, but the real magic lies in Lee’s accompanying speeches dressed as Thatcher herself. But even when Lee is away from the room, Thatcher’s presence is still ominously felt – a single chair in the corner with a handbag and pair of sensible heels ensures that her voice is still heard around the space.

Lee Hamill mid-performance in ‘Solutions for the Border’. Image: NCAD Works


Often one of the most hotly anticipated collections of the year, the Fashion department’s 2019 offerings do not disappoint. From Irish heritage fabrics to sportswear to vampy lace gowns, inspiration from all areas can be found in the airy top floor of the Design building. Heather Gilroy, winner of this year’s Brown Thomas ‘Designer to Watch’ bursary, takes inspiration from the Repeal movement for her collection ‘Among the Flat Pink Roses’. Feminine pink tulle and lace contrasts with dark, sharp tailoring in pieces that both celebrate and criticise modern femininity and how we approach motherhood and the female body.

Heather Gilroy’s ‘Among the Flat Pink Roses’. Image: NCAD Works


Other designers to watch include Izzy O’Reilly, whose collection takes inspiration from the traditional masculinity of the boxing ring, and connects it to feminine silhouettes, resulting in a showstopping turquoise gown made of latex, like an inflatable rubber ring (complete with mouthpieces to blow it up along the seam at the back). Elizabeth Adejoke Omowumi takes inspiration from Yoruba culture and African fabrics, and combines with Western tailoring and cloth, to create a beautiful and modern collection of designs.

Izzy O’Reilly’s Rubber match latex dress and evening gloves, photographed by Foalan Carey. Image via NCAD Works


Visual Communications

Vis Comm, the old favourite of art and design students, provides another haven of creative expression in the Design building, with patriotism, feminism, nationalism and many other -isms used as themes throughout the pieces. One of the more emotional exhibitions is the must-see ‘Free the Fallen’ by Ellen Martin, which, using prints, text and personal stories, explores the impact of Mother and Baby homes on Irish society over the last hundred years. The most powerful part of Ellen’s work is her own story of these homes, where her mother gave her baby daughter up for adoption in 1981, having had her out of wedlock. While so many stories of this kind end tragically, Ellen’s family inspire a feeling of hope in their story – her mother and sister recently reunited and are now in regular contact – with the entire family coming to see the exhibition together in coming days.

Woman’s Sorrow by Ellen Martin. Image: NCAD Works

Product Design

One of the final stops on NCAD’s mammoth Graduate Show is Product Design – a rare break from the pure creative expression of other departments into the more practical, service-based soul of design. Medical apparatus, nature tools, virtual reality and all manners of technology are represented, with many of the inventions pegged as tomorrow’s everyday toolkits for smarter living. Máire Kane, whose designs have attracted international attention and awards, presents not one but two projects as part of the show. Both medical-based, her ‘Chum’ project – an oral motor development toolkit for weaning children off tube feeding – is an inspired look at what simple, but inspired thinking can do for the future of Irish design.

Máire Kane ‘Chum’. Image: NCAD Works

All projects and more can be seen at NCAD’s 2019 Graduate Show, from June 8-16. Show 2019 will also feature a series of free public events, discussions and workshops. See for more information.

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