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New Irish Works: Mass Paths
Caitriona Dunnett

Mass Paths Caitriona Dunnett

Mass PathsMass Paths Caitriona Dunnett
Caitriona Dunnett

Designed by Ángel Luis González Fernández


Edition of 200
32 pages
148 x 210 mm
ISBN 9780995701830


Mass Paths is a series of handcrafted photographs, landscapes of the Irish countryside embedded with absence. They portray the traces of paths walked by Catholics to reach illegal mass during penal times. The Penal Laws were imposed on Catholics in Ireland in 1695 and religion was prohibited. The Church was kept alive by operating under great secrecy. Dunnett’s aim is to visually unearth the history behind these paths and the people who walked them. The locations of these sites were passed on by word of mouth. This local knowledge was handed down through generations.

The oral tradition in Ireland disappeared gradually around the 1960s alongside land exchange and redevelopment. Dunnett has spent years researching mass paths and other penal sites, piecing the information together, scouring through word searches on the Internet, finding little snippets posted by schools, regional newspapers and walking clubs. These fragments led to maps, hunting for locations, hidden in the landscapes. She has followed in the footsteps of the thousands of people who walked to penal sites across Ireland. Then recorded these reenactments in an attempt to capture their stories of resilience, courage and commitment so that they are not lost. Dunnett has been experimenting with converting the digital photographs of her walks into contact negatives, creating and then toning cyanotypes, opening up a dialogue between photography, painting and etching. She is engaged by how this multi-layered process echoes that of a landscape which has been coated over the years by the complexities and tensions of politics, society, religion and people.

About the Artist
Caitriona Dunnett investigates memory and its subjective, personal and forgotten narratives, specifically looking at nature and the Irish landscape, manifested through historical processes. She is intrigued by the traces people leave behind. The paths they weave through time and the legacies attached to them. Using contemporary techniques, she converts digital photographs into contact negatives to create handcrafted prints. She builds on her prints layering them with different techniques. Achieving a range of hues and opening up a dialogue between photography, painting and etching. Dunnett is engaged by how this multi-layered process resonates with memory and all its subtleties.

About The Series

Selected by an international panel of 23 professionals, New Irish Works brings you a selection of 20 projects and 20 photographers representing the diverse range of practices coming from Ireland. New Irish Works 2016 is a year long project of 10 presentations and 20 publications that aims to highlight the great moment Irish Photography is experiencing.

About the Publisher 
Founded in 2009, PhotoIreland was conceived as an organisation that would stimulate a dialogue around Photography in Ireland by developing a varied array of initiatives and events with a strong participative approach.

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