Behind every number in a statistic is an individual, but often the faces get lost in the masses of numerical data. Between 2000-2010 one hundred and ninety six children died while in care in Ireland, such startling statistics provided the impetus for exceptional artist Bernadette Doolan to create the poignant exhibition, 196. Currently installed within The Copper House Gallery is one hundred and ninety six individual representations of the young lives lost in varied circumstances throughout this decade. Porcelain spoons inscribed with words that connote hope, love, nurture and fear among others fill the room. These spoons, etched with symbols of the forgotten are attached to shortened hawthorn branches, each unique in their own right, and reflective of the lives that could have been, providing they had the right foundations to allow them to flourish. Binding these two seemingly disparate objects together is red threading. Doolan reappropriates ‘The Red String of Fate,’ a prominent thought in East Asian culture, which upholds the belief that we are bound by an invisible red thread, pre-destined to be linked. For Doolan, it was this thread of interconnectedness that was missing from these children’s lives.
Although the topic of the piece is cataclysmic, the exhibition itself is enveloped with a sense of joy and celebration. Integral to Doolan’s objective was for her piece to acknowledge the life behind the statistic, it is not an indictment of the system, nor is it attempting to condemn those responsible for failing, it is a recognition of the lives that were and could have been. As the one hundred and ninety six individual pieces drape collectively from the walls, dance with the wind and reflect in the light, we see not tragedy but an intense admiration for this meritorious tribute. /Stephanie Kelly