Restoring the Faith: Vernacular repainting of Catholic devotional statuary in Ireland. (Daly 2018)

Abstract

The act of repainting and retouching allows devotees to re-tell miracle stories by proxy. Layering their own vernacular narratives onto figure groups and tableaux, this act of restoration and reconstitution provides essential maintenance to the community shrine and spiritual redemption for the decorator. Catholic devotional statuary, shrines and grottoes are a widespread and familiar sight in the Irish landscape. Rather than carved from marble, many are cast from concrete, fibreglass or plaster and require ongoing maintenance from the pervasive damp climate. Using non-traditional materials such as house paint and pebbledash local church dignitary and devotees extend their personal faith by adding the sign of their own hand to familiar tableaux. Without the sculptors grasp of form and without a painters eye for symbolism, this vicarious act of creation however, show official stories retold in a local visual dialect. Whilst not the primary narrators of miracles and visions, these statues and groups are treated as blank templates ready for customisation and local interpretation.

Presentation at The British Museum/ Royal Anthropological Institute: Art, Materiality and Representation
conference 2018.

Full text and citation on ChesterRep

(above image: Tim Daly)